Canzine Toronto came and went this past Saturday, September 14th, at the Art Gallery of Ontario. A long running event in Toronto, Canzine is probably Canada’s biggest zine event. It’s hosted by Broken Pencil magazine and holding the show at the AGO now gives it a sort of artistic cred that its grass-roots, underground nature might be at odds with. Or perhaps not? Zines have always been a staple (no pun intended) of the D.I.Y./pen and paper and photocopier ethic of artistic experimentation and disruption. Those at odds with the status quo and the mainstream, the hippies, the down at heel, the avant garde have embraced its low-tech, low-cost nature.
In the past, a zine has been the most viable way for people to publish something at a basic level, whether that be art, poetry, literature, political commentary, or comics. The mini-comic and the zine are closely related. Therefore, comics, as a bastard medium, has always been a part of zine culture and the modern art/graffiti aesthetic of zines dovetails well with that of indie comics.
I decided to apply for a table at this year’s event with my frenemy from the Comic Jam, Dalton Sharp. I took my books and Dalton took his comics. I’d been aware of the mini-comics that Dalton had been putting together over the past few years, especially the jams with Chester Brown and Jordan Bursach that he assembles, but I actually learned more about him tabling for the day than all the times I’ve had a drink with him at the jam put together. Dalton was active in the indie comics scene back in the nineties, putting out his own independent black and white comic (The Remnants) which was distributed by a major distributor to retailers. He had some copies of these which he pulled out of his backpack and slapped down on the table at Canzine – people were curious and bought them.
There were two main rooms where those tabling at Canzine could exhibit. They were the spaces with tables designed for school classes that visit the gallery. There were also some smaller rooms. It was a little strange to be adjacent to these celebrated Canadian works of art (which you can see in a couple of the photos below) which belong to the gallery’s permanent collection but the mood was festive. Once you’d been approved to table at the event, you had to plan to get there really early to line up. Canzine doesn’t assign tables so lining up early allowed people to enter earlier and get a table they preferred (thanks to Dave Craig of Read More Comix – and Robb Mirsky – for letting us join them in line). There were comics at the event but I’d say that there is more of an emphasis on art prints and abstract design. Books (as in the written kind as opposed to the graphic kind) seemed to fall low on the totem pole. In a way, the event is sort of like an anti-comic-convention (it was interesting for me to participate in this after having helped a friend sell his wares at the big Fan Expo that happened recently in Toronto) and they had some talks and events as well – you can read more about them here – photos from the event follow below: