Toronto Comics and Arts Festival is an event that I most definitely look forward to each year. Thanks to the hard work from The Beguiling and all the participants and volunteers, it has united myself and many other fans with artists that we love and look up to. In the past years some heavy hitters stick out in memory: The time I gave Daniel Clowes a letter of undying love and appreciation, and then cried; the time a friend put Adrienne Tomine on the phone with me and I ran out of a relative’s Bat Mitzfah to get to the convention before he left—I then cried. But there is real sense of excitement in going to an event in hopes of discovering something new you have never seen before.

This year over 300 exhibitors showed at the 2 day exhibition and vendor fair in the Reference Library, along with an overwhelming amount of attendees to wade through. I was happy to only be able to visit the festival on Sunday as I was told the Saturday was incredibly busy. Where are all of these people during the rest of the year and how can I become friends with them!?

My first stop was at the Koyama Press booth where I saw Jesse Jacobs‘ new book “By This You Shall Know Him.” Part art book, part graphic novel, the cold and desolate imagery of Jesse’s illustrations make you feel what it might be like to hold death close in a divinely beautiful way.

I ran into Eric Williams, an emerging illustrator who was debuting his new full length feature “ Hungry Bottom Comics “. It is heartbreakingly relatable and speaks to a diverse audience in a playfully touching way. To anyone who is struggling with their personal identity, His giant braided Diva Totem is there to help guide you. * Adult content!

Next I found the room I had been hoping to find, a group of small press artists sequestered away off the main drag of the Library floor. This room had a much more comfortable feel to it, and it was nice to be able to browse the artwork and graphic novels without craning your neck to see around someone’s shoulders.

Ginette Lapalme was there with Patrick Kyle and Chris Kuzma, also debuting new work, most specifically the new edition of their illustrative collective: Wowee Zonk #4! This is the largest and most ambitious issue to date, featuring new work from over 10 Canadian artists, including contributions from Ginette, Patrick and Chris.

One person who I was not expecting to see but was very excited to meet was Inés Estrada, editor of Gang Bang Bong (co-editor being Toronto’s Ginette Lapalme), a comic anthology that features a wide arrangement of styles and stories that is published in English and Spanish. I had seen Inés’s work online and couldn’t stop my hands from picking up every sticker and silkscreen she had to show. Her work looks like a dream transcribed into a journal, soft and psychedelic which colors mixing and melting into each other that are tinged with forgotten details and harsh edges, images that you only know the feeling of but don’t exist in real life. If you missed her, you can check out her work in Gang Bang Bong, or in her new comic, Ojitos Borrosos.

There were so many different tables and booths to see, a sense of urgency overwhelmed me. “ This only happens once a year!! I can’t miss ANYTHING.” I stumbled upon a table with an array of different books and ‘zines illustrated and curated by a number of different artists and started flipping through them, Dimensions Comics was one that stuck out. Dimensions vol 1 is a comic anthology of 16 different artists from the United States who have an appreciation for serial art. Each character an artist portrayed was seen entering and exiting a portal at the beginning and ending of each piece. The illustrators assured me that I would be able to purchase their comics online, and we exchanged information.

One of the best parts about TCAF is meeting people who have similar interests as you, and because there are over 300 vendors and exhibitors everyone can have a different experience! I hope everyone who went was inspired to create something on their own too, and don’t miss it next year!