This Little Party is Just Beginning

It’s been two weeks now since I posted anything on here.

Really, my post before this would could have had a few other alternative titles: you know, like “Fed Up,” or “Exhausted,” or something more responsible along the lines of “I Love You All, But I Need To Take a Fucking Break.”

So let me tell you what I’ve been doing since I last wrote here, and what I plan to do.

The very day I wrote that last post, I went to my friend Noah’s birthday dinner and then hung out with him and my friends at a Tim Horton’s: including my friend Andrew whom I haven’t talked with in ages. We just talked about geeky stuff and nothing more strenuous than that. That was about the last time I have seen my friends so far, but it reminded me that I needed to get more time out that I have, well, honestly been getting.

I’m can’t remember a lot of what I did after that. I kept meaning to write something here and I just … didn’t. I even started to get ideas again and have them become more coherent in my brain. I bought the second issue of The Sandman Overture, and then the book Darth Plagueis: the last of which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

And during this time I knew that I had a few ideas for more Sequart and Mythic Bios articles. I want to look at Gwendolyn MacEwen again, at an interesting form of comics, at a Batman fanfic comic and the second volume of the new Sandman. The material is all there. I’ve contemplated writing about women in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but figured it had already been done before and didn’t include it here: though some of that did make its way into an article on Sansa Stark on GeekPr0n. Perhaps that will happen one day.

I also thought about eventually making that article on Anakin Skywalker and how as a classic science-fiction swashbuckler hero he is at a severe disadvantage merely existing in the extreme black and white Force-powerful Star Wars universe. I have also been meaning to write something for my friend Anthony with regards to his second novel Beloved Demons.

And, of course, after one playthrough so far I also want to look at Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest. It’s fitting I guess, when you consider that this past while I’ve been depressed.

Me and my Head

At first it was all exhaustion, but then I started to get perfectionist and disillusioned and side-tracked with procrastinating. Also, I began to feel concerned that I would get restless and feel empty again: having no sense of accomplishment writing at least two hundred words a day.

So I didn’t do anything at all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been maintaining my one post a week on GeekPr0n, as it is my job but also something I like to represent my skills well in doing, but it’d been a lot of white noise in the back of my head. Of course, that white noise is ultimately a lot of ideas that lack a structure or starting point that threatened to drive me crazy.

But now here we are. I’m writing something on here again. And now, we come to the next part of this post.

I took one proactive measure that I’m proud of. A few days ago I went downtown and made good on my Day Pass to Bento Miso: a collaborative workspace and community. Game makers utilize the space considerably, but there are a whole variety of different people that go there to work on their own projects, network, and attend particular events. I must have the strangest luck in the world in that the few times I’ve visited outside of the Bit Bazaar events, I’ve always come when most of Bento Miso’s members are at conventions.

The fact of the matter is that, as I have said before, I do need a space away from home to work, but not just on anything. There are some other projects I’ve been meaning to focus on and I have not had time or the concentration to do so. And I just need something new. So I decided to join Bento Miso as a cohort. šŸ™‚

I remember that night, walking down Queen Street from Strachan, thinking to myself that the street didn’t feel nearly so old anymore or filled with ghosts. In the spring time, looking at Trinity-Bellwoods Park and walking down the street to take a streetcar to the subway, it felt like it was new again. I mean, here I was outside going downtown on some adventures and a new quest.

I think what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a while I felt more like me again: no longer hiding and starting that process of making new opportunities and perhaps even connections. Who knows, right?

And I do have plans. I’ve thought long and hard about why my Patreon account hasn’t been followed or supported. And I realized that my work right now, on Mythic Bios, is good but scattered over a variety of different subject matters: all of them geeky, but not always specific or focused. This was always ever meant to be a supplement to the main writing that I planned to do.

Kris Straub, before he created Broodhollow, spent much time creating works to get to that place where he could make something akin to an ongoing master project or, if you’d like to get more profound about it, a magnum opus.

So here is what’s going to happen.

