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A Supposedly Fun Thing

TO BEGIN WITH, there was more hype surrounding this year’s TCAF than we have ever witnessed for any comics event, up to and probably including the truly awful SDCC and NYCC type shows of the year (if you count those as comics events, which we do not). There was plenty of evidence to support this in our little world, as those who were unable to attend spent several weeks and countless tweets trying to figure out how they would recover from missing the show of the century. Any attempts to point to the fact that there’s another TCAF next year were met with complaints that this was the greatest TCAF that would be ever be – and this was before it even happened.

Maybe it was that video or maybe it was due to the fact that TCAF was following up the apr├Ęs-MoCCA complaint fest. As much talk as there was about everything MoCCA did wrong, there was even more discussion of everything that TCAF does right. TCAF is free to the public. TCAF’s space is a beautiful temple of reading. TCAF has ways of making tables affordable for self-publishing creators. TCAF is open to every conceivable genre and subgenre of the medium. TCAF has a green room. TCAF will make change for you. TCAF is run by Chris Butcher, arguably the most charismatic of impressarios, and the Beguiling, arguably the world’s greatest comics shop. TCAF, via the Beguiling, will pick up your remainders, if there are any, and send you back home a little less afraid of customs. In short, TCAF is everything you want it to be.

Obviously, our expectations were through the roof. More to the point, we expected a hell of a lot from ourselves and, hence, we went a little nuts all around this show. Secret Acres is a small outfit, so in theory, we should be able to move fast. Nonetheless, it was seriously down to the wire in getting 2012 together in time for the show. It happened, and we’re pleased, but we didn’t even have the time to announce the thing as we usually do.

Once we were packed, and rides had been assigned, we had a late night panic attack, ditched our banners and stands and heavy gear and managed to hide everything in the Acresmobile for fear that customs would kill us. Seeing as one of us was born in the Philippines and another had several warrants out for his arrest, we don’t think these fears were unreasonable at all. To make matters worse, we got several reports of pals’ books being confiscated on the way up and the material in question (Onsmith and Young Lions are dangerous?) made our own legitimately gay and porntastic stuff look like three keys of H. It may have dawned on us sooner that getting everyone safely to their rooms would be problematic without cell phones if we hadn’t been screaming at each other for hours about prostitution and the legalization thereof.

If we are so small, we somehow had our largest crew ever heading into Toronto. That was a bit of logistical nightmare for our single table, and our original idea of playing it by ear gave way to a solid schedule almost immediately. Of course, upon arrival, Dylan Williams, who had called our usual, elaborate MoCCA setup postmodern (meaning inhumane in its style over comfort approach), pointed at our minimalist/ghetto TCAF setup and pronounced it old fashioned. Our D&Q pals, who previously had made fun of our business ties, gave us grief for wearing a t-shirt with a cardigan. Still, we were all ready to rock.

Then nothing happened. It was total crickets (and not of the Harkham variety). Not to say the show was quiet, but we were the eye of the storm. It was so quiet, we freaked, left the kids at the table and went shopping. Once we were broke, we walked over to the Beguiling. We had differing opinions on the place, ranging from wanting to move in to wanting to move in and reorganize the shelves. It is the most complete store we have ever seen. Whatever the Beguiling doesn’t have isn’t worth having. Being skeptical of the stories we’d heard of the Beguiling picking up TCAF leftovers, we spent the walk back to the show discussing damage control maneuvers. Given what we’d seen of the sales at that point, and the fact that we had doubled down to the tune of this being our most expensive show ever, it was not looking good for us.

Then there was a marijuana madness pot parade and we stopped giving a shit entirely. Everything else was going right. As far as our show shopping went, it was easily the best haul we have ever had. By now, you’re probably sick of hearing about Lose 3, but too bad. Every once in a great while, you pick up something that is obvious in its import and has a nearly electric charge to every line and Lose 3 is that; it’s another solid reason to love comics. If that book was our centerpiece, the rest of the pile is the stuff of fantasy: Even the Giants, Gay Genius, SF #1, The Life and Times of Eric Gunose, Team Society League Omnibus, Garden, Welcome to Oddville! and of course, Root Rot, which isn’t even the half of it.

We wanted to end on Root Rot because that was where we discovered Robin Nishio, who sent us off to the Black Hoof, where we tried as hard as we could to get gout. Then we ran over to the Gay Thing, as we called it, and sat outside with our own Edie Fake and his gang and watched as folks wandered in by the dozens and decided it wasn’t happening enough before turning right around. Maybe, fellow homos, if you’d hung around, there’d have been more to get excited about. As it was, our Gay Thing was the perfect chill interlude between the organ meat orgy and the calamity of the Paupers Bar TCAFette.

Paupers was our Twitter feed made flesh. We usually ditch the official parties for weirder, dancier fare, so it was strange to have something that was on the TCAF program be the place to be. We managed to scramble some seats at a table on the roof, where we dug in and waited for the world to come to us, which it did. Brandon Graham is really, really tall. Robin McConnell is the Robin McConnell we’d hoped he would be, but he also has a 37 inch vertical, which he demonstrated by way of jumping over a table and clawing his way up to the ledge of the deck on which we were perched before proceeding to explain the Canadian electoral system as promised (your stuff is way convoluted, Canada). Tom Neely, the most dangerous man in Canadian customs offices, was in rare form, giving us the follow-up on his seizures and Danzig death threats. Mickey Z, whom we’d first discovered via Sundays 4, had no voice left at all, which may have made her seem even more smolderingly enigmatic than she is in real life (since she claims to be a loudmouth and having no voice left does back her up on this). Then, of course, there was Annie Koyama.

We’re not totally sure how the hell to describe her. In his TCAF write-up, Tom Spurgeon noted that “you could float an ocean-liner on the love that Koyama’s cartoonists have for their publisher.” Frankly, those guys would be insane to have that much love for their publisher if Annie were simply that. We’re publishers, yes, but no one loves us as much we love Annie.

We call her the Peggy Guggenheim of comics. Her generosity is going a long way in developing the medium. We’re not talking about the books she’s publishing, which are across the board great. She’s supporting emerging artists in the way we fantasize about doing with Secret Acres, but while we are limited to what we do as a publishing company, Anne Koyama knows no bounds. We hear regularly from cartoonists we adore that Annie has shown up out of nowhere to keep them working and making comics. This isn’t about the money, either, as any idiot can write a check. Her encouragement and faith are what inspire people because she understands comics and what it is to be an artist about as well as is humanly possible and whatever she has to tell you is exactly what you need to hear. Santa Koyama may be a more appropriate nickname, for both meanings of the word Santa.

The rest of the night is something we will all of us remember well – except for Joseph Lambert. There’s photo evidence below for you, Joe. We think that’s Xanax that you’re being fed.

The rest of the show was fine, too. The sales were nowhere near as bad as we’d thought. It turned out to be true that the Beguiling does pick up leftovers. Customs didn’t care about us one way or the other. We’re all home and literally feverish. In short, TCAF was everything we wanted it to be.

Your Pals,

Barry and Leon

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