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Five books (and five illustrators) not to be missed at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival


The ninth edition of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival takes over the Toronto Reference Library this weekend, along with several nearby venues. TCAF brings together artists, writers and fans for panels, workshops, book launches and mixers. The main attractions are the cartoonists and publishers who gather in Toronto to promote their latest work. Here are five new books not to be missed.

Fatale: The Deluxe Edition, Volume One

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Image. 288 pages

True Detective is hardly the first pulpy collision between crime fiction and Lovecraftian horror: The famed comics team of Brubaker and Phillips has been working this beat for years now. The Seattle writer and British artist make a rare appearance together in support of this volume of Fatale, their noir-infused series about a long line of hapless crumbs who cherchent the titular femme. This particular moll, however, is not only irresistible – she seems to be immortal as well. Brubaker’s story confidently spans the American 20th century, while Phillips uses his craggy, moody inks to conjure up period detail and self-destructive obsession. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips speak in a Spotlight panel on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Yorkville Marriott’s Forest Hill Ballroom.

Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013

By Trina Robbins, Fantagraphics, 180 pages

Trina Robbins appears at TCAF more as an historian than a cartoonist. This is not to say that her work creating comics is anything other than iconic – Robbins, after all, is the cartoonist behind 1970’s It Ain’t Me, Babe, the first comic book to feature all women contributors. But along with that feminist landmark, Robbins has also conducted foundational research into the history of women in comics. Pretty in Ink presents her latest version of that history, packed with little-seen art and photographs, and brought up to date with information on the past decade’s profusion of women cartoonists. Trina Robbins speaks in a Spotlight panel on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. in the Marriott’s High Park room.

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy

By Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain, Abrams/SelfMadeHero

This year, TCAF-goers will see esteemed guests from Japan, Germany and the U.K., but France’s Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac arrive wearing laurels. Their newly translated book – a memoir of Lanzac’s experiences in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs post-9/11 – won the Fauve d’or for “best album” at last year’s Angoulême festival, the comics equivalent of Cannes. This year, their script for Bertrand Tavernier’s film adaptation was nominated for a César. In the comic itself, Blain’s brushwork nicely animates the talky backroom politicking, but the gusto with which he captures the relentless, head-long pace of the diplomatic world merits even more plaudits. Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain speak in a Spotlight panel Weapons of Mass Diplomacy, on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Marriott’s High Park room.

Over Easy

By Mimi Pond, Drawn & Quarterly, 272 pages

Decades into a distinguished career as a humour writer and magazine cartoonist – you’ve likely got her episode of The Simpsons burned into your memory, or you grew up loving her strips in the back of Seventeen magazine – Mimi Pond now broadens her canvas with her first full-length graphic novel. Over Easy looks back on Pond’s time as a waitress at a bohemian Oakland diner in the druggy late-’70s, and it’s every bit as waggish and irrepressible as her shorter gags and anecdotes. Pond recalls her youthful grunt work and floundering love affairs with such wry, observant nuance that she imparts a poignant sense of glamour to that run-down world of dive bars, thrift shops and cherished greasy spoons. Mimi Pond speaks in a Spotlight panel on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. in the Marriott’s High Park room.

This One Summer

By Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Groundwood, 320 pages

In the much-anticipated follow-up to Skim – the first graphic novel to be nominated for a Governor-General’s Award, in 2008 – cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki deliver another lush and aching portrait of what it’s like to be young, precocious and a little bit confused. Over the course of a summer spent at a lakeside cottage north of Toronto, Rose swims, sneaks peeks at slasher flicks with best friend Windy, spies on the local population of troubled teens and watches as something slowly drives her parents apart. In Jillian’s tempestuous rendering and Mariko’s tellingly reticent writing, Rose’s voyage to maturity is fraught, but beautiful. Mariko and Jillian Tamaki speak in a Spotlight panel on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the Marriott’s Forest Hill Ballroom.

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