TCAF 2012 Festival Wrap-up!

Welcome everyone!

My name is Christopher Butcher, and I am the co-founder and Festival Director of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). Just last weekend, I presided over our 7th festival in 9 years, a continued celebration of all that is great about comics and graphic novels, and their creators.  

TCAF 2012 was our fourth event since making the Festival an annual affair, and the fourth to be held at Toronto Reference Library with Presenting Sponsor Toronto Public Library. Continuing our increased success and attendance year-over-year, TCAF 2012 was clearly our biggest and best-attended Festival yet, with more people than ever filing into the library to take part in all that our exhibitors, and the library, had to offer. Personally, as the Festival Director, I’ve never been happier or enjoyed one of our Festivals more than I did this weekend, and that’s thanks to the great staff of Toronto Public Library and TCAF, our amazing volunteers and exhibitors, and all of you members of the public who came to take part in our event. In keeping with our tradition, I’m sending out this informal little note to talk about TCAF rather than doing a big PR, because TCAF is just that kind of show. 🙂

Higher Attendance, Less Crowded: Win/Win!

When you’ve done 7 of these events, you can feel when things are a little more bustling, a little more energized than they’ve been previously… and Saturday afternoon I could tell that we were seeing record crowds at the show. The best part though is that, following up on feedback from our exhibitors, the public, and the Toronto Public Library, the flow of traffic was smoother and less crowded than it had been for the past several years. The Festival evolves with each iteration, and this year’s decision to add additional offsite venues, to widen aisles and remove tables from the atrium, and to cap attendance in certain areas, meant that all of the library customers—regardless of why they were visiting—could have a more enjoyable year.  

TCAF 2012’s attendance was a record 18,000 people. What that figure comprises is 17,896 people counted by Toronto Reference Library’s security gate above the average attendance on a normal Saturday/Sunday. While people were coming and going all day, this figure balances out the instances of a flood of people exiting through the counter all at once where only one person might be counted out of 4-5. Beyond that, we’ve averaged in the 400+ people in attendance for our awesome Friday-night kick-off event in The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon with Jeff Smith, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon, and the more than 800 people per hour accommodated in our off-site venues: Owlkids Day @ St. Paul’s on Bloor, The Marriott Bloor Yorkville, The Pilot Tavern, and Ristorante Fortuna. While the possibility exists that there were in fact far more than 18,000 participants in 2012, we’re quite happy with the idea of a 20% increase in attendance over 2011. 🙂

Thank you for your continued support!

As TCAF heads into its 10th Anniversary show next year, it is our continued partnership with Toronto Public Library that enables it to easily remain an annual, free event for the people of Toronto and visitors from around the world. The partnership between TCAF and Toronto Public Library, and working with venue Toronto Reference Library, continues to reinforce the core ideals of the Festival: TCAF is a free event, TCAF is about books and authors, and TCAF is open to everyone—not just the ‘initiated’ comics fans. On behalf of myself and the entire TCAF organizational team, we’d like to thank our Partner and Presenting Sponsor Toronto Public Library for their support, promotion, and hosting of TCAF 2012. They’ve had a pretty tough year, as have many institutions in the City of Toronto, and we’re glad that we’re able to work with them.

We’d also like to thank TCAF’s other sponsors, the folks who help make the Festival viable financially. 2012 Kids Sponsor Owlkids was fantastically supportive in all of our new children’s and library initiatives, and allowed those initiatives the successes that they enjoyed. Thanks to Media Sponsor NOW Magazine, who provided us a wonderful avenue to help get the word out about the Festival and our satellite events, to The Marriott Bloor Yorkville as the Offical TCAF 2012 Hotel and to Air Canada for travel support. Our thanks also to local sponsors Midoco, who helped supply the festival with all of the supplies we needed for exhibiting artists to present their craft to the masses, and Little Island Comics, for stocking and representing the best of children’s comics at TCAF.

Our consular and cultural sponsors helped us bring the world of comics and cartooning to Toronto for a week, and we greatly appreciate all that they have done. Our thanks to The Consulate General of France in Toronto; The Italian Cultural Institute; NORLA—Norwegian Literature Abroad, Fiction & Non-Fiction; The Flemish Literature Fund; and The Japan Foundation Toronto.

