Word Balloon Academy: Labour Organizing with Vanessa Kelly

As a part of the Word Balloon Academy program, TCAF presents an interview Vanessa Kelly from the Art Babbitt Appreciation Society (ABAS), a Vancouver-based labour organizing group that has exhibited at the comic arts festival, VanCAF. Please note this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You can learn more about ABAS at their official website and from this article by Our Times which goes into more detail about specific working conditions for animators and their relations with employers.
The groups mentioned by Vanessa include IATSE, the Animation Guild, and ACTRA. Listeners may also be interested in GWU, an organizing group in the gaming industry who you might have seen at the Hand Eye Society Ball, an event hosted by TCAF’s partner, Hand Eye Society.
One of the challenges in talking about labour organizing is that workers can take on the significant risk of retaliation from employers. Because of this, organizers are often not at liberty to disclose certain details about campaigning, especially ongoing campaigns. This makes knowledge more difficult to share. While there are online resources that document and analyze past campaigns, learning about organizing is greatly benefited from contacting groups experienced in labour rights like ABAS.

Vanessa and other organizers contacted regarding this program also noted that labour organizing can improve working conditions outside of a collective agreement between unionized workers and their employer. In addition to ABAS’ campaign to have employers recognize overtime pay of non-unionized animation workers, workers can achieve other goals such as pooling funds to purchase healthcare or creating a public payment schedule like the one organized by CARFAC. These types of goals are especially beneficial to freelance workers who usually do not have a central employer, or even a small group of central employers, to organize around.

If you found this podcast helpful or would be interested in similar content in the future, please let us know. We are always trying to improve the Word Balloon Academy to support the professional needs of artists. We’d also sincerely appreciate it if you could support our emergency fundraiser for Page & Panel. Thank you!

ANNOUNCING #CanCAF! Promoting Comics Events Across Canada!

So we’ve introduced you to #TCAF2020, a wide-ranging hashtag to be used to support and promote creators that would have been in attendance at TCAF 2020But TCAF has also joined up with festivals across Canada, originally scheduled to run this spring, for the #CanCAF initiative! #CanCAF is our cross-festival hashtag that will be used by the programming teams at TCAF, VanCAF, DCAF, MCAF and Québec BD, to promote and share online content featuring creators and publishers.

The official CanCAF page will be at http://www2.torontocomics.com/cancaf-2020/ to link back to.

Here’s the official press release, in English and French!

Header image by Jesse Jacobs


A month of digital comics events spotlighting top creators from Canada and around the world. 

Comics festivals across Canada are thrilled to announce a month-long digital initiative called #CanCAF. The internet-based initiative will promote the work and careers of cartoonists and publishers scheduled to participate in their festivals this year, now cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Events will take place across social media platforms using the hastag #CanCAF, and a complete schedule of events through the month of May will be listed at www.cancaf.com.

“We were all disappointed to cancel our respective events,” said Miles Baker, Managing Director of TCAF, The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. “But when we reached out to our colleagues it was incredibly heartening to see that so many of the festivals across Canada are still planning on creating original programming and promoting artists, writers, and publishers in this incredibly difficult time. #CanCAF will be the first-ever cross Canadian comics festival. And we can’t wait to begin sharing it with you.”

#CanCAF programs will range widely from workshops to interviews, live drawing to panel discussions, podcasts to videocasts, and a few surprises along the way. Comic book and graphic novel fans, old and new, can look for the #CanCAF hashtag on their favourite social media to find great content and new ways to support and enjoy the work of Canadian and international creators.

Creators, publishers, and other comics events who would like to create content for the #CanCAF digital event, please reach out to contact@cancaf.com.

#CanCAF is a joint initiative of, and presented by:

Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival (DCAF)
Festival BD de Montréal (MCAF)
Quebec BD
Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)
Vancouver Comic Arts Festival (VanCAF)


Un mois d’événements de bandes dessinées numériques mettant en vedette les meilleurs créateurs et créatrices du Canada et du monde entier.

De nombreux festivals de bandes dessinées de partout au Canada sont ravis d’annoncer une initiative numérique présentée durant tout le mois de mai : #CanCAF. L’initiative en ligne fera la promotion du travail des auteur.e.s et des éditeurs qui devaient cette année participer à ces festivals, désormais annulés ou reportés en raison de la pandémie de COVID-19. Les nouveaux événements se dérouleront sur toutes les plateformes de médias sociaux à l’aide du mot-clic #CanCAF, et un calendrier complet des activités virtuelles présentées au cours du mois sera disponible au www.cancaf.com.

