One Million Comix

Sorry for the late post. We’re both settling into our fall school schedules.

One Million Comix
531 Yonge St. Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 1Y5
416-934-1615
http://onemillioncomix.net

This browser-friendly Yonge Street shop impressed us with its collection of superhero and sci-fi themed t-shirts, available in both men’s and women’s sizes. Although more spacious than many comics stores, One Million Comix has one step up from the sidewalk, so it is not wheelchair accessible. Windows at the front and back of the store mean that it’s got a generous helping of natural light–unusual in a comics shop and frankly, incredibly pleasant.

They make good use of floorspace to stock merchandise, monthlies, trades and manga, but don’t crowd the shelves with everything under the sun. One Million’s layout has more in common with a traditional bookstore, rather than some of the cramped LCSs to which you may be accustomed. For this reason, it’s ideal for new readers, and those who might be intimidated by more fanboy-friendly shops.

The store shows signs of aiming for a kid-friendly atmosphere, but falls a little short in execution. For instance a half-naked female figurine whose nipples were covered up by price tags, as well as those weird body pillows featuring pictures of anime girls on a high shelf. A sign behind the counter also indicates the availability of adult and hentai titles. However, they do have an area dedicated to kids comics and books.

Impulse buys and browsable merchandise are up front, to capitalize on the store’s proximity to Wellesley Station. Comics are in the back, but with a separate service desk where customers can set up pull lists and special orders, they don’t feel like an afterthought.. There are rows of back-issue bins, some featuring older comics (one of us picked up an old issue of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane). Monthly issues span one wall, with trades on bookshelves opposite. One Million has a little bit of everything: superhero, romance, indie, manga, and more.

We were pleased to see several copies of Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, which a friend of ours had long been searching for. Another thing which raised our opinion of the store was overhearing a couple of girls digging through back-issue bins for issues of Booster Gold. On a subsequent visit to the store, we walked out into the middle of a pro-marijuana parade. This has in no way influenced our review.

They have regular trade, back issue and US cover price promotions, and when we shopped there the first time, they gave us free buttons! The combination of a wide variety of monthly comics and trades make One Million ideal for both new and old fans.

The store has a very useful website, with detailed information on membership, events, new releases, and even online shopping. New releases are broken down by category, with separate posts for merchandise and comics, making it easy for loyal patrons to figure out when to drop by the shop. There’s a fall sale on back issues, merchandise and DVDs going on right now, so this would be an ideal time to check out One Million. The sale runs from September 9th to… whenever (we called to double check–they weren’t sure).

One Million Comix impressed us with their professionalism, and interest in growing and developing their business. Its relaxed atmosphere and location make it an ideal entry point for new and casual fans. We haven’t spent enough time there to assess the culture of the store overall, but the general absence of nerd elitism is nice. We like it.

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Comics & More

Comics & More
http://www.comicsnmore.ca
1325 Danforth Ave
416-778-8314

Awesomely kid-friendly and well-lit, we walked away from this store feeling great about the future of comics.

Wider aisles, clear floors and nicely organized merchandise make this store pleasant and more accessible than most others. However, a small step up to the shop may be an issue for customers in wheelchairs, or those using other mobility devices.

Comics & More wowed us with its strong emphasis on young readers. Not only do they carry a wide variety of kid-oriented titles, they merchandise smartly, stocking them on lower shelves, and on tables at kid’s eye level. But they also go the extra mile by venturing out to local elementary schools to actually host book fairs and presentations about comics, making the transition from picture books to comics, natural and easy.

Another bright spot was the variety of price points represented. They have something for everyone, with cheaper digests, trades, variant covers, premier editions and hardcovers. And while the shelving was a little messy, the rate at which we stumbled upon books we were interested in made up for it. Some signed Jeff Lemire comics were a nice addition. Comics & More is primarily a Western comics store, with a limited selection of manga and anime. Toys and merchandise take up only a tiny part of the store, with the focus being overwhelmingly on monthly comics, superhero trades, graphic novels and indie comics.

