Writing this, mostly rested after an insane weekend at Montreal’s Comic Arts Festival (or more locally known as Festival BD de Montreal). And what a wild weekend it was.
First things first, the festival for the previous 10 editions (or … well the previous 8 before the pandemic) were held at Montreal’s big Parc La Fontaine which is quite a gorgeous location but… well… I had my own personal issues with the show being there: that weekend always has 1 day of rain which means the grass is muddy and sludgy and gross which means its not REALLY accessible for anyone who might have mobility issues, the two tents that comprise of that show are always… language-segregated with the french-language BD artists being in a … much more festive looking tent. Its a mess. I’m glad that the show was forced to change locations this year because of the construction in the park to …
SMACK in the MIDDLE of St. Denis street!! Right in the heart of MTL between our old and new stomping grounds (nearly) and boy did this make one hell of a difference.
The show is admittedly always a bit of a crapshoot, being outdoors the weather pretty much dictates how well you’re going to do that weekend. In my personal experience, it is always cold, miserable and rainy on the Friday and picks up by the Sunday. Its strange, it almost always works out that way. This year was no exception.
We woke up Friday morning to pouring rain, waiting for the bus as the water seeped into our luggage we hoped and prayed our books wouldn’t be damaged by it and remained a bit dismal about our luck for the coming weekend. We scrambled down several blocks arriving on the festival grounds to pick up our passes, met with some of the staff trying to keep their spirits light. I could feel a bit of everyone’s nerves but we’re all pretty used to this MCAF tradition. We quickly sprinted out to our tent three blocks down the festival grounds in the hopes that our books did not get too drenched in the absolute downpour.
And we were quickly greeted by our neighbours already in the process of setting up. This group was probably the best set of artists we’ve tabled with at this con. Everyone was excited and ready despite the dismal weather, we figured we would make the most of it and bond through our shared misery. Later Tas would notice that a lot of the other tents set up were mostly empty with several Friday no-shows. I can’t blame those people, honestly, we had contemplated the thought ourselves.
We opened up our luggage to find that, thank god for my absolute paranoia, that in wrapping all of our books in my handy collection of plastic bags I keep on hand for these occasions, we had saved our books from too much water damage. The only ones that took a real hit happened to be our display copies which worked out for us in the end… we learned the hard way that suitcases are not inherently waterproof.
Friday itself was slow-going, Fridays usually are, we were still quite surprised at how many people did make their way into our little tent despite the miserable conditions all day. We still made a bit of cash and for a small business like us every little bit counts! We also got to make fast friends with the folks tabling next to us, listened to some good music, have some great laughs. Tas scurried off to do a drawing activity with our tent-buddy at about 5 and we ended the day off feeling a little more optimistic about the rest of the weekend. If we had had such a good day in the pouring rain in this new location, one could ONLY imagine what it would be like with a little bit of sunshine!
We woke up Saturday morning with… humm… more rain. That made for a slightly less miserable time than Friday’s downpour, but we were certainly a little bit more nervous now for the day’s goings on. We set up alone on Saturday with our tent team pouring in not too long after us. We were cautiously optimistic until the sun came out. We celebrated with some music and Jade pulling out their roller skates, encouraging folks to come buy their comics (honestly that trick would have certainly worked for me!) As the sun came out, more people ventured out and the day rolled on smoothly. I met friends I hadn’t physically seen in YEARS and folks who asked us about tabling at Pride again which is really touching! Unfortunately too many things lined up for us this year so we had to let something go 🙁 We’re hoping to take to it next year!!
After a very successful Saturday wherein we sold out of most of our wares, we skeddaddled off with friends for a fun evening of chatting and sharing sweet treats! Honestly, even with my tired feet it was well worth it. I’ve been absolutely craving social hang-outs with friends, it was a REALLY lovely evening spent chatting and running about in search of a bathroom (the only true curse of spending time outside your home is the bathroom hunt, really)!
We went home Saturday night and packed ourselves two backpacks full of books and pins to pull us through Sunday proper. After talking to a few other artists who were anticipating big sales on a sunny Sunday we worried ourselves a little over our own numbers and tried to pull as much as we could carry.
