Word Balloon Academy
Friday, May 12th, 2016
10am – 5pm @ the Bloor Yorkville Marriott
Registration required
TICKETS: tcaf-wba-2017.eventbrite.com

For more info and scheduling on all panels, please download the free TCAF 2017 Guidebook App: guidebook.com/g/tcaf2017

Toronto Reference Library

  • 8:30 – 9:30 Charlie Adlard Keynote
    Presented in collaboration with L&E Day, CSSC
    No registration needed just for the shared keynote.Wake up early and just show up!


High Park I, Marriott

  • 10:00 – 11:00 “Translating Script Into Panels” with Sana Takeda
  • 11:30 – 1:00 “How To Talk About Yourself” with 2dcloud
  • 1:00 – 2:00 Lunch Break
  • 2:00 – 3:00 “Folding in Fanwork” with Leslie Hung & An Nguyen
  • 3:30 – 5:00 “Dealing with Distro” with Sammy Harkham & Kevin Huizenga


High Park II/III, Marriott

  • 10:00 – 11:00 “I Dream of Infrastructure” with Bill Campbell, Gina Gagliano, Jacq Cohen, George Rohac
  • 11:30 – 1:00 “Writing What You Don’t Know” with Ngozi Ukazu
  • 1:00 – 2:00 Lunch Break
  • 2:00 – 3:00 “Is Traveling Worth It?” with Jesse Jacobs, Laura Kenins, Sloane Leong, Patrick Crotty, moderator: Andrew Townsend
  • 3:30 – 5:00 “Success VS Burnout” with Hope Nicholson, Brandon Graham, Megan Kearney, Steven Andrews, moderator: David Brothers


TCAF is pleased to present Word Balloon Academy, a full day of creator-focused programming on Friday, May 12th at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville, located at 90 Bloor Street East (Bloor/Yonge Subway).

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 11th at 5:00pm, 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!

Full Panel Descriptions

High Park I

10:00 – 11:00 Translating Script Into Panels: Sana Takeda has cultivated a very global comics career, cutting through Japanese, English, and the visual language to create stories meant for audiences around the world. Join us as she walks through her modus operandi on Monstress taking us through Marjorie Liu’s scripts and their collaborative decision-making process. Take a gander at her rough sketches and digital pages, edits and changes, all the way until the final product. Interviewed by Deb Aoki and translator Aki Yanagi.

11:30 – 1:00 How To Talk About Yourself: As comics becomes more popular and defined as a medium, we are called from outsiders upon as experts to talk about our field. We have to shift the way we self-present, as creators, when facing different audiences: libraries and teachers, high art gallery and literature, the uninitiated comics-curious crowd, and more. What is an “Artist Statement” anyways? How do you balance the responsibility of being an ambassador to ‘comics’, all while self-promoting and delivering an eloquent, genuine, and productive viewpoint? The publishing team at 2dcloud —Kim Jooha and Raighne — cover ideas on belonging, having a voice, how to engage, like the importance of not being silent.

2:00 – 3:00 Folding in Fanwork: Fanart is how many of us, across all genres, get started in comics. It can be a shortcut to finding your passion, motivation, confidence, community, and skill — but are these gained at the cost of your own original voice and ownership rights? Artists Leslie Hung (Snotgirl) and An Nguyen (So Pretty/Very Rotten) discuss how they integrate their “fanart drive” to their original work and overall careers. It’s also a livedraw! An and Leslie will be doodling their favourite characters as they chat about how to walk the line between consumer and creator.

3:30 – 5:00 Dealing with Distro: A creator’s nightmare is to print a whole run of good books that you believe in, and have them sit static in storage boxes. How are you going to get them into the hands of your readers? Sammy Harkham (Crickets) and Kevin Huizenga (Ganges) are a couple of creators whose careers have run the gamut between indie self-publisher, hand-binder, anthology-wrangler-er, online store manager, to having books distributed worldwide by various major publishers. Reminisce over their adventures, and learn from their struggles to move books both big and small.


High Park II/III

10:00 – 11:00 I Dream of Infrastructure: ​The number of comics creators keeps increasing, and we just can’t publish fast enough! A panel of publishing professionals discuss the limits to what the current industry can actually sustain, but also what exciting innovations in publishing infrastructure we have to look forward to. From joint deals to subscription to web-platforms, find out what systems they wish were out there, and their dreams and aspirations for publishing in the 21st century. Featuring Bill Campbell (Rosarium Press), Jacq Cohen (Fantagraphics), Gina Gagliano (First Second), and George Rohac (Organized Havoc).

11:30 – 1:00 Writing What You Don’t Know: Writers are told all the time to draw from their own experiences when we write, but what if we don’t inhabit the exact subject that we write about? What kind of level of empathy and research has to be applied? How do you explore occupations or disciplines you’ve never stepped foot in, or craft completely unknown parallel, fantasy, or alternate universes that don’t exist? ​Join Check Please! creator Ngozi Ukazu and her love for hockey, as she shares her techniques for cataloging real-life facts, figures, and experiences to deploy into fictional narrative.

2:00 – 3:00 Is Traveling Worth It?: Comic conventions happen all over the world, including cities and countries where creators often draw their inspiration. What are the rewards of doing expensive pilgrimages to sell your wares, if any? Where are the most “Worth It” conventions to travel to, how to prioritize and save money, and how best to maximize the value being at comics events in person? Sloane Leong (From Under Mountains), Patrick Crotty (PEOW Studio), Laura Kenins (Steam Clean), and Jesse Jacobs (Safari Honeymoon) are here to share with you their globe-trotting, penny-scrimping, book-toting, heart-warming (or chilling?!) stories as they’ve hopped from one convention to the next. Moderated by TCAF’s own Andrew Townsend.

3:30 – 5:00 Success VS Burnout: In the creator’s pursuit, many of us tally in late nights, bad diets, and no exercise: not a great way to build a long career. With so many pathways to ‘comics success’, what do you truly stand to gain? A certain amount of hustle is involved in any field, but the fast-paced culture we live in can sometimes grind you to the bone, especially if you’re not sure where your personal goalposts even lie. Creators Megan Kearney (Beauty and the Beast), Brandon Graham (Island), Hope Nicholson (Bedside Press), and Steven Andrews (Toronto Comics Anthology) have tips to teach about a work ethic that includes when not to work, and how to survive or avoid your eventual, inevitable burn-outs. Panel moderated by David Brothers.



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: 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.