If Easter weekend’s Fan Expo wasn’t really your speed, with its abundance of T-shirt merchants and $100 celebrity autographs, then you are in luck, my friend. There is another show in town: relative newcomer to the comic convention scene, the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival (VanCAF for short), aims to cut the chaff and turn Artist’s Alley into the main attraction.
Started in 2012 by the Vancouver Comic Arts Association, VanCAF is a festival designed to bring together comic fans with the creators of the comics they love. VanCAF aims to be as inclusive as possible: die-hard fans and those just discovering the medium are equally welcome. The festival’s price tag – 100 per cent free – means there is nothing more than the price of a Skytrain ticket between you and your favorite artist.
A focus on creators makes VanCAF unique among other, larger conventions. This distinction is not lost on Sam Logan, creator of the popular webcomic Sam and Fuzzy and Vancouver local.
“There have been (and continue to be) a number of cool comics events and conventions in Vancouver,” Logan notes, “but VanCAF is something really distinct – a creator-focused event that’s free to attend. It puts the spotlight entirely on people who make comics, and makes them accessible not just to hardcore fans but also to curious newbies who might not normally shell out for a comic convention pass. I think that’s why VanCAF has grown so quickly!”
Comic artists and writers from across North America will be filling the booths at VanCAF this year, along with a great cast of amazing local creators like Logan. It’s a long list of talented people that includes Queen and Country illustrator Steve Rolston, Battle Kittens creator Rebecca Dart, webcomic giants Aaron Diaz and Jeph Jacques, Wasted Talent’s Angela Melick, and many others. Ralston, who also teaches comic book storytelling at the VanArts school, is excited to see some of his former students with their own booths this year.
VanCAF also offers the chance to attend talks and panels by a number of talented speakers on topics ranging from “The Business of Comics” to “How to be Hilarious.” Diaz, Jacques, and Logan will be discussing the art of world-building that has Logan excited: “Our approaches as far as planning and crafting our universes are totally different from one another. I think it’s going to be pretty interesting… especially for me!”
In only two years, VanCAF has had a positive effect on the local comics community. Both Logan and Rolston are extremely positive about the event and the alternative it offers to the bigger, broader, pop-culture conventions already in existence. Both creators single out the fact that the festival is free to attend as a major positive, making VanCAF more accessible to fans that might shy away from the price tag of larger con and encouraging more people to get interested in reading comics. Encouraging new readers is a goal that Rolston views as especially important.
Whether you are a die-hard comics fan, an aspiring artist, or just generally interested in comics, there is no reason not to check out VanCAF and meet artists like Sam Logan and Steve Rolston. Both are very excited to share their latest books: a massive, crowd-funded Sam and Fuzzy collection and the Raccoons & Humans & Bears, Oh My! art collection, respectively.
VanCAF is held at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in the heart of Yaletown and will run from Saturday May 24 to Sunday May 25. Check out the festival’s website at www.vancaf.com for more details about guests and panels.
By Stu Popp