« Nous avons tous été déçus d’annuler nos événements respectifs », a déclaré Miles Baker, directeur général du TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival). « Mais lorsque nous avons communiqué avec nos collègues, c’était stimulant de constater qu’un si grand nombre de festivals à travers le Canada prévoyaient toujours proposer une programmation originale et promouvoir les artistes, les écrivain.e.s et les éditeurs en cette période difficile. #CanCAF sera le tout premier festival de la bande dessinée pancanadien, et nous avons hâte de le partager avec vous. »

La programmation du #CanCAF sera très variée :  des ateliers aux entrevues, des dessins en direct aux discussions en groupe, des podcasts aux vidéocasts et quelques autres surprises en cours de route. Les amateurs de bandes dessinées et de romans graphiques, aguerris et amateurs, peuvent rechercher le mot-clic #CanCAF sur leurs médias sociaux préférés afin d’y trouver du contenu formidable et de nouvelles façons de soutenir et d’apprécier le travail des créateurs canadiens et internationaux.

Vous êtes un créateur, une créatrice, un éditeur ou un autre intervenant de la bande dessinée canadienne et vous souhaitez contribuer du contenu à l’événement numérique #CanCAF ? Veuillez communiquer avec nous dès maintenant au contact@cancaf.com.

#CanCAF est une initiative commune présentée par:
Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival (DCAF)
Festival BD de Montréal (FBDM/MCAF)
Quebec BD
Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)
Vancouver Comic Arts Festival (VanCAF)

TCAF EXHIBITORS: Submit to the #TCAF2020 Exhibitor Digital Showcase!

TCAF, The Toronto Comic Arts Festival will be undertaking a multi-faceted digital initiative this May across its social media: #TCAF2020. We’d like you to participate!

In an effort to help support the creators, publishers, and other exhibitors who would have been present at TCAF this year, we are compiling a digital booklet of sample works and bios of all exhibitors from this year’s canceled show. This is what we’re calling (for now) the 2020 TCAF Exhibitor Digital Showcase. The Showcase will be available to download on Gumroad, for free. It will receive TCAF’s highest level of promotion, being widely promoted and advertised on all of TCAF’s media channels (email newsletter, press list, twitter, tumblr, facebook, website, etc.).

Any creator or publisher who was scheduled to exhibit at TCAF 2020, including those who withdrew their participation for whatever reason, is invited to submit to this project. 

Read More


Please include in your event listings:

TCAF 2020

Sat May 9, 9am-5pm & Sun May 10, 9am-5pm
@ Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge

Free to attend  |  torontocomics.com  |  #TCAF

TORONTO, CANADA: Building on the introduction of our Young Adult programming stream in 2019, TCAF is thrilled to announce the Featured Young Adult Authors attending the 2020 Festival! What’s more, each of these creators will be on hand debuting a major new in the red-hot Young Adult graphic novel category, for readers 12 years old to 18 years old.  TCAF aims to create an amazing experience for fans of the YA category at the 2020 Festival, taking place Saturday May 9 and Sunday May 10, in Toronto, Canada.

“We’re really excited to build on our already strong YA program,” said TCAF Artistic Director Christopher Butcher. “Last year we were fortunate to host Mariko Tamaki and Valero O’Connell for the debut of Laura Deen Keeps Breaking Up With Me, which recently took home a highly-coveted Printz Honor! We are excited to keep making space for important YA authors and graphic novels, and their fans, at TCAF. This year is going to be an incredible year.”

This year, TCAF’s 100+ hours of programming will have a clearly labeled “YA” stream in all panel descriptions and grids, and clearer search tools and pages on the TCAF website, www.torontocomics.com. In addition, the website and program guide will feature a YA program overview so that even casual attendees can discover these authors and their works at the Festival.

Full programming will go online at the TCAF website in April. Now, keep reading to be introduced to some of this year’s Featured Young Adult Author Guests!

Featured Young Adult Author Guests of TCAF 2020 include:

M.T. Anderson and Jo Rioux, debuting Daughters of Ys

M.T. Andersonis the New York Times–bestselling author of FeedThe Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, and many more. Jo Rioux a Canadian author and illustrator whose first graphic novel, Cat’s Cradle, won the Joe Shuster Award for Comics for Kids. Together the duo attend TCAF to premiere The Daughters of Ys, their new Fantasy graphic novel intended for an adult audience, from First Second Books.

