Tag Archives: events

Toronto Comic Arts Festival

Today was a bit of a wasted day for me — I couldn’t sleep last night, so I’ve been running in a pretty low gear. But Mei and I did manage to attend the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which is a really cool, free annual festival run out of the Toronto Reference Library. It runs today and tomorrow (May 8 and 9).

I’m not really into the comic arts myself, but there were a few people I did want to meet:

  • Brandon Bird is a painter who uses pop culture references in little jewel-like tableaux. We bought two of his prints (Sega and High Sea) and chatted for a while; he’s actually younger than I expected, and interesting to talk to. I complimented him on how he uses those pop culture references so effectively, to create these little in-jokes that somehow work for me as a viewer; he said that the difficult part is striking the delicate balance between the reference and the joke. He gets a lot of people saying to him “oh, you know what you should do?” and then listing a bunch of things he should reference all together. His skill really is in his restraint. Anyhow, we’re always on the lookout for new BB paintings and I recommend looking through his collection.
  • Jeph Jacques writes and draws the daily webcomic Questionable Content, which I have been reading for years. It’s a fun little comic, and he seems like a nice guy too. A few years ago, he left his job to write and draw the comic full-time, making up his income with merchandise and advertising. It seems to have worked for him, and I hope he continues with it. I bought a sketch card and chatted with him a little.
  • Jim Munroe is a writer and indie publisher through his company No Media Kings. His blog there is well worth reading for anyone who wants to flog a book out there in the real world; he’s enthusiastic and very driven. He was at the show to promote a couple of graphic novels he’s written lately, but I actually brought a couple of his books and asked him to sign them (which he graciously did). The thing is, he’s a fantastic writer himself. He was snapped up by HarperCollins for his first book, and he was so dissatisfied by the experience that he formed his own company and self-published the rest of his books. He’s got a really tight, readable style that I am actually envious of. Meeting him, he seemed like the kind of guy I would trust to reform the publishing market and lead the charge for the indie publishing approach. I forgot to ask him if he’s writing more novels but I hope he is. I encourage everyone to buy his books.

So it was a fun little outing. If nothing else, it’s great to see a thriving segment of the publishing world, as well as to see crowds of people flock to talk to the artists and buy their stuff. No matter what you hear about the publishing industry, people aren’t going to stop being fascinated by interesting stories, told creatively.

Jon Wells, crime writer

I drove through a pretty intense thunder storm last night to see Jon Wells, the Hamilton Spectator’s premier crime writer, at a Canadian Authors Association meeting in St Catharines.

I’ve been a Spec subscriber for about a year and a half, since we moved back to the 905 after eight years in the Waterloo/Wellington wilderness. Unfortunately the daily routine hasn’t allowed for a long perusal of each weekday edition, but as a Hamilton native I do have a sentimental attachment to the paper. It turns out I like Wells’s work, too, although I had never really attached a name to the stories of his that I’d read.

Wells is an interesting case in journalism: a lot of his work has been long-form journalism, stories that are published daily for days or weeks at a time, his longest ones running thirty-one and forty-two days. He got a deal with Wiley to turn four of them into books, and the fourth has just been published (links below).

Where his skill as a writer lies, I think, is how tighly he grips the reader in the first two or three paragraphs. Sure, there are the elements that every reporter uses to hook the reader — gore and violence, foreboding evil, schmaltzy descriptions of the innocent victims and their grieving families. This is the stuff of crime writing though, and it’s nice to see that Wells is willing to provide counterpoint to the excesses.

An example: the grieving mother of Pat del Sordo in the series Witness. Pat was apparently beloved by everyone he’s ever met, and was bludgeoned to death in a senseless double murder, probably while he slept. His mother praises his goodness, how he was there for his parents whenever they needed him. Yet by the end of the story, the killer behind bars, she doesn’t provide the easy closure you’d expect from the story. She’s still really angry, still dissatisfied with the way the investigation went, how the case was solved. Hardly a cardboard cutout of the grieving mother character. So even the elements that I typically am less a fan of in crime writing are redeemed in Wells’s work, making his work that much more satisfying to read.

Anyhow, it was a great little talk, not only because he is an obviously skilled and experienced writer, but also because Wells is a really, really nice guy. I’m looking forward to reading a lot more of his work.

Books by Jon Wells: