Interview with Johanne Desrochers on the Montreal Comic Arts Festival

MCAF seeks to expand the role of the comic arts in the cultural sphere and to improve the dynamism of Quebec’s comic arts industry.

Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios
https://www.fbdm-montreal.ca/

Interview & Photos by Esteban Rios

Esteban Rios (ER): Montreal Comic Arts Festival was founded in 2011. How do you see the evolution of the festival over these eight years?

Johanne Desrochers (JD): Over the past eight years, the festival has grown considerably. It became bilingual in 2015 and is now featuring an extensive program with more than 64 different activities over the week-end,79 exhibitors, and no less than 170 comic artists. MCAF is taking it’s place in the fast universe of festival in Montreal. We are the first organization to maintained for more than 4 years a Comic arts festival in Montreal.

ER: What space do you think the comic occupies in the life of Montrealers today?  Do you think it was always like this, or is it a rising phenomenon?

JD: Comics have always been present in the life of Montrealers. We can go back as far as 1904 and find comics in the major newspaper. That being said, we have to acknowledge the facts that it is taking place more and more. We have seen the creation of new publishing houses specialized in comics, the web comic community is very active in Montreal and many comic artists have decided to come to Montreal to create. Just by going through the yearly calendar of activities on our web site you will realize that there is always something going on in the Montreal comic world.

Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios
Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios

ER: You have said that  you are not surprised to see that most of the books that kids read are comics. And for adults, they are 25 per cent of library loans. Do you feel that there is a big increase in the consumption of comics due to, among other things, the explosion of superhero movies in recent years, as has been the case of Marvel films?

JD: To be able to answer this question properly I would need to know what are the titles loaned in the library. Without denying the influence of Marvel Films, they have their increasing fans base, no doubt, but we are experiencing the rise of new readers of comic books in the form of what some call graphic novels. There is a vast range of topics beside the superheroes that are now presented by the sequential art of comics.

ER: Throughout the years numerous people have collaborated in the realization of the Montreal Comic Arts Festival. It is remarkable the great effort and dedication that this team has put in over these eight years.

JD: We do ask our self every year if we should stay in the park . And until now the answer remained yes. The MCAF team is small and based on the work of a huge number of volunteers. We are lucky enough to be able to count on the same team since the beginning. I guess we like challenges and are enthusiastic about the increase of participation each year.

Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios
Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios

ER: For the 2015 edition the BD Montréal Festival became officially bilingual and unveiled its anglophone name: The Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Do you think that this change opened the game to the Canadian Anglophone part, as well as the USA and the rest of the world?

JD: That was the objective and it is working better every year. For this edition we will have more than 25 anglophone artists hosting a table and we will feature Charles Forsman the American author of The end of the F***cking World that became a Netflix series. We also make sure to program activities in both language.

Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios
Montreal Comic Arts Festival. Festival BD de Montreal. Photo Esteban Rios

ER: It is no coincidence then that in the next edition and for the first time, cartoonists from the USA were included in the program.

JD: Exactly and we hope to welcome more in the future years. 

ER: What can we expect to find in future editions of the MCAF?

Expect activities all year around. We would also like to offer more possibilities for artists to work in Montreal by creating artist residences and offer work experience  in other countries by developing relationships with Comic Arts Festival in Canada and throughout the World.

The Montreal Comic Arts festival takes place annually in May. For details for next year’s festival, keep an eye out HERE.

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