Daniel Barnes and DJ Kirkland, debuting Aggretsuko, and supporting Black Mage

Daniel Barnes is a writer from Fresno, CA, and DJ Kirkland is a comic book artist from Charlotte, NC. Together the duo created the incisive young adult graphic novel Black Mage, published by Oni Press in Fall 2019, exploring race and racism in Fantasy worlds. The duo attend TCAF in support of Black Mage, and to debut issues from their smash-hit new series Aggretsuko, based on the popular Netflix animated series, and published by Oni Press.

Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg in support of The PLAIN Janes

Long time friends of TCAF, writer Cecil Castellucci (Girl on Film) and cartoonist Jim Rugg (Street Angel) return to the Festival with The PLAIN Janes, the completed, all-in-one graphic novel trilogy that originally made its debut at TCAF back in 2007! This early foray into Young Adult graphic novels is now complete and ready for a new generation of young readers to discover its message of rebellion through art!

Wook Jin Clark, debuting Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy

Wook Jin Clark is a Korean-American illustrator, cartoonist, and storyboard artist, based in Portland, OR. The creator of a number of original graphic novels for Young Adult audiences including King Doug and Megagogo, Wook Jin Clark attends TCAF 2020 in support of his new graphic novel Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy, based on the hit character by SanRio, and published by Oni Press.

Tyler Feder, debuting Dancing at the Pity Party

Tyler Feder is a full-time illustrator from Chicago, IL, and graduate of Second City. Best known for her work illustrating Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin’s Unladylike, you may have also seen her work for Netflix, Comedy Central, or ESPN among others. Tyler Feder attends TCAF to debut her new memoir dealing with loss and acceptance, the bracingly candid and sweetly humourous Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, published by Dial Books / Penguin Random House Canada.

Laura Lee Gulledge, debuting The Dark Matter of Mona Star

Laura Lee Gulledge is a teaching artist in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the author of the graphic novels Will & Whit and the Eisner-nominated Page by Paige. She attends TCAF in support of her brand new graphic novel The Dark Matter of Mona Star, a bold new work about battling doubt, insecurity, and fear, from Amulet Books / Abrams.

Robin Ha, debuting Almost American Girl

Robin Ha grew up reading and drawing comics. At fourteen she moved to the United States from Seoul, Korea. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration, she moved to New York City and started a career in the fashion industry. She is the author of the bestselling comic book recipe book / memoir Cook Korean!, and attends TCAF to debut her important new memoir Almost American Girl from Harper Collins Canada, about her experiences moving from Korea to the U.S.

Hope Larson, debuting All Together Now

Hope Larson is the author of All Summer Long, which was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018. She also adapted and illustrated A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, which spent forty-four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and for which she won an Eisner Award. She attends TCAF to premiere her new coming-of-age graphic novel All Together Now, published by First Second Books.

Kat Leyh, debuting Snapdragon

Kat Leyh is a Chicago based writer and artist. She’s best known as the current co-writer and cover artist for the series Lumberjames, and for her queer superhero webcomic Supercakes. Kat Leyh attends TCAF in support of her witchy-new graphic novel Snapdragon, published by First Second.

Kamome Shirahama, debuting Witch Hat Atelier Volume 6

Previously announced, Shirahama Kamome is the author of the incredible Fantasy manga series Witch Hat Atelier, published by Kodansha Press. TCAF will see her first visit to Canada in support of the series, with a debut of volume 6 and a gallery presentation of her work at The Japan Foundation Toronto.

Ngozi Ukazu, debuting Check Please Volume 2: Sticks and Scones

Ngozi Ukazu is the Austin, Texas-based fan-favourite (and TCAF-favourite!) creator of Check, Please!, an online graphic novel. She graduated from Yale University in 2013 with a degree in Computing and The Arts, and received a masters in Sequential Art in 2015. She attends TCAF in support of Check Please Volume 2: Sticks and Scones, from First Second Books.


All of these authors will be present at TCAF on Saturday May 9 and Sunday May 10, either at their own exhibition tables or signing with their listed publishers.

And that’s not all! TCAF 2020 will feature more than 300 participating cartoonists! Head over to torontocomics.com to see the cartoonists and publishers already announced, and keep watching our newsletter and social media for up-to-the-minute announcements!

