Ardo chronicles the books she picked up at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival in 2015, discussing what she loved about each of them. See Part 1 of this series.
Escargoteric by Johnny Herber (TCAF 2015)
I was extremely amused while reading Johnny Herber’s Escargoteric which is about Uana, a hustler, and artifact hunter in this fantasy world, who is just trying to pay the rent, and get out of debt. She’s left the life of bird selling behind for something m o r e, and it gets her killed. But don’t worry! A snail spirit takes her soul on a trippy ride, and it’s funny as hell with sassy banter between the two that made it a lot of fun. The comic is just black, white, and grey but the art is compact yet fluid. Visually the story flows and bends while having the most interesting designs, and backgrounds. I really like it, and it’s published by Sawdust which had a cool collection of comics when I visited their table. There’s even a mini comic on the back cover! I highly recommend reading it because it was so much fun.
Explorer: The Hidden Doors edited Kazu Kibuishi (TCAF 2015)
Guys. GUYS. This was my favourite thing to read this round. Explorer is an anthology series edited by Kazu Kibuishi, and features comics creators tackling a particular topic. In the past, the topics have been Flight, The Mystery Boxes, and The Lost Islands. Explorer: The Hidden Doors is, of course, about doors out of sight. All seven the stories featuring visually stunning art that are imbued with such fun vibrancy making it a fantastic all ages book: Asteria Crane by Kazu Kibuishi, The Giant’s Kitchen by Jason Caffoe, Luis 2.0 by Jen Wang, Two-Person Door by Faith Erin Hicks, Fish N Chips In Spring Cleaning by Steve Hamaker, Mastaba by Johane Matte, and When Is A Door Not A Door? by Jen Breach, and Douglas Holgate. They’ve all tackled “the hidden door” differently whether it’s a literal door in the middle of a forest or the one located in your head or using the well known riddle (When is a door not a door?). My favourite story in the collection would have to be Jen Wang’s Luis 2.0 where Luis uses a magical door to change the things he doesn’t like about himself. It’s about the desire to be a different person but understanding that everyone has things about themselves they’d like to change. It was adorable, and made my heart grow two sizes larger. I highly recommend this! Now I want to read the other anthologies in this series…
Tara Abbamondi’s In Your Wake has Annie dealing with the aftermath of her father’s death, and his deathbed confession to her: her absent mother is a selkie. Throughout the book, Annie desperately seeks her mother in the sea – the same sea her departed father had loved, and worked on – to the point of putting herself in danger. It’s a comic about the the power of searching for the truth but also grief. It’s in black, and white but it looks like there was a use of water with the ink to create some of the shading. The stand out for me while reading this was the expressions, and the variety as well as liveliness to them. It’s another Sawdust Press book, and I liked it. it was a nice read.
Beta Testing The Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski (TCAF 2013)
My first TCAF ever was in 2013, and I picked up Tom Kaczynski’s Beta Testing The Apocalypse as well as Matt Kindt’s Red Handed. Unlike a lot of the comics that I picked up from previous festivals, I’ve actually tried reading Beta Testing The Apocalypse on three separate occasions. After this latest attempt for this particular post series, I realized this comics collection just wasn’t for me which is pretty sad given the hilarious title that hooked me in the first place. I got through the first story, 10,000 Miles, which explored the car as modern prison, and coloured in a light green. I enjoyed it but the second story was harder to get through, and that’s when I started to bounce around. I can’t really give a verdict on whether or not this was a “good” or “bad” comic since I didn’t finish it but I can say that it wasn’t the comic for me. I can also say that I can see it being a comic people could enjoy. A friend of mine, Nick Hanover, enjoyed it so I’d look at what he had to say about it in case it ends up being your thing. I can definitely say that I got a great doodle from Kaczynski (first time someone in comics signed ANYTHING for me) which was pretty neat.