So as usual, working at TCAF means I don’t really get to see TCAF. Of course, it also means that I get to hang out with a bunch of really great people for a few days and call that my job, but still. The comics nerd in me longs to sit and listen as creators talk about queering comics and sports versus comics, and then run around the exhibition space and buy everything awesome there (so, basically everything). Going to any programming which I am not actually a part of, though, is basically a pipe dream. Because when I am not doing the interpreting thing on panels with Japanese guests, I am doing media with Japanese guests or taking Japanese guests to lunch or [random activity] with Japanese guests (all of which I enjoy. This is not a complaint).
Fortunately, I am pretty quick and TCAF kindly hands out a map of where all the exhibitors are, so I can run around in the ten or so minutes I end up having to myself and snap up all the stuff that I know I totally want. And sometimes I end up walking by something I didn’t know I wanted on the way and I grab that too. This Run-and-Grab (patent pending) I’ve developed over the TCAF years has yielded good results in previous years, and this year was no different.
Last year, I wanted to check out Yumi Sakugawa’s table because I love her work, but because I had a mere five minutes when everyone was tearing down, I gave up on that idea. So this year, I was especially determined to find her and buy some of her amazing comics. Which I did! Two of them!
One is Visitor, a collection of short stories loosely tied together by the concept of space that are more like emotional vignettes than stories (that all made my heart half break and also made me want something. But what?). The other, Never Forgets, is a story that I actually started reading online, but never got to finish (why? I don’t know?). This one is more of a traditional narrative, although all the feels are still there. Living in a world populated by a seemingly random assortment of upright animals and creatures (not a human face to be found), Ellie gets a butt ton of plastic surgery done and has a totally new face. The story starts from when she first goes out with her new face and throws in the back story in the form of Instagram-like selfie posts. But only back to the surgery itself, so you don’t actually see her old face. Until she goes home to face her parents and tell them what she’s done.
The whole thing so perfectly encapsulates what attracts me to Sakugawa’s work. She tends to take bizarre ideas and create the most human, relatable things out of them. Although both Never Forgets and Visitor are more of the poignant, heartache style, even her more upbeat stories like I Think I’m in Friend Love With You have this way of reaching right into my heart and making it beat for real.
After wallowing in so many bittersweet moments, I needed a little silliness on my plate, so I was very glad that I also managed to grab the latest from comics collective (and my friends) Love Love Hill. They had frantically stapled together the most recent outing of Life on the Hill, a series of sketch comics detailing their real-life adventures. (Full disclosure: I occasionally show up in these adventures.) Which never fails to crack me up as I’m always depicted as having myself so together, making me wonder if they have been in fact hanging out with some alternate universe me. These adventures are usually mishaps of some kind in everyday life, like Julie in Rotterdam eating those fizzy vitamins you’re supposed to dissolve in water because she can’t read the Dutch labels. Always silly, always drawn so expressively, always cracking me up.
Their other recent offering is the anthology Fujosports!, a much less last-minute affair. Beautifully printed and bound, with a subtle, but lovely glossiness to the cover, the collection, naturally, focusses on stories of boys loving boys in the world of sports with a mostly manga-influenced art style. But maybe not the kind of sports you’re thinking. Dirchansky’s contribution is about competitive logging. With all the wood-related puns you’d expect. Justin shows a young hottie falling in love with the world of Turkish oil wrestling. And Kim turns dodgeball into drama. Lots of sweaty men and female gaze.
The last of the shorties I picked up (I got one graphic novel style dealie that we will talk about another day!) is Georgia Webber’s Dumb. (Full disclosure: Georgia is awesome and helped me move.) I picked up the first two issues at TCAF last year and liked it enough to seek her out and get the new ones this year. Dumb is an autobiographical comic about Georgia injuring her voice and everything that entails. It’s great in a lot of ways, but maybe Glyn Dillon says it best on the back of issue number four: “Dumb is an excellent example of how comics can do things that other mediums can’t.”
It does this in a lot of ways, but maybe the most obvious is how she draws a line between the worlds of sound and silence with the color red, with everything else in black and white. Speech is encircled in red, noisy places are filled with scribbles of red, and Georgia’s speaking self is drawn in red as she wrestles with her silent self. The story goes from the time of her injury through diagnosis and then all the hoops she needs to jump through for social assistance since she can’t work a job where she has to talk anymore, and all the mental wrangling she needs to do to figure out who she is without a voice and what it means to not have a voice in our society. And the last three issues are printed super beautifully on sharp white stock, which makes the red and black contrast really stand out, with introductions from people meditating on various forms of silence. There is a lot to take in and it is worth taking the time!
Oh TCAF, in ten minutes, I managed to get such a haul. It’s probably a good thing I have to work at the festival. I would no doubt spend all my money on comics if I didn’t.