TCAF ’21: Toronto Comic Arts Festival returns virtually



In 2020, the physical Toronto Comic Arts Festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, replaced with an ad hoc social media blitz to help support creators and publishers. The 2021 event is still no longer a physical affair, but the TCAF has apparently gone the extra mile with its online edition, which runs until May 15.


The most intriguing element of this year’s TCAF is the virtual showroom – you can walk around a nifty website to discover a whole bunch of artists and publishers. The only downside is that there’s no digital category to make it easier for US internationals to shop for work without having to deal with mind-blowing postage and customs costs. Still, it’s nice to go through the plethora of great projects.

There is a conference program and workshops that will take place between May 8 and May 15 that will be available to watch at your convenience on Youtube – or you can register to join live.

The official TCAF ’21 poster and website illustrations are the work of Vancouver Tahltan First Nation cartoon artist, printmaker and illustrator. Cole Pauls.

TCAF doesn’t do this solo either – as it is joined by two other festivals: Broken pencilof Canzine and the Hand eye companyof Comics x games. According to the website:

“This year, we’ve teamed up with Broken Pencil Magazine and the Hand Eye Society to present Spring Canzine and Comics x Games at TCAF 2021!

Canzine is an underground zine and print festival that has been in existence since 1995. The largest zine festival in North America, Canzine is run by Broken Pencil Magazine and helps over 600 zinesters meet the public at events each year. across Canada, including Toronto and Vancouver. , Calgary, Brampton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Halifax.

Hand Eye Society’s Comics x Games (CxG) fosters collaboration between independent gaming and comic book communities through a variety of projects, partnerships and events. CxG features unique, game-centric content – from original games and gallery exhibits, panels and conferences. “


The Toronto Comic Arts Festival has been held annually since 2003. A sprawling affair, it brings together designers, editors, creators and zinestors from near and far to fill several floors of the Toronto Public Library. In March 2020, two months before last year’s festival was held, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. On March 13, 2020, public buildings were forced to close their doors indefinitely and on March 18, the festival announced its cancellation. An alternate ‘event’ was announced via the festival blog and social media on May 4, 2020 – the ‘# TCAF2020 digital initiative’ to ‘help bring attention to the awesome comics made by our exhibitors throughout the world. year round and hopefully generate interest and sales in their own way, ”taking place over the 2020 festival weekend would have taken place – May 9-10.

TCAF has also partnered with the Montreal Comic Arts Festival, Quebec BD and the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival to form the #CanCAF initiative. “A month of digital comic book events featuring the best creators from Canada and around the world,” whose programming included “a variety of comic-related events, ranging from workshops to interviews, from live drawing to panel discussions, podcasts to videocasts ”online and on social media in May 2020. Thanks to #CanCAF, festivals, exhibitors and guests who would have attended canceled COVID comic book festivals across Canada could be featured and sustained online during the difficult times when for many festivals would have provided valuable income.

The festival also faced intense controversy and scrutiny in June and July last year, particularly over the inclusion and treatment of blacks, indigenous people and other people of color, in particular volunteers. TCAF co-founder Chris Butcher resigned, the festival released a series of statements, and an exploratory subcommittee was formed. This year marks the start of attempts to correct the course, although the festival has admitted that “we don’t see this as a one-off project, but a lifelong project that will inform the organization that we aspire to go from. before”.

The past year has been a formidable effort to make the most of the troubling and difficult circumstances, this year TCAF organizers have had time to plan, change and prepare for this year and the future.

It’s welcome to see the TCAF return in one form or another, even though it’s only available online this year.


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