This is an ideal store for readers just getting into comics, or just getting serious about comics – the shift from casual reader, to working for Wednesdays, is made easy here, with a list of the current week’s new titles posted on the wall, as well as those from the previous and coming week. The counter is stocked with business cards and flyers for local events, and a big “thank you” poster from local students who’d been treated to a Comics & More presentation. This store, and the staff, really showcases the community side of comics fandom.

The man behind the counter–the owner–was friendly, well-informed, and genuinely interested and engaged in growing his business and customer-base. We had a good conversation with him about the state of the industry, and how he met the challenge of getting kids (and teens) reading comics, and getting them into the store. It was nice to get a retailer’s perspective on issues like comics going digital, and Marvel’s push into the bookstore market, with manga-style digests.

Comics & More is a forward-thinking, professional operation, that’s also welcoming, relaxing and decently stocked.

It’s hard to explain but we just came out of this store feeling good.

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Atomic Age

Atomic Age
497 Pape Ave
(416) 778-5131
http://atomicagecomics.com/welcome.html

Located a short walk from Pape Station, Atomic Age is a small store. We initially thought it shared space with a pet groomer–the signage is confusing. There is a single small step, up into the building, and the aisles are painfully narrow. But the store’s natural light, excellent organization and merchandising somewhat make up for this awkwardness.

Atomic Age is focused on comics and manga. Their selection of toys and merchandise is extremely limited, though they do have some anime titles on hand. They are primarily a superhero, Vertigo (and similar), and webcomics store, with a much smaller selection of indie and literary comics. A sign on the manga shelf invites customers to ask the staff if they can’t find what they’re looking for. A bright spot is that they have plenty of titles aimed at kids, teen girls and women. Almost complete runs of Wonder Woman, Buffy, Ms. Marvel, Supergirl, and trades featuring a variety of Batgirls made us smile (in triumph, mua ha ha… ha… yeah).

Most impressive–compared to a lot of comics stores–is the organization of their trades: they are neatly ordered, both alphabetically and chronologically. An exception being the possibly misfiled Cartoon Guide to Sex which we spotted on the kids shelf. Back issues, and sometimes long or complete runs, are bagged and collected in order, with elastics keeping them together.

Atomic Age has a loyalty program offering a discounted or free trade, after nine purchases. The program is entirely computerized, meaning that customers don’t have to carry store cards. Check out their website for more details.

Atomic Age seems to be fully integrated into the neighborhood, with a corner store kind of feel. That said, it’s also a modern store, with up to date stock and (miracle of miracles) they actually use their computer. Staff was friendly and helpful, and the store was evidently baby and dog-friendly, as one of each were chilling in the store when we visited.

We recommend Atomic Age for Greek Town locals, (and Magic the Gathering players–they host tournaments), with the caveat that if you’re delving into literary comics, or rare stuff, you’ll need supplement its wares with a backup store, or online shopping.

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Things to do in Toronto when you’re a geek

Actually, there’s a whole hell of a lot to do and see this fall. You’ll need your calender. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

bright lights, flashing auras

SEPTEMBER

TIFF: Midnight Madness
September 8 – 18, Midnight
Ryerson Theatre, 43 Gerard St. East

Website: http://tiff.net/thefestival/filmprogramming/programmes/midnightmadness
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mmadnesstiff

Part of the Toronto International Film Festival, Midnight Madness is a week and a half of genre movie, well, madness. At midnight. There’s sure to be something for every kind of geek–the programming includes horror, sci fi, fantasy, horror and action movies from all over the world. Single tickets and passes are available, but go go go to their website, or the Bell Lightbox box office, because they go quickly.

