Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Welcome to Whazamo! Ontario Graphic Novel Month

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Whazamo! is a cavalcade of all that is excellent in Canadian comics and graphic novels, inspired by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Throughout May we will showcase comics by Ontario's independent book publishers, as well as present unique video and interview profiles of the best Canadian cartoonists in bookstores and on the web. Why comics for Open Book: Toronto? Why not! Toronto is a comic-book town.

But it wasn't always this way. When I first started writing about comics for U of T's Varsity newspaper, cartoonists like Seth and Chester Brown could only be found tucked behind tiny tables at gigantic conventions, lost in a sea of dealers, t-shirts, toys and nostalgia items. Not to knock the superheroes, Hell, that was why I was at the conventions in the first place, but even then I suspected comics were capable of so much more.

Today, graphic novels in Canada are bestsellers in bookstores and online, nominated for our most prestigious awards, and have awards of their own, such as The Doug Wright and the Joe Shuster Awards. Toronto has been fortunate to have more than their share of fantastic creators, supported by a vibrant community that's growing every year. In a large part this support comes from retailers like The Beguiling, which for over twenty years has promoted comics with the weight and heft of literature and the aspirations of higher-art.

In 2003, in a church-hall on Bloor Street the Beguiling launched the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It wasn't the largest venue ever, but for the first time, artists were front and center, directly interacting with an audience. The connection was cozy and intimate, the hall a bubbling animated circus, the works traversing the full range of excellence found in the form. Now in 2009, TCAF is taking over the Toronto Reference Library, with an incredible roster of cartoonists for comics, publishing and the web. With prestigious international guests and local luminaries, it's set to be the best one yet.

But before comics take over the Library, they are taking over Open Book: Toronto for an entire month. Every week in May, Whazamo! will shine at light on Ontario's newest cutting-edge cartoonists in a series of videos. These include:

  • Willow Dawson and Susan Hughes, guide us through No Girls Allowed, a nonfiction graphic novel about courageous girls who took on the guise of men to go where their cultures would never allow them.
  • Lorenz Peter's Dark Adaptation is the portrait of the artist as a young man, and a reckoning with his hometown past in the wilds of Northern Alberta.
  • Joey Comeau and Emily Horne, creators of the online photo comic A Softer World, take us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the making of their strip, that leads literally up a tree.

You can also look forward to interviews with other fantastic Canadian guests at this years' TCAF, many of whom are published by are Ontario's independent publishers, including Kid Koala, Jeff Lemire, Mariko Tamaki and more!

We're also very fortunate to have continuous comics commentary from our Cartoonist-in-Residence for the month, Clayton Hanmer, who just published a book of comics from OwlKids books: CTON's Super A-maze-ing Year of Crazy Comics Puzzles, Mazes, Blobs, & More!

So stick with us, it's gonna be a thrill. And we'll see you at this year's the festival!

Ian Daffern

Curator of Whazamo!

Producer and Writer

Vepo Studios

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Ian Daffern

Ian Daffern directs and produces documentary videos and writes about books and comics for places like Quill and Quire, The Globe and Mail and The National Post. He's also half of the mighty writing team behind Freelance Blues, your favourite new supernatural-horror-comedy comic (tm).

His website can be found here at
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Go to Ian Daffern’s Author Page