 Finally, TCAF would not exist without the funding and support of The Beguiling, and their generous donations. It’s TCAF every day at The Beguiling, and their dedication to the medium of comics is unwavering. I’m truly grateful to them to be able to do what I’m able to do with TCAF every year.

About TCAF 2012

TCAF 2012 was the most ambitious festival yet, and my most ambitious personal undertaking. With more off-site and lead-up events than ever before, more partnerships than in previous years, an additional day of programming, and more than 20 featured guests, I worried in the weeks leading up to the show that perhaps we’d bit off a bit more than we could chew. Luckily through the talent and support of some wonderful folks we had varying levels of success on every front, and as always, lessons were learned and we think 2013 will be even stronger.  

The personal highlight for me was the strengthening of our programming for children, by including a large dedicated space for children’s exhibitors on the floor of TCAF, as well as the creation of a day-long special event for children’s graphic novel creators. TCAF is about engaging every reader with the medium of comics, and I’m so happy that our ambitions to promote the medium to the next generation were fully-realized this year. We also expanded our amazing “small press” area, headed once again by the fine folks in the Wowee Zonk collective. They really transformed the space they exhibited in and created something unique, wonderful, and surprising—it was amazing to see. The addition of a day of panels and programming about comics aimed at librarians and educators was the realization of a long-held dream of mine to more fully share the vast amount of knowledge possessed by our attending authors and exhibitors with the people on the front lines of bringing new readers into the medium. It was a success, and it is a service we will continue to provide and support in the years to come.

We were also treated to a wonderful array of ‘gala’ presentations this year, from Guy Delisle’s Thursday-night launch of Jerusalem: Tales from the Holy City, to Friday’s amazing Topatoco spring launch and the aforementioned Kick-off Event with Smith, Ba and Moon, TCAF started with the biggest bang yet! We also had a real first, a team-up between TIFF Nexus and The Hand-Eye Society that saw a gallery’s worth of comics/videogame hybrids that showed at both Magic Pony and TCAF! Joining the events of Thursday and Friday night was our co-presentation of Kid Koala’s Space Cadet Experience with Wavelenth, a truly incredible concert event! The amazing activities continued into the weekend with three wonderful Saturday night comics events—the launch of Alison Bechdel’s long-awaited new memoir Are You My Mother?, a once-in-a-lifetime interview with Konami Kanata, and the 2012 Doug Wright Awards for excellence in Canadian Cartooning. All three events were packed to the rafters—as were our various afterparties around the city!

 In short, I feel TCAF 2012 engaged more people inToronto—and from around the world—than it ever had before, bringing the medium of comics to thousands of new readers. That’s a truly great thing, and everyone who organized, volunteered, or participated in these events should feel proud.

TCAF! Photo by Paul Hillier.

We Couldn’t Have Done It Without You…

Speaking of the folks who worked so hard to make TCAF 2012 a success, we’d like to thank some of the individuals and organizations who were a part of this event. Thanks to:

– Our Sponsors: Toronto Public Library; The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon; The Beguiling; Little Island Comics; NOW Magazine; Owlkids; The Consulate General of France in Toronto; Istituto Italiano di Cultura (The Italian Cultural Institute); NORLA—Norwegian Literature Abroad, Fiction & Non Fiction; The Flemish Literature Fund; The Japan Foundation; Midoco; Hotel sponsor The Marriott Bloor Yorkville; travel assistance by Air Canada.

– Our partner organizations and guest sponsors: TIFF Nexus; The Hand-Eye Society, Miguel Sternberg, and Matt Hawkins; Magic Pony; Wavelength; Kid Koala / Envision Management; Houghton-Mifflin & Thomas Allen and Associates, First Second Books; Drawn and Quarterly; Selfmadehero; Topatoco, Vertical Inc.; Scholastic Books; Wowee Zonk; and Koyama Press.

– Our TCAF Librarian and Educator Day Sponsors: VIZ Media LLC.; Drawn & Quarterly; First Second Books; Kids Can Press; Owlkids; Scholastic Books; and UDON Entertainment.

 – Venue Partners Toronto Public Library, The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Magic Pony, The Carlton Cinema, 918 Bathurst, The Pilot Tavern, The Marriott Bloor Yorkville, St. Paul’s on Bloor, Ristorante Fortuna, The Japan Foundation, Buddies in Bad Times, Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall, Pauper’s Pub, and Lee’s Palace.

 – TCAF 2012 Poster artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon for their amazing 2012 poster!

 – To the staff of Toronto Public Library and Toronto Reference Library for all of their work on our behalf, with special thanks to TCAF Liaison Ab Velasco and Bram and Bluma Appel Salon Liaison Beth Kawecki.

– To our TCAF Featured Guests and Exhibitors, including Aislin, Gabriel Ba, Kate Beaton, Alison Bechdel, Arne Bellstorf, Jose-Luis Bocquet, Guy Delisle, Tom Gauld, Matt Holm, Jennifer Holm, Jason, Konami Kanata, Kazu Kibuishi, Kid Koala (Eric San), Bryan Lee O’Malley, Micol and Cornelius Books, Fabio Moon, Catel Muller, Michel Rabagliati, Jeff Smith, Pendleton Ward, Adam Warren, and the more than 300 other attending artists, exhibitors.

– To the hosts and staff of The Doug Wright Awards for throwing another wonderfully successful event.

– To Corey Mintz for his spectacular restaurant guide; To Chip Zdarsky for his continuing design assistance; To John Green and Dave Roman for their amazing TEEN BOAT comic in our program guide; To show photographer Paul Hillier for capturing so many wonderful aspects of the festival; To Nathalie Atkinson for her continuing support.

– To 2012 Festival Guide Designer Diana McNally—it was wonderful working with you, thanks for saving our butts… 😉

– To 2012 Website Designer Nadine Lessio; with additional thanks to Shane Bennett for technical assistance.

– To the staffs of The Beguiling and Little Island Comics, for once again working through their weekends.

– To on-site coordinators Lindsay Archibald, Greg Baker, Athena Pheasant, Linda Moss, Andrew Eaton, Alex Hureanzu, Christopher Hureanzu, Bled Celhyka, Michael Lamore, and Laura Prinselaar.

– To our more than 200 volunteers: You were amazing, and are routinely regarded by people all over the world as one of TCAF’s greatest strengths. Our sincere thanks for your time and effort, and we hope you’ll continue to support us into 2013 and beyond.

…and finally, my personal thanks to our amazing TCAF organizational team, Miles, Gina, Scott, Andrew, Andrew T, Parrish, and Krystle: It was a hell of a year. Everyone gets one month off until we start planning the next one. Speaking of which:

TCAF 2013: TBA

Last year, we waited a month until we had the date and location of TCAF 2012 locked down before writing this little note to all of you, and people didn’t seem to enjoy that as much—they wanted to know all about how the fest went down right after the big event! So this year we’ve released our little year-in-review much earlier, but that means we haven’t had a chance to sit down with our partners and sponsors to review this year, and talk about next year.

What can I say about TCAF 2013? Well there’ll be one, for starters. While we’d played with the idea of going back to a biennial event, there’s just no way we’re going to miss our 10th anniversary year! From our modest beginnings as a one-day-event for 600 people on March 29th, 2003 at Trinity St. Paul’s Church, to our new home for 18,000 at Toronto Reference Library, it’s been an amazing period of growth and change for the Festival and for comics in general, and we look to continue supporting and promoting authors and comics next spring.

As soon as we can confirm the 2013 show, we will.

In Conclusion…

So on behalf of myself and the entire staff, I’d like to offer our sincere thanks to everyone who made The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2012 such a massive, unprecedented success. Whether you’re an attendee, and exhibitor, or a volunteer, your support of each other and of TCAF is what makes this amazing, free, accessible, comic book event possible. We appreciate it, and we hope we’ll have you back for the years to come.


Christopher Butcher, Festival Director and Co-Founder The Toronto Comic Arts Festival  

On behalf of…
Peter Birkemoe, Co-Founder
Miles Baker, Assistant Festival Director
Gina Gagliano, Programming Coordinator
Scott Robins, Kids Programming Coordinator
Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, Volunteer Coordinator
Andrew Townsend, Festival Assistant
Parrish Kilthei, Tech Coordinator
Krystle Tabujara, The Beguiling/Little Island Comics Liaison
…and the staff of The Beguiling, The Beguiling Library Services, and Little Island Comics  

All Photos by Paul Hillier.