I am going to be writing on Mythic Bios once a week now. I simply can’t always write two posts a week like I used to. I need time to work on other projects and details in my life. I will, of course, break my own rules from time to time, but expect a post either Monday or Thursday. I will most likely alternate.

I will still be working at GeekPr0n creating my articles for them as well and with more time, hopefully, I can send some more … unique work Sequart’s way again. But, more importantly, I am going to be creating Patreon-Only content. My plan is to create a serialized work, or series of works, and make it so that those who Support me will be able to see whatever it is I will post there. Anyone can contribute whatever they’d like and we will see what happens from there.

And that is just for starters. I need to make my Patreon more presentable aesthetically and outline what my actual goals are. Right now I just have what I can offer. These are two entirely different things and with something more concrete, I might be in something akin to business.

You can find my Patreon account right here: http://www.patreon.com/mkirshenblatt

Let me know if you have any suggestions. I have a few ideas for some serialized work, mainly fiction, that I think some of you might actually enjoy. In the meantime, this is just the beginning. There are other possibilities as well. And I look forward to seeing where they might go.

Battle of the Bazaar in Bento Miso’s Winter Market

About three weeks ago, I went to Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market and since then I’ve been trying to focus on what struck me the most. I was made aware of the first Bit Bazaar, theĀ Spring Fair, through the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and its second Comics Vs. Games creative jam and exhibit. It is an opportunity for video game creators, art-makers, and food distributors to sell their wares and have some face-to-face relation with their current and potential fans.

Bento Miso itself is a collaborative work space for independent video game developers, graphic artists, game journalists, start-up businesses, and other individuals and groups. It is also inclusive and itĀ attempts to make itself into a minority, women, and LGBTQ-friendly safe environment. It also functions as a community space and, this year; it was really in full swing. The Bit Bazaar Winter Market covered two floors this time around: with food and drink vendors upstairs with a wide variety of games, and Torontrons and various comics artists, designers, and other exhibitor tables selling various products and awesome samples on the main floor.

What stands out for me is what the organizers and planners of the Winter Market did this year. Henry Faber, the co-founder of Bento Miso, the game designer Damian Sommer and others created a card game called Battle of the Bazaar. Essentially, what they did was they made forty-five cards (with a forty-sixth one being a rule card) that represented a majority of the exhibitor tables, specifically the main games, comics, creations and foods of the exhibitors and gave them numbers of power and special abilities. The particulars of the rules can be found on Bento Miso’s site, just as Daniel Kaszor of the Financial Post‘s “Post Arcade” goes into more detail on its creation in an interview with Henry Faber himself but what I would like to note is that each of these vendors and exhibitors possessed their cards. In order to get all of them for yourself, you had to go to each of their tables and either get one from them, or trade cards.

It was potentially a very useful tactic when you think about it. In addition to creating cards that embody the works of their exhibitors, as well as displaying the website information of all those involved (kind of like creative contact cards), the cards make up an interesting game, and the collecting of them made for a potential ice-breaker. It is true that you could go to a table near the entrance that sold the entire decks but part of the fun is collecting the cards and interacting with the exhibitors that had them. It definitely made for some interesting conversations of my own. When I wandered upstairs I began playing Apotheon, in a player verses player death-match with ancient Greek black-figure graphics (the kind you would find on pottery) in which you have to throw weapons at your opponent. After my opponent killed me brutally with a pleasant and friendly smile on his face as I barely figured out how to use the controls, I got this awesome looking “Thetis” card from the exhibitor table and it was how I became aware of the cards and eventually figured out what they were about.

