Blast Radius

Is comic book phobia a midtown affliction?

Town Crier Arts and Life Editor, Brian Baker
Town Crier Arts and Life Editor, Brian Baker

I never pass up an opportunity to visit comic book conventions in this city.

The smaller of the two, Comicon, ran March 7–9, and like a good pop culture nerd who calls midtown home, I ventured down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on the steel beast known as the TTC.

I’m always on the hunt for a good arts story with a local angle, but much to my chagrin I could find nary a midtowner from Town Crier territory either in costume or at the booths.

I chatted up the X-Men of Toronto, Mat Russell and Jason Loo, but they call Ajax and High Park home, respectively.

Then onto voice actor Christian Potenza, otherwise known as the yellow toothbrush in the Listerine commercials and the “Let’s get naked” daydreamer in the Doritos ad some years back.

He is from Oakville.

Finally, I met up with a family of Middle Earth dwellers. The Donnellys, who I ran into during FanExpo last August, are from Scarborough. But mom Michelle, dressed as Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings, took the time to write down her kin’s names, and their characters: husband Luke was Thorin, sons Ronan and Gamon were Frodo and Samwise, respectively, and daughter Oona was Arwen.

Still, no midtowners. So where in the Shire were they?

I went to Paradise Comics manager Doug Simpson to ask this question. Though he did not attend this year’s event, he offered me a straight-up answer: No.

“There isn’t a prevailing culture in midtown,” he told me. “The heavy, heavy zones where people tend to be are south
of Bloor Street, from Sherbourne to Dufferin.

“They tend to be downtown. Uptown tends to be more science fiction-based, and a lot of sports.”

Twenty-two years ago, Paradise Comics set up shop, thanks to its owner Peter Dixon. Simpson shares with me that Crescent School does come in when it’s in book report mode, and Northmount School, an independent Catholic institution at York Mills and Don Mills, has a comic book club that pays the store regular visits.

“There is no other alternative here [in midtown]. Once you hit north of Bloor Street all the comic book stores disappear,” Simpson said, of Paradise’s role in the community, adding the medium is gaining momentum in terms of literary criticism.

“I think what’s really happening is they’re realizing a graphic novel is a true art form itself and does have something to say. Just because it has a picture in it, doesn’t make it a picture book.”

Cosplayer and comic book collector Mike Joe doesn’t see the lack of comic culture in midtown as a problem.

Joe attended Comicon, sans cosplay attire, and did a “walkabout” through Artists’ Alley. When he’s not attending the city’s many events geared to fandemonium, he’s hitting his local comic shop.

“I usually head up to Yonge and Lawrence to my shop — uh, not ‘my’ shop — but Paradise Comics,” he said. “And there’s BMV at Yonge and Eglinton that has a decent selection of comics.”

He doesn’t see midtown as a wasteland where comic book fans go to expire. The contrary, actually.

“I think it’s okay,” Joe said. “Although with Toronto, having easy access to the subway system, you can go down to the Silver Snail or up to Paradise.”

Still, Simpson would like the comic culture’s backbone to slide further into uptown.

“I’d like to see it expand northward a bit,” Simpson said.

Believe me, I’d love to see more colour of the comic book swatch variety too. Sometimes midtown just seems to lack it.

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