Website: www.torontocomics.com

Twitter: @TorontoComics

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TorontoComics

Tumblr: torontocomics.tumblr.com


Please include in your listings: TCAF 2020. Saturday May 9, 9a-5p, and Sunday May 10, 10a-5p, at Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, and the surrounding neighbourhood. Attendance is free.

Select Guest Bios and hi-res Images available upon request. Please send all inquiries to media@torontocomics.com.


The Toronto Comic Arts Festival would not be possible without the assistance of our sponsors and partners, including presenting sponsor Toronto Public Library and primary sponsor The Beguiling Books & Art.

TCAF is produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

We would also like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. / Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.

Seneca College is a proud Sponsor of TCAF 2020.

Sponsorship opportunities for TCAF 2020 are still available, please email us at: contact@torontocomics.com for more info.

TCAF would like to thank publisher partners including Abrams Books, First Second Books, Harper Collins Canada, Kodansha Comics, Oni Press, and Penguin Random House Canada.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for TCAF 2020. Reach out and contact us!




Toronto Public Library and The Beguiling present

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2020
Saturday May 9th, 9am-5pm, and Sunday May 10th, 10am-5pm
@ Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada
@ The Concert Hall, 888 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada
Free To Attend |


FEBRUARY 19, 2020: TCAF, The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, is thrilled to announce that acclaimed Japanese manga author Kamome Shirahama, creator of the series Witch Hat Atelier, will participate in the 2020 Festival as a Featured Guest. In addition to the hit manga series, published by Kodansha Comics, Shirahama is also widely known for her work on popular Marvel and DC Comics series including Wonder Woman, Star Wars, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and Doctor Strange among many others. She will attend TCAF with a robust participation in the festival, including the English-language debut of Witch Hat Atelier Volume 6.

Read More
Librarian & Educator Day Program - TPL Librarian Scott Robins speaks with creators Raina Telgemeier (Smile) and Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse)


Each year TCAF offers well over 100 hours of programming related to comics, graphic novels, BD, manga, and more. While we work with authors and publishers to generate ideas for these programs, we’re also interested in suggestions from the larger comics industry and community, for what kind of programs they’d like to see at TCAF 2020, taking place May 9 & 10 (with a Professional Development Day on May 8).

Click here to read the complete outline for our programming, and fill out the Call For Programming!

TCAF Statement about Toronto Public Library and the 2020 Festival.

In October 2019, TCAF’s presenting sponsor, Toronto Public Library (TPL), booked an event with a known transphobic speaker, in contravention of their own policies and despite significant criticism from trans and queer people, library stakeholders including TCAF, and their own staff Union. This decision by TPL leadership has significantly damaged relations with the LGBTQ2S+ community in Toronto and internationally, and have made vital library spaces, which are meant to serve the public, less accessible and more unsafe to marginalized communities.

This situation caught us by surprise, as we rely on TPL, through sponsorship, to provide us with space that supports and nurtures comics creators, publishers, academics, and our larger community, and reinforces TCAF’s goals of being an accessible and inclusive venue for the medium we love. We recognize that TPL has put up a huge block to that accessibility through their actions. Both the board and staff of TCAF are continuing to discuss the relationship we want to have with TPL going forward.

Read More

Announcing the 2019 Wowee Zonk Exhibitors!

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2019, TCAF is proud to announce the exhibitors of the Wowee Zonk Small Press Shoscase for 2019! These exhibitors can be found in the Browsery Space of Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street.

Wowee Zonk is a Toronto small press arts collective founded by Chris Kuzma, Patrick Kyle, and Ginette LaPalme, which has been curating a unique small press space inside TCAF since 2010.

In addition to Chris, Patrick, and Ginette, this year the Wowee Zonk space will featured some of the raddest and baddest creators out there! Check out this list and click through for more info about their work.

Read More

TCAF Welcomes Yuri Manga Creator HIROMI TAKASHIMA

Hiromi Takashima’s super-cute self-portrait!

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is proud to welcome Yuri manga creator Hiromi Takashima to the 2019 Festival! Takashima-sensei is the acclaimed creator of yuri manga series “Kase-san and…”, published in English by Seven Seas and in the original Japanese by Shinshokan.

The Kase-san series centers on a high-school romance between the clumsy, flower-adoring Yamada, and the exhuberent Kase-san, the school’s track and field star. Through each interconnected volume of the series, the two girls, so different from one another, learn how to make their first love bloom.

EDIT: Tickets for Hiromi Takashima’s Panel Discussions and Signing are now available at Eventbrite.

Read More