5 places for a comic book
Posted on June 16, 2021 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments
While at the cabin or on the beach this summer, you can hop into stories of zombies, wizards, detectives, mutants, time-travelers – all manner of hero and villain, of complex protagonist – available through your local comic book shop (a thank you to our libraries as well, but we’re giving a nod to some small businesses here). The comic business is no longer about pumping out the shallow penny dreadful, or reliant on a man in tights leaping tall buildings. Apart from series for children and adults alike, the omnibus and graphic novel format have opened up new possibilities for artists and authors. Hungry for content, Hollywood is leaning on their works of fiction and non-fiction alike, but some of the best stories are still only found on the page, waiting to be discovered in store. In Atlantic Canada, comic shop owners are incredibly hardworking small business minds, dealing one-to-one with long lists of suppliers through difficult times, while serving all of the basic operational needs. Shops noted here have grown a loyal customer base, but are of course always ready to welcome in first-timers.
Cape & Cowl Comics owner Jay Aaron Roy
Cape & Cowl Comics and Collectibles-Lower Sackville, N.S.
Owner Jay Aaron Roy started Cape & Cowl in 2014 with a community space in mind. Today, the shop offers great comic finds, plus a safe space for youth. Community events have included craft fairs and meetings of the Autism Nova Scotia’s Dungeons & Dragons club and the hope is these pre-COVID occasions can return soon. Apart from the wealth of big name comics and graphic novels, the local arts community plays a big role in the shop’s eclectic selection. There are paint, pencil, charcoal works, crocheted stuffed characters, pins, glassware and more. The business is working consignment arrangements with more than 100 people right now. It’s an added effort from the perspective of management, but really an homage to Aaron Roy’s mother and the community art class that she taught twice a week to local youth. He has a simple philosophy for his own place: “It’s meant to be that breath of fresh air when you know you’re going to walk through those doors and have a good time. Your identity’s going to be respected and you’re going to find some stuff that’s going to make you smile.”
Inside The Comic Hunter in Moncton
The Comic Hunter-Moncton, N.B.
The name of Jeff Smith’s comic stop will be familiar in much of the Maritimes, given there is an outlet of The Comic Hunter in Fredericton, N.B. and Charlottetown, P.E.I. in addition to the store opened almost 30 years ago. It was started as a single location, as a university project, but Moncton store manager Remi Vienneau Leclair will tell you there is real strength today thanks to the customer following built over time, longstanding relationships with distributors and the collective inventory of the three shops. He estimates half-a-million comics are available between the company’s three locations (with no cost for shipping between stores for delivery). The Comic Hunter also offers board games, card games, tabletop games and action figures, in store and online. Leclair and the employees keep an eye to the most creative new releases and what titles are gaining a following. Some of the biggest sellers for all shops are tied to movies and television shows. As a fan, Leclair can’t help but mention the Sandman series coming for Netflix, based on the comics written by Neil Gaiman and first published in the late 1980s. He said the show is something many fans “have been clamouring for for 30 years” and he has high hopes after seeing small and big screen interpretations of Gaiman’s novels, including Good Omens, based on a novel Gaiman co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. “(Good Omens) was my favourite book forever and I loved the show, and I’m excited for this one,” he said, always ready to talk at the shop about the merits of an adaptation.
Downtown Comics in St. John’s
Downtown Comics-St. John’s, N.L.
The most Easterly comic shop in North America, Downtown Comics boasts strong links to the local comic arts community. In addition to stocking Newfoundland and Labrador arts magazines and comic titles, the shop has hosted special events including comic jams, where artists collaborate on site. Employee Wallace Ryan has worked at the shop for more than a decade, but has also taught the art of the comic at the not-for-profit Anna Templeton Centre for craft and art training, creating unique ties. Downtown Comics is currently planning for a signing in July with Paul Tucker, one of Ryan’s first students, who has more recently worked with writer Paul Allor on a title called Hollow Heart. The shop has stayed connected to customers through social media. It recently marked the milestone of more than 200 “pick of the week” videos on Facebook, with staff highlighting new and classic comics, board games and collectible figures available in store. There are also unboxing videos, where you can see new merchandise as it arrives. “As soon as we post them, we start getting calls saying ‘oh, save me this!,’” Ryan said with a laugh. The shop was started in 1997 by Spider Man-fan Jason Conway, who passed away suddenly in late 2020. His daughter Kerri Claire Neil has kept things going and with her staff, including Ryan, has established even stronger ties to regulars and the community at large.
Lightning Bolt Comics
Lightning Bolt Comics-Charlottetown, P.E.I.
In the heart of downtown Charlottetown, you’ll find Lightning Bolt Comics (a name that will of course remind comic lovers of The Flash). The shop has been in the basement at 99 Grafton for 22 years now. “It’s a pop culture store where we just have a passion for local artists and local creators, and supplying the community with fun stuff,” said owner-operator Dylan Miller. He likes to highlight the work of locals like Brenda Hickey, Jessica Francis, Tyler Landry, Troy Little, Geoff and Michelle Genge, Dave Stewart, Arden Belfry, Ramon Sierra Santiago, Sandy Carruthers, Robert Doan (“just to name a few!”) both in the shop and on social media. “Local comics are the best comics!,” Miller stated in a 2020 post promoting a new release of The Stick Persons from Riley Bernard. He said local work has a tendency to capture the attention of some of the many tourists visiting the Island in a given year and will hopefully do so again as tourism recovers. The shop has also hosted events pre-pandemic including Magic the Gathering (card game) tournaments. Even in the worst of the pandemic, there was demand for the entertainment and escape of comics, board games and card games, with Lightning Bolt ready to serve in a snap.
Sketch of Strange Adventures Comics and Curiosities building in Halifax
Strange Adventures Comics and Curiosities-Halifax, N.S.
Whether you’re looking for the latest Eisner Award winners, a certain anime action hero, or that issue of Archie you’d always wanted, there’s a good chance of finding it through Strange Adventures. Owner Calum Johnston believes comics really are just another way to tell stories and he strives to share his own love of comics. “We have action-adventure for the fans of caped heroes, but we also have a wide variety of other genres from which to choose,” he said, in an email to Atlantic Business. “Mysteries, biographies, slice-of-life stories, horror, humour, westerns and war stories; something for all tastes and ages.” Johnston sources from Japan, Europe, but also the Maritimes, supporting local cartoonists and publishers. He said it’s always inspiring to see homegrown talent make their mark on the local stage, across Canada and around the world. Apart from the Halifax store, Strange Adventures locations can be found in Dartmouth, N.S, and Fredericton, N.B.
About our “5 Places” series
It’s been a difficult period for small businesses, particularly in tourism and hospitality. While it’s not deep investigation, we wanted to encourage the sector by taking a moment each week to shine a spotlight on some of these small businesses in Atlantic Canada, “5 Places,” with the hope of encouraging people to make some staycation plans and get out to support local (albeit with COVID and related restrictions in mind). We’re featuring spots in no particular order, but with representation from all provinces. The series will continue at least until fall 2021, looking at some hidden gems or popular stops for ice cream, kayaks, comics and more. Any tips on BIPOC-owned businesses, ideas for future themes or general feedback are welcome: [email protected].
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