Nerd Nite Toronto
September 8, 8 PM
TRANZAC, 292 Brunswick Avenue

Website: http://toronto.nerdnite.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/nerdnitetoronto

Nerd Nite is kind of a big deal, world wide. It’s a night of nerdy presentations in a local pub, held not just in Toronto, but many other cool cities. This time out, the nerds will be presenting on Heritage Minutes, fuel hacking, and drug side effects.

Geek Love: The Fillionaires Club
September 12, 7:30 PM
The Ossington, 61 Ossington Ave

Website: http://geekloveto.com/about/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/geekloveTO

Geek Love is a kind of rep cinema for deeply nerdy people. Their about page says, “It started with one girl’s dream to watch Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog and Buffy’s Once More With Feeling on a big screen, surrounded by friends and alcohol.” As so many things do, amirite? On September 12th, Geek Love will be presenting a bit of Nathan Fillion’s filmography and basking in geekiness.

Queen West Art Crawl
September 16 – 18
Queen West, from Bathurst to Roncesvalles

Website
: http://queenwestartcrawl.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/QWAC2011
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QueenWestArtCrawl

This all ages art festival spotlights local artists, and the Queen West community. “Purchase a great work of art from one of our 250 jury-selected artists at Outdoor Art Show and Sale in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Take part in a walking tour, or attend a talk by one of our featured guest speakers. There are plenty of art events for crawlers of all ages, from the family-friendly Second City KidsZone to the edgy and innovative Parkdale Nightcrawl.”

Word On The Street
September 25
Queen’s Park, 11 AM – 6 PM

Website
: http://www.thewordonthestreet.ca/wots/toronto
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/torontowots
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/The-Word-On-The-Street-Toronto-Festival/

This literacy/literary festival has readings, presentations, contests, a marketplace, independent spotlight, and kids activities. The Word On The Street is a non profit, “that celebrates Canadian reading and writing, and champions literacy, primarily through a free, annual outdoor festival.”

OCTOBER

Star Trek Day
October 2
Toronto Underground Cinema, 186 Spadina Ave

Website: http://www.startrekdayto.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/StarTrekDayTO
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StarTrekDayTO

Star Trek Day TO is a fan run event that aims to “cater [to]both to the casual fan and the hardcore Trekker with trivia, a costume contest, musical performances, comedy, the screening of to-be-announced Star Trek feature films and a 19+ after party for mature Star Trek fans.” It seems to be on a smaller scale than big conventions, so it might be good fit for folks just exploring the magnitude of their geekiness. And it’s kid friendly! Tickets (http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/185549) are on sale now.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival
October 20 – 27
Toronto Underground Cinema, 186 Spadina Ave

Website: http://torontoafterdark.com/2011/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TADFilmFest
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/torontoafterdark

After Dark is what it says on the label: “8 days of horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies!” One of the best parts of After Dark is that it, like Midnight Madness, premiers new genre features and shorts. And like Midnight Madness, screenings are attended by a great and geeky crowd, and often by the writers, stars, and directors of the films. But take note, screenings and after parties are all 19+.

Toronto Zombie Walk

October 22
Route to be announced

Website: http://torontozombiewalk.ca/
Facebook
: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Toronto-Zombie-Walk/

Why dress up like a zombie and shamble through the streets of Toronto? Why not? Register now.

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Hairy Tarantula

Hairy Tarantula
354 Yonge St., 2nd Floor
(416) 596-8002
http://www.hairyt.com/

Blink and you’ll miss it. The entrance to this shop is almost as hard to find as that of the Leaky Cauldron (though we don’t think a spell protects it). A door on the ground level of this Yonge Street shop leads you up a narrow creaky staircase, the walls covered in posters and artwork decaying with age. There are two doors at the top, though only one opens–arrows point you to the right one (on the left), but it’s easy to get confused. The store seems to have been converted from an old, and complicated apartment. One room, dedicated to D&D, Warmachine (and similar) toys is basically a closet, accessible only by edging around a counter, and climbing through a portal that would be at home on a submarine.