Bright and sunny the next day… we quickly realised this wasn’t enough. But before getting into that debacle…
We made sure to sunscreen up that morning and took our little bus down to the festival and made our way to the tent where I fussed and nitpicked our setup until our buddy Gisele showed up to chit chat. Lucky they were there we talked enough to ease my nerves since I had a panel that morning at 11!! If you made it to Queer Comics, More than Just a Coming Out Story hello hi and thank you for coming! I was told Eloisa, Jade, Steven and I did a pretty good job talking queerness in comics. Honestly its such a big and vast topic I could go on and on about it all day long! I am absolutely flattered I was asked by MCAF to take part in it alongside these two amazing artists (definitely check out their work and support the two of them if you can)!!
With my panel out of the way I emerged from my nerves to notice that Tas had sold out a couple of the books we restocked THAT MORNING!! Absolutely bonkers! She took the initiative to run home and stock up one last time so that we could make it through the rest of the day without a sad empty table and good thing too! The sun brought out several lovely musicians to play to the growing crowd of passers by and keep the street as lively and boisterous as ever!
It was hot in that beaming sun though, we’re extremely glad we thought to bring sunscreen so that any chance we emerged from the tent we were protected (heyo tatts will definitely make you extremely aware of exactly how many times you apply sunscreen and When).
I only managed a single walk-through the festival that day. The way it was spread out, while excellent at keeping crowds from forming, meant that the walk from one end to the other was loooooong. I’m hoping that as Covid begins to loosen its stronghold on the public we get to see a few more tents on the opposite side of the street, fill things out just a little and give more artists a chance to diversify the show with their own inputs (I personally would love to see more queer and poc (and queer poc) representation at the show)….
With sore feet we carried home MUCH lighter suitcases and ended off our crazy weekend with an evening watching Everything Everywhere All At Once with our buddy~ (we hijacked their plans a little but were happy for it, the film was amazing and all the better getting to see it with a friend)!!
This show was a…. MUCH better experience than our April show, not going to lie, the only real cons (haha) I have other than our portapottie bathroom situation (shudders a bit) is the way the English/French comics scene is still pretty separated in this show. Its a difficult thing to express without seeming like a whine-ass but English comics (and the English language in general) get really shafted in a show that claims bilingualism. A lot of their promotionals are French vs both languages, English comic artists are rarely seen in the Heart of the festival and our panels are not as greatly advertised as our francophone counterparts. Its something that has been improved on a lot more this year and I really hope it continues to be improved upon in the coming years. (In contrast Expozine has a pretty healthy balance of both THOUGH I believe they do swing more English so it would be nice for MCAF to be that sweet balance between both sides. I REALLY dig a festival that can be a little bit of both to really celebrate Montreal’s comics culture which is not SOLELY French (OR English) anymore)!!
Though I know that might be a bit more difficult now considering the new bill 96 that was approved. I really hope it doesn’t hurt us quite so much as it seems like it might….
Otherwise, the pros? MANY. I mentioned a few before and after looking at some of the positive responses on their social media I think many agree that this festival is a lot more accessible for those with mobility issues, those who use the STM and those who like to bike. It feels like a proper kick-off to a vivid festival oriented year in the city and I really really hope that they consider keeping the location here permanently if they aren’t going to grab something indoors. On this street we continue to get foot traffic from those who might even be introduced to comics for the very first time which I think is really special honestly!
I’m in an extremely good mood writing this. Admittedly, I feel like my social bar has been in dire need of a refill and this whole weekend really grounded me away from a lot of bad mental baggage weighing me down. There’s a lot of solitude in making comics, and most especially making queer English comics that keeps you separate from the rest of the comics community here. We’re hoping to bridge that gap in the coming years as much as we possibly can. Tas and I lost a lot of close friends throughout the pandemic through a lot of friend drama, it would be nice to create a few more connections in the city, now that a lot of the pandemic stress is lifting. We’re still very careful but I’m feeling an optimism now that mirrors my excitement for comics and storytelling as much as I was feeling it back in 2019.
Spending too much time on the internet, twitter, social media will really rot your soul a little and suck the life out of your work. I’m re-learning to take risks and make mistakes. We’re human. There will never be perfection from any of us. I prefer to make work that grips the hearts of my readers than placates them to avoid stepping on people’s toes.
Essentially, find local conventions, celebrate your local community if you can, it’s definitely well worth it when working on projects year-long <3