The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2011!

Yesterday I went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and it was awesome.

I bought things!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, TCAF is a festival celebrating the art of creating comics. Artists and fans came from all over the world to attend and exhibit. It was my first real “convention,” unless you count Can’t Stop the Serenity, an annual screening of Joss Whedon’s Serenity with proceeds going to Equality Now, a women’s charity. However, I’m not sure this even qualifies as a convention by the traditional or stereotypical concept of what that entails. For starters, it was completely free, and happened at the Toronto Reference Library. There were lines for some of the bigger names, but none of the hours long lines for a quick signature or picture that you see at huge events like Comic Con. It was all very casual and small, comparatively speaking – but it’s hard to call an attendance of more than 12 500 people a small event.

Chris Hastings’ signature on his “Night Powers”

Now I’m not the hugest reader of comics, but I really love the few I do follow – and they’re all webcomics. I lucked out, and the creators of all of my favourites attended the Festival. Specifically, I was excited to meet the creators of The Adventures of Dr McNinja, Nedroid Comics, and Hark! A Vagrant. I went with my friends Malini and Jonny (both of them are also into webcomics, of course they have blogs), and we were trying to explain why exactly we were so excited to meet these Internet celebrities, moreso than we would be to meet most actors. It’s a post for another day, but there’s something about reading a person’s writing that makes you feel so much closer to them than you would watching them act or sing or something. For me, at least. So the whole day was a big, exciting deal.

Hastings again.

The day started around 10:30 for Jonny and me, when we went into the library and scouted out our favourite artists on a map. I had my school back pack with me, and it still had highlighters in it, so I became my mom and highlighted all of the names and tables we wanted to visit. We wandered aimlessly for a while, met a woman Jonny really likes, and made our way over to see Chris Hastings, the creator of Dr McNinja. There was a woman speaking to him when we got there, so we just stood awkwardly behind/beside her while Hastings signed all of her books for her. She struck up a conversation with us, the first of many we had with other fans throughout the day. I spent the whole time trying to make my hands stop shaking out of nervous excitement – I have physical responses to emotions, it’s a frequent occurrence. When I finally got to talk to him, I just started an awkward verbal assault, but I assume he’s pretty used to that sort of thing. I think I made some comment about how his comics had gotten me through every period of procrastination I’d had in the year (which is more or less true), but that my marks had come out fine anyway… HAhhahahhhaahahAHhaha? When I was explaining the spelling of my name, I got even more awkward, saying something to the effect of “Allison. Two l’s, one s. and an i. All is on.” He said he liked that last one, so if you look closely at the signature with the zombie picture, he seems to have signed it to “All is on.” Or so I’m telling myself. Either way, he was really nice the whole time, despite my awkwardness, and it was really exciting.

Just before we had seen Chris Hastings, Malini had texted me, saying she was on her way, so we wandered a bit more. I knew that she would eat my face if I went to talk to Nedroid (whose real name is Anthony Clark, but I’ll keep calling him Nedroid) without her, but I still wanted to see him, like a good stalker. I did get a visual on him, and in excitement sent her this incomprehensible text, brought to you by autocorrect:

Nedroid is here and I can seeeeee Bioko Mmmmm

Self portrait by Nedroid

Followed by a clarifying “seeeeeee hiiiiiiiiiiim.” I am not creepy at all. Once Malini got there, we decided to go and get lunch first, since she was tired from dance, and I needed to come down from my excited-high a little bit, so we wandered around Yorkville for a while, and passed the weed march, so that was an experience. When we went back, we beelined straight for Nedroid’s table. Now, I need to explain our weird excitement about him. His comics, linked above, are ridiculously cute, but we also follow his Tumblr, Twitter, and especially his thread on the Pointless Waste of Time forums. He frequently draws pictures of himself as an adorable, round, bespectacled little guy, and makes constant self deprecating jokes. On top of that, he’ll sometimes draw pictures in response to certain comments or jokes. While he won’t draw every single little thing people ask him for (he’s a person who has other, better things to do with his time), he will draw for special occasions, like a little girl’s birthday or a thread where people invent and draw Pokemon (keep reading that thread until you’ve seen every evolution of Smooth Willis). Because of all of this, we just imagined him as the sweetest, cuddliest, most huggable guy in the universe, and we wanted to see if he lived up to this image in our minds.

