Eisner winner Emily Carroll on the fun and frenzy of TCAF

Sponsored feature: presented by TCAF 2018

TORONTO COMIC ARTS FESTIVAL 2018. Annual comics festival that brings together artists, publishers and fans for a weekend-long vendor fair. Events also include panels, readings, workshops and more. Toronto Reference Library, Marriott Bloor Yorkville and Cumberland Terrace. May 11-13. Full info at torontocomics.com.

Eisner-winning comics artist Emily Carroll is no stranger to the delightful madness of Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF), the country’s top gathering for indie comic book pros and fans. She’s set to attend as one of the featured guests in support of her new book, Speak, a graphic adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel of the same name.

Each year, the Toronto Reference Library transforms into a busy vendor fair that’s packed with tables of comics – many of which you won’t easily find anywhere else. The festival has grown over the years to incorporate more programming options and additional venues like the Marriott Bloor Yorkville and Cumberland Terrace. But TCAF still remains a place where you can connect face-to-face with creators through panels, readings or signings at booth tables. 

“What’s great about TCAF is that it’s a lot of independent publishers and people just making their own comics,” says Carroll. “I love TCAF because you can just walk around and every table is something new and neat to look at that you haven’t seen a commercial for on TV.”

While adult audiences for comics are stronger than ever, some of the most interesting industry developments of late have come in comics for young readers. Artists and authors working in this area have begun to enjoy more success with sophisticated stories and themes than might’ve been thought “appropriate” for kids in the past – from gender diversity to non-traditional family structures to adventure stories for girls that are actually about girls.

Carroll’s comics often take up elements of the horror movies she gravitated towards as a kid, but she’s not preoccupied about whether younger readers can handle being scared. 

“I don’t generally worry about it too much, to be honest,” she says. “When I was a kid, I did not want to be reading stuff that was aimed at kids. I actually shied away from stuff that felt targeted towards me.”

She believes kids are smarter than we think, and they can often demonstrate solid instincts around self-editing of what they read. Plus, you can never really know exactly what parts of a story will scare kids anyway. 

“When I was little, my mom read Goodnight Moon to me every night, and that book really scared me,” says Carroll. “There’s something about the fact that the room is red and everything is so bright and that they’re rabbits who own cats. I just found it so creepy.”

A big reason there is such a boom in graphic novels for young readers right now can be attributed to the Raina Telgemeier’s hyper-successful book series, which kicked off with Smile in 2010. Mainstream hits like this have the potential to both broaden the community of comics fans and speak directly to readers who might have been overlooked before, such as young girls. 

The trend is promising, especially for established artists like Carroll, whose works continue to garner acclaim in both indie circles and mainstream publications. For readers who are looking to spot the next big thing – or just enjoy all the little weird ones – TCAF provides a unique opportunity to see the future of comics.


Emily Carroll


Emily Carroll


Emily Carroll


Emily Carroll

Event Highlights at TCAF 2018

Koyama Press Book Launch Party – Fiona Smyth’s Somnambulance and Michael Comeau’s Winter’s Cosmos will be launched as part of TCAF’s soft launch. May 10 at 7pm. The Beguiling. Free to attend.

Hockey Noir – A bilingual chamber opera in three periods. May 10–11 at 8pm (2pm matinee on May 11). Jane Mallet Theatre. Tickets $40 through Ticketmaster. 

Manga Secrets and Process – Japanese manga artist Inio Asano discusses his processes for creating a solid story in classic manga style. May 11 at 10am. Marriott Bloor Yorkville, High Park Ballroom. Free with registration

TCAF Kick-Off – Panel discussion with Ho Che Anderson, Michael Comeau, Hartley Lin, Fiona Smyth and Gerogia Webber. Moderated by Mark Askwith. May 11 at 6:30pm. Toronto Reference Library, Appel Salon. Free ticket required from tcaf2018.eventbrite.com.

From the Personal to the Political – Ally Shwed, Whit Taylor, Maria Stoian and Isabella Rotman discuss how to connect your personal stories to society as a whole through comics. May 12 at 10am. Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Hinton Learning Theatre. Free.

Zineland Terrace – This zine fair includes two days of programming where creators share knowledge around self-publishing and zine culture to build audiences. May 12-13 at 11am-5pm. Cumberland Terrace (across from Toronto Reference Library). Free. 

Spotlight: Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell – Niffenegger and Campbell will discuss the 13 stories featured in their new comics collection, Bizarre Romance. May 13 at 10:30am. Toronto Reference Library, Hinton Learning Theatre. Free. 

Literally Illustrated Classics – A panel featuring Emily Carroll, David B., Meaghan Carter and Ron Wimberly on adapting classics for contemporary audiences. May 13 at 3pm. Toronto Reference Library, Beeton Auditorium. Free. 

Check out the full details on this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival!

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