I spent a lot of time at the Golden Gear Games table where I played Fate Tectonics: a game where a pretty 16-bit goddess sprite hovers over you as you attempt to build a world out of land pieces and you hope that she won’t strike you down with lightning if you get the puzzle sequences wrong. I actually bought the game in the form of hollowed out Gameboy cartridge USB port, along with some pins, a poster and a delicious brownie. I also went back and forth from that table to trade some cards with them (once I got their “Worldbuilding” card of course). Towards the end of my time there, I saw the software and game developer Alex Bethke who not only helped make Fate Tectonics but also collaborated with Dames Making Games in creating three interactive animated short stories in the form of comics. I even had the opportunity, after briefly speaking with Cecily Carver of Dames Making Games, to converse with Katie Foster on her multimedia game The Disappearance of Emily Butler. It is about a girl that returns to Newfoundland and discovers parts about her past that are more than she bargained for. What is really interesting about this game in development is that it is a point and click adventure that has an interactive comics element, with Foster being one of the Dames in Games that Alex Bethke and Golden Gear Games has created an electronic comic for. All of these interactive comics can be downloaded as the Swipe Comics Anthology Vol. IĀ  app for the IOS: which Katie Foster had on display at her table. It is truly remarkable and as someone who is fascinated in the comics medium and its interaction with video games, it is definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on for the near future.

I traded cards between these the DMG table and Golden Gear Games, making my rounds and finally making it to Christine Love and Nadine Lessio’s Interstellar Selfie Station where I got and traded some cards with her. I’ve written on Christine Love’s games at Mythic Bios and even mentioned her Twine Workshop at the WordPlay Festival that helped me in my own creative endeavors and I was definitely going to meet up with her. Her card is “*Old Mute” and after you use its power, it makes all of your subsequent, future cards have a minus one to their score. If you have played her Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus, you will realize just how appropriate this power truly is.

After passing by many other tables towards the end of the evening, I finally caved in and came to the Pianocade Table to find out what was being soldered and put together there. Basically, I got to play with a Wii Remote that created various sound effects depending on what buttons I pushed and how I swung it. Eventually, I came across Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Asteroid Base‘s table. I’d seen this game in passing at my first CanZine Festival and I actually had a twitter conversation with Jeannie Faber, another co-founder of Bento Miso and the Event Director of the Bit Bazaar. I was actually looking forward to meeting Jeannie Faber but we never had the opportunity to run into each other and as that table was very busy, I ended up just taking a card.

As the night drew to a close, I’d managed to accumulate forty-one of the forty-five Battle of the Bazaar cards. I didn’t get to converse with everyone, but I now have leisure to look at their information and get a better sense of what their products and wares were about along with what they as individuals or teams actually do.

On the Battle of the Bazaar card “Bento Miso” card, there is this specific description. It states, “At the end of the game, if you haven’t won a round, you win the game.” Three weeks ago now I didn’t get all the cards, do everything I wanted, or even knew what to do but I think as I walked out that night, watching my fellow geeks, couples, groups of friends, and families interact I felt as though I won the Battle of the Bazaar anyway: just by simply being there.

If you are interested, Bento Miso is selling packs of its Battle of the Bazaar cards, but there are only eight decks left for $26 plus $3 dollar shipping so you’d best hurry now. They are definitely cool to have.

WordPlay in Toronto

So last weekĀ  Jim Munroe, the comics writer of Therefore Repent!, novelist, and the co-producer of the controversial Pipe Trouble game, invited me to the first-ever Toronto WordPlay Festival of Writerly Games on November the 16th. The WordPlay Festival is an event that the video game arts Hand Eye Society, of which Jim Munroe is also the executive director, in cooperation with the Toronto Public Library and with support from the Toronto Arts Council, celebrates and examines “the use of words and writing in contemporary games.”

This is not the first time that the Toronto Public Library has cooperated with either Hand Eye or the Torontonian video game scene. Not only did Jim Munroe create an interactive alternate reality game in the Library back in March of this year (in which you are part of the Literary Resistance attempting to prevent the book-burning culture from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 from ever happening) but last year the North York Central Library hosted both a Gaming Journalism Workshop for Gamercamp and a Writing for Videogames Workshop by Kan Gao: the creator of the beautiful independent Adventure RPG game To the Moon.

In fact the introduction to the Festival in the Atrium was made by Ab Velasco, a Communications Officer for the Toronto Public Library who, among things, helps facilitate special events at the Library including the Toronto Comics Arts Festival, and workshops such as Kan Gao’s and Gamercamp’s (where I first saw him). In fact, he mentioned that there is even an initiative in the Toronto Public Library system to make game-making technology free and available to library patrons as well providing eventual access to a 3D printer. This is pretty amazing news and you can tell that Ab Veslasco is having a major hand in these developments.

