Feast your eyes on this: 15 comic artists to know right now
Sean Rogers finds a little something for everyone from the action-packed guest list of this weekend's Toronto Comic Arts Festival
By SEAN ROGERS
Special to The Globe and Mail
Saturday, May 12, 2018 Print Edition, Page P20
T he Toronto Comic Arts Festival returns to the Toronto Reference Library, the Masonic Temple and other venues on May 12 and 13. Now in its 15th year, the free event brings tens of thousands of readers to the city to meet their favourite cartoonists from around the world, buy new books and original art and sit in on talks with the best in the business. To showcase the diversity of cartooning at TCAF, The Globe has selected just a few of the dozens of authors worth seeking out if you're in town - and for everyone's cartoon habit, some of their best books to track down from home.
Fiona Smyth for gorgeous and groundbreaking feminist art.
SAY HI: Because the local legend is poised to break big internationally with the release of her career retrospective.
Somnambulance (Koyama Press, 368 pages, $29.95), collecting three decades worth of joyfully squishy, hypnagogic riot grrl comics and art, drawn like a mashup of Frida Kahlo and Keith Haring.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: The Never Weres, Smyth's futuristic, visually sumptuous YA graphic novel, or the psychedelic, dewy-eyed kitties she drew for one of this year's TCAF posters.
Ho Che Anderson for a serious meditation on technology, God and inequality, spiced with high action.
SAY HI: Because the Toronto artist's first all-new book in more than a decade is cause for some serious attention.
WHAT'S NEW? Godhead (Fantagraphics, 160 pages, $33.50) supposes that the research wing of a corporate monolith establishes contact with God - though not without some violent blowback, partly at the hands of a disgruntled low-level contractor.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: King, Anderson's dramatically stylized graphic biography of Martin Luther King, or his fully painted TCAF poster, which shows a young woman's daydreams set whirling by comics.
Inio Asano for the platonic ideal of manga: wildly emotional sci-fi allegory set against breathtakingly detailed backdrops.
SAY HI: Because the Japanese wunderkind is making a rare North American appearance.
WHAT'S NEW? Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction, vol. 1 (Viz, 196 pages, $19.99) is focused on schoolgirls who keep busy studying for exams and leading ordinary lives, even though a race of aliens has conquered Tokyo.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Goodnight Punpun, Asano's recently translated series about a depressed, anthropomorphic bird-boy coming of age in an all-too-real Japan - call it a birdungsroman.
Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez for funny animal comics that are neither particularly funny nor about animals.
SAY HI: Because Boydell and Perez have achieved a work of startling intimacy and empathy, given their cast of cute cats and dogs.
WHAT'S NEW? The Pervert (Image Comics, 160 pages, $23.50) tells the unflinching story of a trans sex worker struggling to keep her head above water.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Island, the Heavy Metal magazine-esque anthology where the authors first serialized The Pervert.
Aminder Dhaliwal for viral humour from irreverent webcomics.
SAY HI: Because it's way better to fan out in person than it is to double-tap a social media post.
WHAT'S NEW? Woman World (Drawn & Quarterly, fall 2018) is not yet in bookstores, but the Brampton, Ont. native's gag strips about life in a world where men are extinct get regularly posted @aminder_d on Instagram.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Kate Beaton's Step Aside, Pops, for more whipsmart feminist webcomics from the same publisher.
Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim for a fond, genial memoir that also sheds light on history.
SAY HI: Because the married duo has helped significantly alter the world of French comics.
WHAT'S NEW? Poppies of Iraq (Drawn & Quarterly, 112 pages, $24.95) details Findakly's memories of growing up in Mosul, Iraq, cartooned in charming shorthand by Trondheim.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: The Marvelous Adventures of McConey, Trondheim's unorthodox slacker-adventure series, exquisitely coloured by Findakly.
Melanie Gillman for something stirring that teens can read to know they're not alone.
SAY HI: To marvel at Gillman's masterful ability to create painterly images with mere pencil crayons.
