The top 5 shops to buy local comics in Toronto
The top stores to buy local comics in Toronto recall a Yann Martel line I once read: "If we citizens do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams." While on the dramatic side, this sentiment should be taken seriously, as artists of all types influence our culture and make cities the interesting places they are. Comics in particular are a lucrative and popular art form, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that Toronto has its own thriving community for independent comics, and that many stores make it their mandate to endorse such works however they can.
Where to start, though? Well, here's a list of some spots I recommend!
The Comic Lounge and Gallery
Born from the ashes of Dragon Lady Comics, The Comic Lounge and Gallery has worked to promote local talents since its creation almost two years ago. Right beside the major releases is a special shelf for underground comics. This is unsurprising for many locations, but the Lounge and Gallery stands out in particular for sharing its space with Guerilla Printing, which provides the store with a good one third of its stock. Plus, thanks to the amount of space the Lounge and Gallery has to offer, the venue can hold launch parties on a regular basis for local books like Ninja Reform School and Low Society, and twelve-to-twenty-four hour comic challenges.
Since 1987, The Beguiling has been the go-to place for independent comics. Rows of shelves and forests of racks fill both floors of the old store. Here, one can find a menagerie of titles, whether professionally made or assembled in a basement using duct tape and a prayer. Comics of the latter can be found on a corner shelf by the steps, while the rest are distributed throughout the store. Probably The Beguiling's biggest contribution to Toronto's indie comics scene, however, is TCAF. Held annually at the Toronto Reference Library, the Toronto Comics Arts Festival is a massive weekend-long event were local and international talents get a chance to shine. This gives creators the opportunity to rub elbows with one another and be introduced to the public in a venue that is free to enter.
Originally known as Kensington Comics before undergoing a change in management, Dr. Comics remains a quaint but major staple in Kensington Market. Though the stock of local books is currently small, it is spread out among the rest. Some more family-friendly titles share the Children's Section of books located near the front, while others are located in rows normally occupied by Spider-Man and Rocketeer back-issues. Creators shouldn't go rushing to drop off stacks of books, though. Presently, local comics are being brought in at a slow but steady pace, with restocks only being requested for more popular titles. Still, shelves are constantly reorganized to accommodate new titles as the shop accepts walk-ins and occasionally seeks out talents to represent.
Paradise Comics stands out because of its effort to get up-close and personal with Toronto's talent. Originally involved with the Paradise Comic Convention, the shop currently focuses on attending smaller events with larger artist alleys, meeting and building a rapport with new artists in order to bring in fresh stock. Such opportunities allow for Paradise Comics to connect with a wide range of artists in both the mainstream and the underground. Paradise has recently hosted launch parties, signings, and meet-and-greets for big-name creators like Leonard Kirk, but also for the creators of True Patriot and the anthology Monstrosity.
The Silver Snail
The Silver Snail is a major landmark for Toronto's comic enthusiasts. Like Paradise and Dr. Comics, the Snail does not segregate its books. Rows are set aside for local titles, for certain, but they do share the same shelf space as Detective Comics single-issues and Rocketeer collections. Sadly, the massive section the Silver Snail had at its former location had to be pared down to a select few titles due to a lack of space. That said, one can still find works here like D.A. Bishop's Of Stone, though the space issues unfortunately mean that the Silver Snail will not be able to accommodate as many local titles as they would like. Plans to install a spinner-rack are in the works.
Photo from our review of the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery