The Toronto Comicon: Day Two
by Koom Kankesan
Saturday, March 19th, 2022, at the Toronto Comicon felt like a full event. The weather was damp and drizzly and the CN tower and surrounding buildings were fog shrouded but that didn’t keep people from coming out. Interestingly, there was an outdoors Craft Beer Festival across the street which was sold out and featured a long lineup of very different clientele so there is obviously an appetite across all sectors to get back to pre-pandemic style events.
A vendor told me that he thought yesterday at the Comicon was very hectic so I’m guessing that it got busier after I had left. Today, I attended two panels, Larry Hancock‘s talk on When You Should Let Go of Your Collectibles and an interview with Marvel writer Jed MacKay. After those two panels, it was 1:00 p.m. and as I wandered around the convention floor, I could definitely feel the crowds starting to swell and it was very congested at times in the passageways between tables and booths so this felt like a return toward pre-Covid times after all. I saw more cosplayers than yesterday although I felt that it wasn’t as many as I’d seen in a given show before the pandemic. I left an hour or more later and it felt like the numbers were still continuing to grow.
Larry Hancock is the writer (along with artist Michael Cherkas) on The Silent Invasion. However, Hancock spoke during his panel not from the viewpoint of a writer but from that of a collector. An accountant by trade, he gave very rational considerations for thinking about reasons to keep collectibles versus selling them. Some of these include: not being able to enjoy them much of the time if they are hidden away, space, downsizing so you can use the funds for other things like travel, and not leaving your collection as a burden to your inheritors. He talked about the reasons why people collect things including a sense of ‘wanting’ as opposed to enjoying and it felt like a very important discussion that more of us should have more often. So much activity at cons is driven by people collecting or hunting or consuming things in one way or another and it’s wise to think about the psychological as well as rational factors that drive this behaviour. Hancock has been doing this talk for a few years now (since he and Cherkas live in Toronto) and he supplemented his talk with photos of his own collections which dominate his two bedroom apartment, and the fact that he’s been downsizing for a while now.
Jed MacKay is also Canadian, from Halifax, and he gave a very intelligent and honest talk about his unusual path to being a successful Marvel author. MacKay has an exclusive contract with Marvel now and is having to turn down work for the first time in his life due to full commitments, but he started off as a middle school teacher. An old collaborator, an artist, had gotten a gig at Marvel and brought him on board. It would be four years before he got another gig there and then another four years before his third gig but now he seems to have hit a running streak. He talked candidly about pitching ideas, being rejected, being edited, working with artists so that he doesn’t overburden their workloads, and how he’s handling Moon Knight. He talked about working with Muslim colleagues and students in his teaching job and the fact that it has made him more sensitive to handling the Egyptian aspects of the title, and the need to be more aware of dissociative identity disorder which has a long history of being stigmatized in comics and entertainment. Perhaps the thing I found most revelatory was when he said that a lot of titles don’t survive the six month mark at Marvel so it is difficult to write in things that you’re setting up and building towards if there is no guarantee you’ll get to deliver on that material after six issues.
All in all, it was enjoyable to step into this space again. Obviously, conventions fill a strong need for fans of all types. For me, it’s largely a function of nostalgia and comics craft but I realize that for many this is a space where they can escape the pressures of daily life and be with like minded people and let loose in a very endearing, respectful manner that caters to their geeky obsessions. I’m looking forward to TCAF’s return in June as that’s a different kind of comics festival that pulled in people from all over the world before the pandemic – I’m curious where we’ll be by then – and hopefully if things continue to get better, another big con in the summer in a country outside my own.