So yeah, it’s kind of weird. But don’t let that keep you from coming in.

Hairy T specializes in trades and good customer service. Every time we’ve gone there, we’ve been immediately greeted by one of their friendly staff members and/or cats. (We met two, one named Squeak, the other named Juggernaut. Cats, that is). The staff, both young and old, seem comfortable with a diverse clientele, and catering to different customer needs. They’re ready with recommendations and more than willing to help you find what you’re looking for. If you’re left wanting, Hairy T staff will take down your contact info, and get in touch when they’ve got your heart’s desire in stock.

Hairy T is not necessarily a monthly comics shop. Their selection of big two and indie monthlies is limited. Their selection of trades and manga, however, is much better. We both found trades at the Hairy T that had escaped us in other shops. In addition to mainstream books, they also offer local comics, indie and literary graphic novels, and erotica (Yaoi and Yuri doujinshi, and Western comics). We suspect someone at the store is a regular con attendant, because some books, particularly local stuff, is signed by the creators.

Regular customers can purchase a membership, which affords discounts on everything from comics to apparel, to board games, valid at all three locations* (details on their website). Their regular sales are advertised online, and well in advance.

That’s the upside of the store. The downside is that it’s not at all accessible. In addition to it being located in an upstairs unit, the store’s awkward, crowded layout may make it intimidating and confusing for new comics readers, and casual shoppers. Shoppers with mobility aids such as canes or crutches, may have trouble with both the steep stairs and the narrow aisles. Low lighting, stuffed shelves and an unintuitive layout may make Hairy T a visually frustrating experience.

The diversity of its staff and clientele (it’s no dudebro oasis), and its connections to the community, make Hairy T feel like a real part of downtown Toronto. We recommend Hairy T to downtown trade waiters and manga readers, and to folks doing the Yonge St. retail crawl.

* Reviews of Hairy T North, and Hairy T West are on the way!

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Cyber City Comix

Cyber City Comix
1025 Steeles Avenue West
(416) 667-7592

Cyber City Comix is located above a bagel shop. We’ve never gone in for bagels, but it seems nice. Two things upfront, the first is a confession. Cyber City is our LCS*, but we will attempt to keep that from making us too biased. Secondly, being an upstairs unit accessible only by two flights of stairs, it is not an accessible shop. That is, it’s not an option for persons with mobility restrictions.

It is however, a friendly, well-run store. Owner Daryl is often found behind the counter chatting with friends and customers, or outside sharing a cigarette and conversation on the store’s balcony. The staff is generally quiet, knowledgeable, and customer service oriented. They don’t balk at requests for help, and remember the names, preferences (and possibly blood types) of their regular customers.

Cyber City is a monthlies shop with some selection of back issues, trades, manga, and lots of toys and other collectibles. Their monthly comics shelves contain everything from big two books**, to horror, fantasy and small press comics. They don’t, however, carry the truly obscure stuff, and are limited to English language comics and manga. Cyber City has a decent selection of recent trades, and highlight their favourites with staff picks, but don’t have much in the way of ‘literary’ comics. With off-site storage, they have a more than generous selection of toys, as evidenced by their huge booth at local conventions.

Walking into the store for the first time you may not know where to start. The shelves are divided into this week’s latest comics, monthly comics from the past few weeks, and then trades, manga and back issue bins. Casual browsing is made difficult by narrow aisles, and is backpack unfriendly on busy days. The lack of natural light is a downer, but we love the constant background music; usually hip hop, rock and jazz, and always quiet enough to make conversation easy. The decor is fairly typical of comic book shops, cluttered with products and posters, but it’s made up for by a positive atmosphere. Babies, dogs, and moms are all welcome.

Regular customers will benefit from a paid membership that gives you a discount on floppies and trades. In striving to give customers a fair deal, monthly comics and trades are usually sold at US cover price or at the actual exchange rate. The store allows customers to set up a pull box, and have their chosen comics set aside. Trade and back issue sales are held throughout the year, and are promoted ahead of time. Once a year in the fall, customers can enjoy a Wine & Cheese Night. Daryl wears a suit.

They don’t have much of an online presence yet (a website is in the works), but can be contacted via e-mail, and have a Facebook page.

We recommend this store to North York, Vaughn/Richmond Hill locals who are looking to get their mainstream fix. It’s not ideal for shoppers seeking out indie or obscure titles, but it’s a good LCS and we keep going back.

*LCS: Local comic book store/shop. (See our geek glossary for more).
** Big two: Marvel and DC are the comics world’s ‘big two’ publishers.

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FanExpo Canada: A thing that’s happening in Toronto

Oh God, a convention. People in costumes. Nerds asking about that time Kirk fought a lizard man in episode nineteen of Star Trek, the Original Series!

Relax, it’s great.

FanExpo started as a comic book convention, but has grown into Canada’s biggest general geek convention (unless we’re mistaken, the third largest in North America). They have a large slate of events, special guests, and activities for fans of comics, games, horror, anime/manga, and sci fi.

And we promise, it’s not that weird. In fact, it’s a lot of fun, and there’s lots to do. From Q & A panels with your favourite sci-fi stars, to comic book creators talking about their craft, to publishers and studio booths where you can check out upcoming comics, movies and games, to screening rooms, and even masquerades, FanExpo has something for every geek and nerd, and is sure to exhaust you.

Our best advice is to bring water, be prepared for line ups and overpriced snacks, and be open to exploring something new! You might buy somebody’s mini-comic and discover an up and coming comics superstar, you might stumble on a new genre you’ll love, or even make a few new friends.

Some people attending, who might set your hearts aflutter:

  • Tom Felton (Harry Potter)
  • Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
  • Robert Englund (Freddy Kreuger)
  • John Waters
  • Jeff Smith (Bone)
  • William Shatner (The William Shatner Experience)

You should come, we’ll be there too! (Not dressed as lizard men.)

FanExpo runs from August 25 – 28, at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. Tickets go from $25 (single day) to $109 (deluxe pass).

http://www.fanexpocanada.com/

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Jargon and Lingo and Whatnot

You may notice from time to time that we slip in odd phrases, words, and acronyms into our reviews, and we realize this may be confusing for those who don’t live and breath comics 24/7.

We will try to include definitions as we go along, but should we fail to do so or if you’d just like to study up (you nerds, you), we recommend you check out this glossary of comic book jargon put together by Saranga on her New Readers, Start Here blog.

The terms that we probably can’t stop using are listed and defined below:

The Big Two: The two largest publishers of superhero comics (and comics in general), Marvel and DC.
LCS: Local comic book shop/store. What it says on the label, your local comic book store.
Trades/TPB: Trade paperbacks. These may be collections of comics that had previously been released serially (as floppies/monthlies), or they may be graphic novels (which may also be released serially).
Floppies/Monthlies: Pamphlet-style comics published monthly on newsprint. Usually 20 – 22 pages in length.
Lit Comics: “Literary Comics”. The smarty pants stuff. Usually non-genre comics.
Indies: Comics published independently, small press publishers, or even anyone who’s not Marvel or DC.

We hope this helps, and if you catch us using strange words you don’t understand and haven’t defined, just ask.

Stan Lee yelling at Comic Book Guy, on The Simpsons

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Intro Post

Bienvenue a Toronto Comics Review, where we review comic book stores (and things), and occasionally mangle French.

Our goal is to visit all of Toronto’s comic shops, and to recount our trips and very important opinions here. And to occasionally report on other comics-related events and places of note in the city.

This blog has been in the works for about a year, and a few of our initial reports are based on visits we made some time ago. We hope to re-visit shops as we go along, re-evaluating and improving as we go.

We hope you have fun reading, live long and prosper.

Spock raising his eyebrow, as he does.

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