Statement on TCAF’s Partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

October 14-15, 2017, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival hosted a contingent of Canadian artists and writers at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, UK. Following reasonable criticism about the racial diversity of the festival’s guest list, LICAF’s initial Twitter response was unacceptably insensitive and unprofessional. Over the following week, events unfolded that ultimately led to severe harassment directed towards British comics critic and publisher Zainab Akhtar, as well as to many of the cartoonists pulling out of LICAF.

After conversations with TCAF staff and volunteers, as well as with cartoonists and other stakeholders in the TCAF community, we agree it is important to comment on this situation and more generally on our partnership with LICAF.

TCAF has worked closely with LICAF since its inception in 2013. Initially acting as festival consultants our relationship has grown into a cultural exchange program, with us sending Canadian cartoonists to LICAF and welcoming UK cartoonists to TCAF. With such closeness, we understand how LICAF’s self-admittedly poor handling of the criticism reflects on TCAF, as well as how TCAF’s silence could be read as a blanket approval of LICAF’s actions and an unwillingness to engage with these issues head-on.

To be clear, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival fully condemns the racist harassment and threats directed towards Zainab Akhtar, as well as the vitriol directed towards creators who chose to exhibit or not exhibit at LICAF 2017.

We also agree with LICAF that their initial Twitter response and communications were inappropriate, and that they have caused stress and heartache to Zainab and others.

We take very seriously our mission to promote Canadian cartoonists around the world. When partnering with festivals abroad, our goal is to share our values and to support an inclusive and thriving comics community. As much as possible, we take responsibility for the experiences of the cartoonists we bring to these exchanges. Both in terms of artistic growth and career development, we try to provide Canadian artists with excellent international opportunities. On this trip we learned in a very real way that we must take more steps to ensure that our partners share and live our organizational values.

This statement does not come from a place of moral superiority above LICAF or the criticism raised around the inclusiveness of race and religion at comics festivals. TCAF aims to create a festival that represents the experiences and identities of everyone who attends, but we still have plenty of work to do. Like LICAF, we are having our own internal discussions about how we can create a better TCAF through a more equitable and anti-oppressive lens. This is work we are still doing, and we look forward to proving our commitment with action. If you would like to offer feedback to TCAF, please reach out to us at contact@torontocomics.com.

While TCAF had not planned to participate in a cultural exchange with LICAF in 2018, we welcome festival administrators or affiliated cartoonists who want to attend TCAF to continue the work of developing more inclusive festivals. It is only together that we are able to make widespread changes and impacts across the comics industry. We are choosing to be optimistic about LICAF’s statements in regards to making their festival more equitable for marginalized creators, and we will be keeping their follow-through in mind as we evaluate the potential to partner again in 2019.

This incident highlights the need for comics festivals around the world, TCAF very much among them, to work harder and with urgency, both to build comics communities that value criticism, and to implement real change that fosters inclusion and diversity.

Thank you for reading, thank you for your patience, and thank you to our community for continually holding us to task and holding us to a high standard.

–TCAF Executive Staff and Volunteers (contact@torontocomics.com)

APPLY NOW FOR TCAF 2018!

Applications for TCAF 2018 are now closed.

Applications were open from August 14th – October 31st, 2017.

TCAF 2018 will feature a day of Professional Development Programming on Friday May 11th, with the main exhibition on Saturday May 12th and Sunday May 13th, 2018, at Toronto Reference Library in sunny Toronto, Canada. We are now accepting applications for comics creators who are interested in exhibiting at the festival.

Creators who submitted an application on time will be contacted with their results starting on December 18th.

Because of the high volume of submissions we have historically received, preference for exhibition space will be given to:

  1. Comics creators (versus illustrators/animators/fine artists/other creative persons),
  2. Creators with new major works debuting at or around TCAF 2018,
  3. Those creators who did not exhibit in 2017.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date with all things TCAF, you can:

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at registration@torontocomics.com.

Announcing Comics x Games 6!

The sixth annual Comics x Games (formerly known as Comics vs Games) is coming your way for TCAF 2017 – And they have quit a line-up planned!

Since 2012, TCAF has partnered with the Hand Eye Society for Comics x Games, fostering collaboration between the independent game and comic communities through a variety of projects, partnerships and events. Read below for more info on the the Comics x Games Jam, panels, and all of the exhibiting games!
The Hand Eye Society is a Toronto not-for-profit dedicated to supporting and showcasing videogames made primarily as a form of creative expression. They aim to provide exhibition opportunities, education, creative support, mentorship, knowledge sharing and inspiration to artists, enthusiasts, and the game-curious in Toronto.
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ANNOUNCING: The TCAF 2017 Wowee Zonk Small Press Showcase

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival and Wowee Zonk proudly present the Wowee Zonk Small Press Showcase for 2017. Curated by Toronto Artists Chris Kuzma, Ginette Lapalme and Patrick Kyle, the Wowee Zonk Small Press Showcase highlights some of the best and most exciting work being made in comics, zines, and independent publishing.

See below for the entire list of artists! You’ll be able to find all these fantastic folks in the Browsery at the Toronto Reference Library.

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Download the TCAF 2017 Guidebook!

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is once again offering exhibitors and attendees a more convenient way to engage with North America’s premier comics event: The TCAF Guidebook!

Guidebook is an app that acts as a program guide to your favourite events and programming, as well as a handy reference for all of your favourite artists and exhibitors.

It helps your craft a personalized schedule so that you don’t miss a panel, a presentation, a workshop, a screening, or gallery show. It also lets you create things like To Do lists, so you won’t forget to check out your favourite artists’ tables.

In the coming weeks we’ll be adding things like off-site events, venue maps, programming, as well as up-to-date listings for Exhibitors and Featured Guests!

Oh, and we should mention: IT’S TOTALLY FREE!!!

Download the app today and search for TCAF!

Our thanks to the Seneca Faculty of Communication, Art and Design for sponsoring the Guidebook, and for helping to make TCAF great!

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