Anthony Clark’s signature and a tiny Beartato

He totally did. He was incredibly friendly, and engaged in discussion with us, which is difficult. Malini and I have similar responses to awkwardness/excitement, and we also have a tendency to finish each other’s thoughts, so poor Nedroid had to listen to this constant stream of talking from us, probably like twins in a movie. But he handled it good naturedly, and agreed to pose for a picture high fiving us after packaging the prints we bought. I assumed that since he sells through Topatoco that I was to pay them for his prints, so after the picture, we went to one of Malini’s favourite artists, then to the Topatoco cash station to pay. Once I got there, I was told I should have paid him directly, so we had an excuse to go back to his table! But guys, Nedroid is so nice, he let us walk off with his 20 bucks. So we went back, paid him, and asked him to sign the prints, because why not? Malini and I also agreed that the cutest thing he did was blow on his sharpie signature to dry it before placing it back in plastic. I don’t know why it was so cute, but it was. So if you’re wondering, yes, Nedroid is really as adorable and nice as you would expect him to be.

Nedroid, as little as we’d like to believe it, is in fact a mortal. As far as I could tell.

After Nedroid, we met Ryan North and David Malki!, two of the guys behind Machine of Death. I bought Malini the book for Christmas, so she had them both sign it, and one of the story authors happened to be there, so he signed it too. They were really sweet too, doing actual “predictions” (just check out the link if you’re unsure what I’m talking about – this is too long already), and embossing the books as well as signing them. Just generally really sweet guys – and both kind of attractive, I must say. So after that, we all needed an excitement break, so we headed up to the third floor of the library, and sat and chatted in the stacks for a while. In the break, I sent another even less coherent text to another friend who had inquired about the exciting day she knew I was having:

We met nedroid and he is adorable and the dr McNinja and omg autocorrect recognizes McNinja and this is awesome and hooray
The MoD Panel: Malki! and North standing, Diaz, Green,
Hastings, Beaton at the table
We also wanted to wait around, because we wanted to attend one of the last panels of the day, also related to Machine of Death, a not-pictionary they were calling a “draw and guess”. Basically, two teams competed like regular pictionary, but instead of a noun or a verb, they got a means of death. They had two artists on each team (Aaron Diaz and KC Green vs Chris Hastings and Kate Beaton, of Hark! A Vagrant, above) and one audience member. Malini, being the lucky bum she is, played with Hastings and Beaton. The whole thing was just a blast to watch, I’ll explain some of the highlights to the best of my ability: KC Green’s first entry was “dolphin,” so he drew a Dolphin going through a screaming guy’s torso. A few cards later, he got “bear,” and drew the same picture, but with a bear. Poor Chris Hastings kept getting more conceptual ideas, like “revenge,” but could only pass three times – so attempted to illustrate “extensive problems” with a man with a bunch of bills, a man holding a gun at his window, and then a shark. At that point, he realized the point wasn’t getting across and said skip – only to get “unnatural disaster.” He kind of went “…uuunhhh?” and gestured at what he had already drawn. We nerds all got excited when Aaron Diaz got “venom” and drew the Spider-Man villain, then when the audience member on the same team got “claws” and drew Wolverine. Thanks to Malini’s knowledge about how to actually play pictionary (and I’m going to tell myself that my vast history playing the game contributed in some small way to that) was able to bring her team from a huge loss to a one point win. She knew that proper drawing is not involved in good “draw-and-guessing.”

I sadly didn’t get a chance to talk to Kate Beaton, since she was a very busy lady, but I did manage to snag her drawing of “spider bite,” so that’s something, I guess. I’m thinking about volunteering for the event next year, so maybe I’ll get to meet her then.

Death by Spider Bite

Anyway, the whole event was a blast, and if you have any interest in comics and live near Toronto, I recommend checking it out in the future. It’ll be worth it. I’ll leave you with this hilariously fangirly picture of me with Chris Hastings, taken after the panel, since I had neglected to get one earlier. My camera is ridiculous, and it regularly makes my pictures come out weird, but I love the blurriness of the background in this picture, it looks like crazy things are happening behind us.

I feel like we should be in front of an explosion…
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