The Festival took place at the Toronto Reference Library and it was divided into two segments. There was a panel and a discussion that took place in the Atrium, while the WordPlay Showcase opened up its terminals with over-twenty text and story-based games to the public in Learning Centre I.

robothorse

The panel was called “Where Prose Meets Play.” It was moderated by Jim Munroe, and its other panelists were composed of freelancing conceptual artist and illustrator Rachel Kahn, game designer and animator Matt Hammill, Canadian writer, computer programmer and creator of Dinosaur Comics Ryan North, and Canadian science-fiction writer Peter Watts. Essentially, the entire first Panel looked at a wide-range of topics including the differences between storytelling for prose, comics, and writing for video games. It was some really interesting stuff: from Peter Watts stating that he had to write some very obvious descriptive passages for games that wouldn’t have worked in prose, to Rachel Kahn talking about how architecture and environment can tell a story. What I really found interesting was the discussion that examined the line between allowing a player too much freedom or giving the player too much structure and how it would be utterly fascinating to make a game, be it electronic or in book form, that allowed a player to choose the ending to their story.

WordPlay Panel

After a half-an-hour intermission there was a discussion with the Chicago-based group Cardboard Computer who created the magical realist point-and-click game Kentucky Route Zero. It was basically an interview facilitated by Miguel Sternberg, the founder of Spooky Squid Games and the creator ofĀ They Bleed Pixels, with Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt.

WordPlay Discussion

Unfortunately, I was not able to fully get into the discussion due to two factors. First of all, I had never heard of, nor played the game though there were some interesting thoughts that the creators were spinning around such as making a game about a character whose choices are limited by debt (a fact of life that many of us are all too familiar with nowadays), and a game level that takes place in a museum or archive filled with old video games. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that I am combining two different ideas mentioned in this discussion into one.

The other reason I had difficulty getting into the Kentucky Route Zero Discussion is due to the fact that the acoustics in the Atrium, even with microphones, were not that effective and announcements from the Library would drown out the speakers at key points. This also affected my following of the panel before it, and it is my only complaint about the Festival’s arrangement.

But since then I have done a little bit of research on Kentucky Route Zero. It is a game in five acts that, according to the WordPlay Festival bookmark, has literary influences from a writer named Flannery O’Connor. Once I looked up who this writer actually was, I saw that she utilized what is called the Southern Gothic Style: writing that relies a lot on heavy regional influences and grotesque characters. The game itself is apparently about a mysterious highway underneath the caves of Kentucky and the strange people that travel it.

I want to make a point of mentioning that not only did WordPlay occur one day after the release of the PlayStation 4, but it also featured a premier of its own. Off to the side of the audience were two desks with half-empty glasses and brick sandwiches (yes, you read and saw that right, they were actually brick sandwiches) and two Oculus Rift headsets lent to the event by the Toronto independent game designer and community work space Bento Miso.

WordPlay Brick Sandwich

Now, I’d heard of this next stage in virtual reality gaming but I didn’t really think much of it. I mean, I’d heard that these systems can cause dizziness and nausea, and I still have memories of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and so many other virtual reality promises and hopes throughout the years that eventually rendered me to the point of apathy.Ā  But I knew that since I was covering this event, I felt compelled to try it out. I didn’t actually get to checking out the Oculus Rift until much later. In fact, I only came to them as the Festival ended and the Reference Library was closing for the night. I thought I was too late.

