To kick off the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Authors at Harbourfront Centre series played host to a presentation by three renowned comic book artists, aka cartoonists, aka graphic novelists, aka graphic artists, aka artists.
While it may not be clear what they prefer to be called, one thing that can definitely be said about Adrian Tomine, Seth and Yoshihiro Tatsumi: their collections of bound visual narratives near perfect examples of this popular medium.
Adrian Tomine (above) began the evening by reading the self-deprecating introduction included in the 10th Anniversary edition of 32 Stories, a compilation of his early work that is being re-released, much to his chagrin, by Drawn & Quarterly after the first printing recently sold out.
Although Tomine explained that he would rather these "quaint artifacts" from his past just disappear, they will continue to be available alongside Optic Nerve, a popular alternative comic series, and his most current novel, Shortcomings.
Guelph-based comic artist, Seth, then took the stage and treated the standing room only crowd to 12 of his own stories relating the life of one humble cartoonist. Seth's unconnected tales took us back to his formative years when he would rush home from school for Charlie Brown, and then eventually Marvel Comics.
Looking back now, he realizes that when he did his own comics featuring the heroes from Marvel, he bridged the gap between his inner and outer realities by drawing his thoughts out in a tangible form, and thus paving the way for his own unique style of biographical tales such George Sprott (1894-1975) which, in 2007, was serialized in New York Times Magazine in 25 installments and is now being released as a stand alone book this Spring.
The rest of his presentation was also filled with more insightful ‘wisbits' as he shared his experiences writing his weekly comic strips, his thoughts on the poetry of comics, and his days spent isolated in his basement, dedicated to this artform.
Tomine then returned to the stage to interview Yoshihiro Tatsumi (pictured above), one of Japan's most influential comic artists.
Most of the audience were only introduced to his works in 2006 when Drawn & Quaterly, and specifically Tomine, first brought his collections to the West.
During the interview, Tatsumi shared partial stories of how friends and family reacted to being featured in his recent auto-biographical masterpiece, A Drifting Life, and what it was like when he first met his idol.
Tatsumi also related stories of his upbringing in the slums of Osaka and rising to the forefront of the "Gekiga" style of comics - a term that he coined to describe a new style of Japanese comics meaning "dramatic pictures" which opened the medium up to more mature audiences and was adopted by cartoonists who did not want their art being called manga or "irresponsible pictures."
In the end, he also imparted some wisdom for maintaining a long and successful career: take care of the body first, then the mind. So, aspiring graphic artists take note: do some push-ups and run a few laps before inking in those panels!
This event also marked the opening of the exhibition Graphic Novels: The Creation of Art and Narrative which runs until June 21st in Harbourfront Centre's York Quay Centre and features Canada's Jeff Lemire, Kagan McLeod, Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki, Doug Wright (by Seth) as well as Anke Feuchtenberger (Germany), Emmanuel Guibert (France), Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Japan) and Adrian Tomine (USA).
All pictures by Jay Dart.