If the name Tak Toyoshima sounds familiar, it’s because you are a reader of DigBoston, and he’s a major factor in the history of this newspaper. As the longtime creative director of the Dig, from its earliest incarnation under the name Shovel up through last year, Tak helped shape our look and feel in ways that still show in each issue. We dearly miss him and his Secret Asian Man comics, and naturally enthusiastically reached out to our old friend upon learning that he is among the organizers behind this year’s South Shore Comic Con in Cohasset.
First of all, for our readers who came of age loving your work, comics, and art direction at the Dig, what have you been up to since moving on to a new gig?
I’m currently the creative director at Rustic Marlin, which is a custom home decor manufacturer in Hanover. It really combines two things that I love: design and manufacturing. I’m a maker at heart and now I get to make things in large scale and on equipment I never would have dreamed I would be running.
But I’m also a comic nerd at heart, so I’ve also been teaching comic book classes at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset on Saturdays to middle school and high school aged kids.
It seems like there’s a comic convention or comparable summit every other week in Greater Boston. Is that how it’s seen from a consummate insider’s view like yours as well? Or are they all really filling different niches?
Boston has definitely exploded as far as being a comic book friendly town in the past decade or so, which has been amazing to see. To me there can never be enough comic book shows, just like there can’t ever be too many art shows, music shows, book readings, or theater performances. And like all those other shows, the variety of comic book shows really shines a light on the diversity of comics and their fans.
What are you aiming for with the South Shore Comic Con this year as far as themes and trends? What has the event’s signature and reputation been up until now?
This is only our second year so we’re still new to the game. I try to model the show after MICE, which is hands down my favorite show in the area. The focus is on local, independent artists who still have a very hands-on approach to their comics, often times producing a lot more than just comics. Stickers, buttons, bags, toys, sculptures, you name it. Not sure what our reputation is, but I’d like to think it’s that we’re a fun, intimate show in a gallery setting that offers a lot of folks in the South Shore what could very well be their first experience meeting and interacting with a comic book artist. And hopefully they come away with either a newfound respect for the medium or a validation for their love of comics.
What’s the key to any great comic book convention?
People (artists and attendees) need to feel comfortable and energetic at the same time. We’re all ages friendly and offer workshops throughout the day run by the artists in order to engage the attendees. Cosplay is also an undeniably fun part of any great con so I’m happy to say this year we have a workshop dedicated to cosplay as well as a cosplay photo set up for people to show off their costume-making skills.
How have regional comic conventions like this changed or evolved through the years? Was there anything like it when you were a kid? Other than a smoky VFW hall with a bunch of old dirtbags gathered around cheap dented folding tables ripping kids off…
When I was a kid, comic shows were basically flea markets. Smelly, damp flea markets. But I loved them. Flipping through boxes and boxes of comics, looking to complete a run of a title. It was like a hunt. Slowly artists started to make appearances and that was great because I got to meet my comic artist heroes. Then bootleg movie vendors introduced a sci-fi, horror, and kung fu vibe and they started to become more pop culture shows.
Now the biggest shows are full-blown media star meet and greets and there are hardly any comic book and comic art vendors at all. Even comic artists are getting priced out of tables, and “Artists Alley” is shrinking, which I believe created an opportunity for smaller, independent shows to flourish.
As an artist yourself, do you still wait in line to get your books and stuff signed when there is someone who you admire at a show?
Having tabled at shows for years at some of the biggest shows I got to meet a lot of my heroes as a peer. But the fanboy feelings never go away. I admire any artist who always pushes the medium and deeply respect the professionals who are talented enough to make a living doing what they love. But in some ways, I respect more those who do it not because it pays the bills, but because they simply love comics and can’t imagine not creating them.
SOUTH SHORE COMIC CON. SOUTH SHORE ART CENTER, 119 RIPLEY ROAD, COHASSET. SAT 12.2, 10AM-3PM. FREE. MORE INFO ON FACEBOOK.
Artists include: E. J. Barnes, Beth Barnett, Dennis Burke, LB Cassell, Jimmy Curtis, Griffin Ess, Mike Doherty, Krystal Dube, Jerel Dye, Barrington Edwards/Studio Vexer, Raul Gonzalez, Brian Hall, Ludgy Jean-Baptiste, Richard Keenan, Daniel Kern, Cathy Leamy, Jesse Lonergan, Kyri Lorenz, Cagen Luse, Donna Martinez, Tony McMillen, James Mobius, Dave Ortega, Joey Peters, Ryan Sullivan, Crispin Wood