Word Balloon Academy
Friday, May 11th, 2018
10am – 5pm @ the Bloor Yorkville Marriott
Registration required
TICKETS: http://tcaf-wba-2018.eventbrite.com 

ALL DAY “PROFESSIONAL CLINIC” located in the High Park Foyer

Drop-in for a headshot photo session for your author profiles! Bring your creator bios and have an editor improve them! One-on-one Q&A sessions with about getting comics grants with the Canada Council (limited space! Register on Eventbrite).

9:00 Françoise Mouly Keynote at the Toronto Reference Library

(in collaboration with L&E Day, CSSC)

*No registration is needed just for the shared keynote. Wake up early and just show up!

High Park I

10:00 – 11:00 Being the Box: Mail-Order Comics

Writer-turned-publisher Zainab Akhtar is revisiting the old mail-order model as a way to put out new exciting comics work. In order to spotlight the brightest creators, she has turned her strong curatorial eye to non-traditional distribution. Find out more about her motivations, challenges, successes while producing Shortbox — and most mysteriously, how she chooses the candy! Interview by David Brothers.

11:30 – 1:00 Creating While Depressed

Finding motivation and balancing comics in your life is hard enough already, and can be made even more complicated if your brain is against you! Join panelists Sloane Leong (Prism Stalker), Leslie Hung (Snotgirl), and Ananth Hirsh (Barbarous) as they bust the myth that art must equal suffering. Explore the process of finding your support system and mental health resources. Moderated by David Brothers.

2:00 – 3:00 Cooperating with Comics Press

Growing alongside comics as an industry is its own bespoke journalism apparatus, found in comics criticism, reviews, awards, and more. Whether the aim is self-promotion, culture-building, or something else, what is the role of analytical advocacy within in our field? Sarah Horrocks (Goro) breaks down the relationship between critic and subject to determine what ‘getting press’ really means to comics creators today.

3:30 – 5:00 Radical Application of Black Aesthetic

LAAB Magazine is here to share the tools you need to bolster your black aesthetic. Together with founder Ron Wimberly, identify the root of your problems and provoke a critical approach to your racial representation. Foster a mindfulness to avoid the paint by numbers or fetishization that tends reproduce the very reductions we’re working to dismantle. Moderated by David Brothers.

High Park II/III

10:00 – 11:00 Manga Secrets and Process

​Japanese Featured Guest Inio Asano (Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, Goodnight Punpun) is here to let loose his secrets! Learn how he creates his lushly detailed pages– from story-planning, to ink, to digital finishing techniques that are unique to this mangaka’s process.

11:30 – 1:00 Comics as a Side-Hustle

Having a fulltime “comics career” is quite difficult in this day and age, so more creators than you think opt to take other financial paths in order to sustain themselves. How do you reserve energy to create comics, after a full day’s work, and how does it change your process? Panelists who all have a different day-job, John-Charles Holmes (SPOOKYDATE, Hey Chickadee), Julie Dirchansky (Cook & Cry, Love Love Hill), and Aaron Costain (ENTROPY,Team Society League) weigh the merits of choosing comics as a side hustle. Moderated by Megan Purdy.

2:00 – 3:00 Tell Me What’s Weird: Networking Etiquette

From established publisher to emerging creator, we all have anxieties about properly handling social interactions in the pursuit of our careers. Straight pathways or rules on how to act politely don’t really exist, but Deb Aoki (Manga Comics Manga), Jonathan Vallelly (Broken Pencil Magazine), and Jake Shapiro (Fantom Comics) are here to guide you with their shared observations. A lively discussion about creating positive interactions with your comics peers, taking care of your community, and horizontal network of friends. Moderated by Christine Wong.

3:30 – 5:00 Drawing for Risograph

Despite its recent ubiquity on many a convention table, there is still a lot to discover about risography as a tool for artists. Natalie Andrewson (Haunted) will show you how best to implement colour and texture, efficiently separate layers, and experiment with the aspects that sets this printing process apart. Learn to manage and control your traditional media as well as your digital output, in order to maximize on the charm of riso.


TCAF is pleased to present Word Balloon Academy, a full day of creator-focused programming on Friday, May 11th at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville, located at 90 Bloor Street East (Bloor/Yonge Subway).

Note: While registering, please be aware that there are multiple programs happening at the same time! Please be mindful that you’ve chosen the topic you want more, and are available at the time listed. Space is limited and we’d like as many people to be able to attend as possible– thank you for your cooperation!

Word Balloon Academy is a full day of presentations and workshops especially for comic creators and industry members, and includes programming spanning creative demonstrations, business development topics and professional concerns. These programs require registration, but are completely free to attend.


Just select the ‘ticket’ above for each program you’d like to attend on our Eventbrite page. You’ll be emailed a digital copy of the tickets. You do not need to print them, but on the day of the event, guests are required to check-in at the WBA registration table before each panel, by name. Please be mindful of your own programming schedule, late-arrivals will lose priority status over the rush line.

REMINDER: Registration is required for each individual program! There is no limit to the number of events a guest can register for (but try not to register for programs you’re not committed to attending, and be careful of programs running at the same time, but in different rooms).


We will be running ‘rush lines’ on the day of the event to ensure the greatest number of people get to participate, and that all seats are filled. Even without registering, there is a chance to see presentations, however we highly recommend that you register in advance and arrive on-time in order to guarantee a seat.


Registration closes on Thursday May 10th at 11:59pm, or when all tickets of any given panel are claimed. Afterwards, admission will be via rush-line only, on a first-come first-serve basis.

Beautiful logo thanks to artist Dustin Harbin!

Questions? E-mail Kim at wba@torontocomics.com!


Q: What is Word Balloon Academy? 

A: Word Balloon Academy is a full day of presentations and workshops for comic creators and industry members, free of charge and scheduled the day before the main exhibition days of the festival.

Q: Who is it for? Can anyone attend a WBA workshop or presentation? 

A: WBA was created with creators and industry members in mind, but is open to non-exhibitors as well. The only condition: for each presentation at the WBA, you must register to attend! There are separate dates for exhibitors and the public to register, so keep your eyes open for the registration date that applies to you.

Q: What is this ‘Professional Clinic’?

A: We’ve brought in various professionals to help YOU become more professional! In 2018 we’ve got a representative from Canada Council for the first time. With their new revamped system, you can apply online and keep track of your eligibility status. Ask all your burning questions one-on-one! We’ve also go some Come get an author portrait shot, or bring your creator bios in to be edited.

Q: If I want to attend a full day of presentations, can I keep my seat all day?

A: No! Sorry about that, but we need you to register for each presentation separately. There is ample time to clear the rooms and re-enter. There will also be tables to peruse in the breakout space! We’ll make it really easy, we promise.

Q: What can I expect from a WBA presentation?

A: Most presentations are a talk with slides, a live demonstration of skill, or experts in conversation, but there’s room for each presenter to make it their own. We’ve tried to choose topics that are a little beyond your comics basics — after all, we’re all pros here right? 🙂 Observe and ask pertinent questions at the end, and learn from the presenters as well as your peers. You should bring your own pen and paper to take plenty of notes — and it doesn’t hurt to have your business card on you!

Q: Can I ask a WBA presenter to sign my books? How about portfolio reviews?

A: That’s not what they’re here for, so we advise against it, but it will be up to them in the end. Please ask respectfully at the end of the presentations, or save it for the appropriate times during the rest of the festival weekend. There’s still lots to be partaken in at TCAF after WBA ends — you’ll not yet have missed an opportunity.