However, a very helpful volunteer or Cardboard Computer staff member got me an Oculus Rift and I got to play, for a while, a Kentucky Route Zero intermission level or chapter entitled “The Entertainment.” It was strange because by the time I got to it the table and items on it, including the brick sandwich, were being packed up and I had nothing to touch, but I was … impressed. Unlike the rest of Kentucky Route Zero with its pixilated 2D graphics and third-person perspective, this was first-person and it was pretty cool. Cardboard Computer madeĀ  a three-dimensional room which, like its original game looked like it was made from angles of paper or “cardboard,” but it also attempted to play with light and shadow and the distance of sound when you move your head. But I think what I found the most intriguing is the fact that there are dialogue boxes containing narration that give you physical cues as to when you should look up and listen in on a conversation. It is like being able to explore but there is also a story that subtly acts like a script when “your part” comes up. That line between free choice and structure is a theme that comes up again as it gets explored and played on in this game. I just want to add that playing an Oculus Rift for the first time with a Wii remote was an interesting experience for me as well.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I got to check out the WordPlay Showcase with that whole collection of story-based games featured on each terminal in Learning Centre I. During the Discussion with Cardboard Computer I ran into Ian Daffern again, a fellow writer and creator whom I actually collaborated with inĀ  the 2013 Toronto Global Game Jam–my first–and he told me that he created a Twine game called TRUNKED.

Now, I have really wanted to talk about Twine on G33kPr0n for a very long time and I always take time to mention them elsewhere. Twine is software that allows writers that may not necessarily have much programming knowledge, to make interactive text-based games or stories. So I only managed to play his excellent game twice (where I died once and then actually realized that my gut instinct about a certain item could help me) before the next and final part of the Festival began.

I am referring to Christine Love’s Hands-on Workshop: Make Interactive Fiction Workshop.

For me, this was the highlight of the WordPlay Festival. In addition to the fact that Christine Love is the creator of many intensely story-based games such as Digital: A Love Story, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Hate Plus that I truly respect and adore, I was also getting the excuse to use Twine for myself and make something. After Christine Love took about fifteen minutes to run through the basics with us, she then gave us five minutes to come up with an idea, and gave us the rest of the hour before closing time to implement it. I managed to make a template to follow for what will hopefully be a series of future Twine stories to come.

WordPlay Workshop

You can even see me in this photo if you look closely. I’m asking someone for help.

But just as there is a fine line between freedom of choice and plot for a player to navigate there, this article has also been a fine line between coverage of an important event and my own personal experience.

Anna Anthropy in her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters talks about the importance of developing game-creation software and technology that is available and easy public use. She has often advocated and created many games using Twine software. It is an idea that can go beyond, or change video game industry culture and allow people who ordinarily don’t have voices in video games to express themselves and let people interact from their perspectives. It is something can change games as a medium and also the very nature of what they are. For me personally, I always felt sad because I always felt limited in what I could with games due to a lack of visual artistic ability and programming knowledge.

But what Twine allows me to do is use my own skill with words to make the games I always wanted. And having an interactive teacher, as opposed to some tutorial videos, gave me some of the basic keys to the kingdom of making interactive worlds and that, for me, is golden.

Finally I just want to also ask you, the readers of G33kPr0n, toĀ  please check out all the hyperlinks provided above, look at the rest of Hand Eye’s Fest Pics and Showcase Links and even consider making some Twine stories of your own. If I can do it, so can you. I learned a lot from this event and I can best summarize that feeling in the title of my own very short Twine game.

Level Up

Photo Credits: Stephen Reese

What I Did On the Anniversary of My First Blog Post: The Toronto Comics Arts Festival

This is going to be a late entry as I have been recovering from the last three days of attending–and volunteering–at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. The first time I ever went to the Festival was when it was still at the University of Toronto: back in those days when I was still in Undergrad and working at York in 2007.

It’s an understatement to say that it has long expanded since. I came back to it in about 2011 while still in Grad School and then last year before my official Graduation. I mentioned in another post that it is about this time of year, specifically the month of May, where things have ended for me. Actually, this post is being made two days past the Anniversary of the online Mythic Bios: namely, this whole Writer’s Blog.

So let me celebrate this missed anniversary by telling you all a bit about my weekend at TCAF.