WHAT'S NEW? As the Crow Flies (Iron Circus Comics, 250 pages, $38.55) follows a queer black teen's soul-searching at an allwhite Christian girls' summer camp.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Smbitten, Gillman's debut graphic novel, "a lesbian romance about swingdancing and vampirism."
Jaime Hernandez (and editor Françoise Mouly) for comics for kids like they used to make 'em, more Little Archie than Netflix's Riverdale.
SAY HI: Because Hernandez and Mouly are both living cartooning legends, he for his decades-long comic book series Love and Rockets, and she for her editorship at Raw, The New Yorker and now Toon Books, a line of comics for young readers, celebrating its 10th anniversary at TCAF.
WHAT'S NEW? The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America (Toon Books, 48 pages, $24.50 HC/$14.50 SC) features the antics of a wise old abuela and an industrious lazy-bones, as well as the titular heroine.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: The Love Bunglers, Hernandez's emotionally overpowering masterpiece about the ill-starred romance between two Love and Rockets mainstays.
Hartley Lin for a graphic novel that reads as an honest-to-God novel, with complex, true-to-life characters.
SAY HI: Because Lin's book has been years in the making and finally marks the long-form debut of a significant talent.
WHAT'S NEW? Young Frances (AdHouse Books, 144 pages, $24.95) chronicles the misadventures of a millennial law clerk, who's climbing the ladder at her Toronto firm, and her carefree, Hollywood-bound roommate.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Pope Hats, Lin's beautifully designed comic book series, which features his evocative short stories.
Alison McCreesh for a travelogue that provides detailed, observant glimpses of places you rarely see represented.
SAY HI: Because McCreesh has journeyed a long way from Yellowknife! WHAT'S NEW? Norths: Two Suitcases and a Stroller around the Circumpolar World (Conundrum Press, 400 pages, $20), a sketchbook record of the artist and her young family's travels around the North Pole, from Finland and Russia to Greenland and Iceland.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Ramshackle, McCreesh's debut memoir about Yellowknife's colourful history and her life there as an artist.
Chris Reynolds for an enigmatic cult classic, ripe for rediscovery.
SAY HI: Because it's impossible to guess what the British artist must be like, judging from his decades of cryptic, shadowy, deadpan comics.
WHAT'S NEW? The New World: Comics from Mauretania (New York Review Comics, 276 pages, $44.95), a selection of stories (curated and designed by Canadian cartoonist Seth) that take place in Reynolds's lonesome and inky near-future, where mundane events unfold with eerie dream logic.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Soft City by Pushwagner, a similarly idiosyncratic vision of modern life gone awry, from the same publisher.
Ann Telnaes for scathing, indignant, strangely graceful political cartooning.
SAY HI: Because how often do you get a chance to meet a Pulitzerwinner? (Telnaes won for editorial cartooning in 2001).
WHAT'S NEW? Trump's ABC (Fantagraphics, 32 pages, $17.50), a fauxchildren's book about the presidential big baby, with inventive rhymes and grotesque caricatures excoriating his regime.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: More of Telnaes's witty, watercoloured takedowns of Trumpism, archived online at the Washington Post.
Ronald Wimberly for cuttingedge graphics, in dialogue with black radical aesthetic theory.
SAY HI: Because Wimberly is contemporary comics' most exhilarating thinker about black identity in visual culture.
WHAT'S NEW? LAAB Magazine #0: Dark Matter (Beehive Books, 32 pages, US$17.00) is a tabloidsized collection of comics and essays (many by Wimberly, who also co-edits) on subjects that range from Basquiat and Sun Ra to supervillains and minstrelsy.
BUT ALSO CHECK OUT: Black History in Its Own Words, Wimberly's visual testament to black thinkers and artists, some portraits from which also get reproduced in LAAB.
Somnambulance, top, is a collection of three decades worth of Fiona Smyth's groundbreaking feminist art. Pulitzer-Prize winning Ann Telnaes's faux children's book Trump's ABC, above, takes down the U.S. President with some inventive rhymes.