On Friday I reported to my set-up shift. I haven’t really lifted heavy boxes or tables in a while, so my arms are still all sore from that. But the company of my fellow volunteers was totally worth it. We all wanted to be there and, for me, it is a novelty to be able to talk with people with similar Geek knowledge and interests. Really, for that alone and working together with like-minded people on straightforward tasks it was totally worth it. I got my bright blue volunteer shirt along with everyone else, and then headed home to attempt an early night to wake up earlier the following day.

Well, after failing to go to bed early I woke up the next day and somehow found the Marriott Hotel without getting lost where Art Spiegelman was going to be doing some signings. So I naturally brought both of my volumes of Maus with me and waited in the line to meet him. It was only after a while that the volunteers on duty that day informed us that Spiegelman would only sign two books, and one of them had to be one of his new ones. I will admit, I was annoyed. Like I said, I had the old version of Maus that was divided into two volumes and I had been keen on having them both signed. I also didn’t see any of the new books that I was interested in.

At first.

I was tired and hungry and I almost left the line until I decided “What the hell, I’m getting to meet Art Spiegleman.” Then I found Breakdowns: essentially a large collection of his earlier work that I had either only seen excerpts of, or only saw references to in text books for my own researches. Some of these comics had led to the creation of Maus as well and also shed more light on his family life and his own experiences. In fact, some of the comics in there have that very 1960s to early 80s Underground Comix feel: specifically the pieces that really share Robert Crumb’s wobbly, sometimes vulgar but very iconic aesthetic.

By the time I got to see Art Spiegelman, he was sitting across from his wife–the stately Francoise Mouly–and the artist Frank Viva. He looked like someone’s elegant Viennese Jewish grandfather. I know he doesn’t come from Vienna or Germany, but that is about the only way I can physically describe him. I told him that it was a great honour to meet him. He seemed pleased to see that Breakdowns was one of the books I had and he described it to me as something along the lines of a building with which he keeps adding renovations. At one point he joked about whether not my name had changed by the second piece he was signing and I told him, “Not this time, but usually I change the number of Ts in my name just to mess with people.” He found that (very untrue joke) very amusing. Then I shook his hand and left with my prizes.

I just have to reiterate that Spiegelman’s work really influenced me. I originally encountered him in my Literature of Testimony course in my Grad Program at York. A lot of the literature made my own first-person narratives stronger: increasing my voice and its depth. But Spiegelman in particular not only taught me that symbols be used to represent literal things and ideas, but that this same order can be subverted to either destroy their meanings or through doubt on them. This is a very sophisticated technique and one that definitely will affect at least one work of mine. That is one major reason I really had to meet him: to meet one of the masters of what I’ve tried–and am trying to do–in my own writerly way. So yes, it was awesome to finally meet him.

By that time, I made it back to the Reference Library and got a few more books. It was there that I met Hope Larson for the first time and her sign her adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time for my Mom in honour of Mother’s Day and her birthday. She apparently found that cute. I chose that book because my Mom loves Madeleine L’Engle’s series and she used to read them to me when I was much younger. So it was kind of a bridge between our interests. Later, I remembered that I had read Hope Larson’s Salamander Dream and Gray Horses when I worked for the Clara Thomas Archives.

But I couldn’t make it upstairs as I had planned. I was tired and dehydrated and apparently there was a line to get into the suite with more of the vendors that I wanted to visit. I met a friend and we ended up going for a meal of some kind, or I did, and then went on our way to Bento Miso for its own Bit Bazaar. Bento Miso is a place where games–electronic and analog, as well as many start-up businesses–are made and they were opening for the Festival. It was a nice sunny day in downtown Toronto as my friend and I tried to circumvent the ridiculousness of the TTC shutdown from Bloor to Union Station and went to Ossington and walked with tons of stuff in my arms to Bento Miso for the first time.

I met a few people there and got to play some games: including one game called Bijouxred: which is essentially a game that combines the strategy war game mechanics of Fire Emblem with the rough brawling moments of Streetfighter II. And that is just a simplification because the fights themselves have some elements reminiscent of Final Fantasy–with its Combat Options, and even Mario RPG with regards to having to press a button to simulate blocking, charging your energy, or even chaining attacks together. It was really cool. I met Rene Shible–Director of Development–and Lead Animator Michal Szczepanski: who were quite friendly and directed me through their game.

The Bit Bazaar itself was awesome. There is a very Underground feel to it: a combination of grit, digitization and nostalgia along with a lot of geeking, friendliness and adventure. A few of the games from the second Comics Vs. Games collaboration were being shown and played there as well. It is still something I want to do with an artist programmer one day. šŸ™‚ I got a Steamkey to Spooky Squid Games They Bleed Pixels: which I ranted about a really long time ago as also being awesome. It came with its own small black envelope and a simulated red wax seal. That was a very lovely touch. I also got to meet a few people and a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a while. I think I will visit there more often soon. So by the time I finally got home that night, I was bloody exhausted.

But it wasn’t over yet.

The next morning I woke up even earlier. I gave my Mom her present before leaving and made it again to the Marriott just in time to observe the Art Spiegelman Spotlight panel: with Seth as its moderator. It was a very eye-opening exchange between the two cartoonists and it was this interaction, combined with reading some of Breakdowns that gave me a little idea as to why Spiegelman wanted people to read his new work and not focus as much on Maus. I mean, first of all there is the creator perspective of it: in which an artist doesn’t want to be solely determined by one creation–no matter how great–that they did in the past. But another, more personal reason, is when you consider the content of Maus and just how much Spiegelman had to delve into some dark and personal spaces: some of which were not even personally his own, but affected him just the same. This article from the Toronto Star might explain it a little better and might have made more sense had I read it before meeting him. Having that long shadow cast over you can be brutal. I also learned that Breakdowns has been reprinted twice with new work or “renovations” added.

Then I went to the Library, got some Hope Larson comics for myself, met some cool new creators, and made it to the upper level where I met Maurice Vellekoop with his elegant, airy lined and water-coloured comics: often portraying erotic and adventurous content. I got something and had him sign it. Then I went around that level and left to eventually get to the Bryan Lee O’Malley Spotlight panel: where in a strange game of “Guessing the Answer Before Asking the Question,” I answered, “No,” and asked if he had ever intended the character of Mobile in Scott Pilgrim to actually turn to be Gideon. Suffice to say, I was right and I don’t think I was the first one to ask this question.

Eventually the Festival was closing down and I went to my next volunteer shift: the tear-down phase. This was the shift I covered last year and it had been my only one at the time. I got to say hello and goodbye to some people I met and then I wandered home in the suddenly cold with hail balls coming down.

And that was my TCAF.

So, there is one thing I want to mention before I wrap this long post up. Some of the artists I was talking to were commenting about how awesome TCAF is and how people from all over Canada and the world come here. They were talking about what makes TCAF different from other conventions. Well, I have my basic two cents on that matter.

The first thing to consider is that TCAF is free. It has no entry fee and all you have to do is come in and bring money to buy work, or simply come to the panels. It is also a festival and it is spread around a few locations. But I think the second element of TCAF that I like is that the barrier between artists and readers is somehow thinner here: or at least far more permeable? You can interact with many artists as you would any other person or vendor. It also helps that many artists are in fact fans of other artists. There is just this positive enthusiastic energy around all of that just makes me happy. What really makes me happy is that so many younger people come to this Festival and are so enthusiastic about the comics medium and what they like.

It’s some of the few times that I am proud to have lived in Toronto and still do some business in it. And this event was what I needed lately. I feel more inspired to just do things and get things done. It’s like I got recharged, if that makes sense. I also finally decided to make a basic business card that I can give to people that is linked to this Mythic Bios site. And I made more connections. It was a truly rewarding experience and I would like to thank the Festival Staff, the artists, the vendors, the fans and my fellow volunteers for making this time exist every year.

Also, thank you all for continuing to read and Follow me. I know that this particular post was a very long one and I feel in some ways that I did this event more justice in my own personal written journal, but I did what I could and I underestimated just how much happened in three days. These three days made this part of May a good beginning and I have plans now. And I can’t wait to begin the process of implementing them.