Honest Ed’s and Mirvisch Village Sold – Rented back to David Mirvisch for 2-3 years.

cihonesteds17.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxNews today out of Toronto that David Mirvish has completed negotiations to sell the large property at Bathurst and Bloor that includes comic book stores The Beguiling and it’s satellite store for children’s comics Little Island Comics.

Discussed in an earlier article on this site, Markham Street as long had historical ties to comics, as it was the home to Canada’s first comic shop, Memory Land, and to the first comic art festival in 1968 (with guest Stan Lee). It was also home to some to the 2nd Toronto Comic Arts Festival in an adjacent parking lot in 2005.

It had been confirmed that the property has been sold to BC based developers WESTBANK PROPERTIES, the deal will be completely finalized by the end of the year. Westbank is responsible for the Shangri-La Hotels in Toronto and Vancouver, as well as other buildings on the west coast is very design intensive, which is something Mirvisch is very much in favour of doing with his own projects downtown on King Street, which will be partially funded by the sale of this land. They are known for building luxury condos and hotels.

Westbank is the winner in a race that had an unknown number of horses. Sources have independently told me that the Weston Group (Loblaws) was very interested in the land, and American retailers Wal-Mart and Target had also expressed interest. Originally assessed at a price of 100-million dollars, chances are the final deal is for a sum larger than that amount.

hendersonSince Westbank has no concrete plans as of yet for the 1.8 hectares of land that runs more than a block West of Bathurst and Bloor and a block South of it — and if they did the designs would have to go through the long process of permits and approvals — so they are renting the land back to David Mirvish for at least 2 to possibly 3 years. Plus the city of Toronto voted to hold off on approving anything until 2014, so they’ll have time to start surveying and consulting and readying for the inevitable discussions with Toronto’s City Council.

This of course gives the current Mirvisch Village tenants some more time to make some more long-term plans. Since Mirvisch is renting the land from the new owners, it could be assumed that he will continue to charge the lower, subsidized rent that MV tenants have been paying for decades, but that’s not a definite. Also not definite is the fate of his father’s retail store, which will probably run down business before the rental term is completed.

Hamilton Spectator discusses Carpet King’s Comics Past

Great article for the Hamilton Spectator about ARAM ALEXANIAN’s contributions to both Canadian and American Golden Age Comics before he went to work for his well known family’s carpet business. Plus a discussion on the Canadian Whites with Big B’s Walter Durajlija and White’s authority Ivan Koczmarek.

The Montreal Gazette suggests you look at some D+Q books

Ian McGillis has submitted a special report in today’s Montreal Gazette entitled Comics and graphics Novels: The State of the Art.

It’s basically a run down of books recently published by Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly – including the latest from Kate Beaton, Seth, Marc Bell and more. McGillis addresses the fact that 10 of his 13 selections are D+Q publications in his introduction:

Graphic literature went from strength to strength in 2011, edging ever closer to the day when it will be spoken of as literature, period. Any form that can embrace subjects and styles ranging from academic studies to visual novels to social history to uproarious parody has a vitality that speaks for itself, and the books below represent the state of the art. The preponderance of titles from Drawn & Quarterly, it should be emphasized, is not hometown boosterism; the Montreal publisher is a world leader in the field, and this year might have been its best.

I’m not convinced it isn’t boosterism, but Drawn & Quarterly DID publish some great books this fall, no doubt about that!

The Comics Journal reviews Prince Valiant by Hal Foster Vol. 4

Just came across this great review of the fourth hardcover collection from Fantagraphics’s latest Prince Valiant collection by TCJ’s Matt Seneca.

The conventional wisdom surrounding Prince Valiant these days characterizes it as a fussily drawn, belabored relic of the past.

Of course, critical judgments of a comic stop mattering once you read it. A few pages into the fourth of Fantagraphics’ beautifully reprinted new editions of Hal Foster’s masterpiece and it’s difficult indeed to remember that this isn’t the greatest comic ever. Comparisons of Foster’s work to that of more recent luminaries like Chris Ware and Jaime Hernandez are apples to oranges; readers will more than likely prefer one to the other, but there’s no convincing way to prove one kind of comic is objectively better than the other. And the mastery Foster brings to bear on his every panel may have been equaled both before and since his prime, but it’s never been surpassed. As far as long-form serialized action comics go, the only equal to Foster American comics have produced is Kirby, and Kirby was never shy about proclaiming his debts to the master.

~Matt Seneca, from his review for The Comics Journal

There are some great comments after the review from illustrator William Stout and cartoonist Paul Chadwick.

Hal Foster (1892-1982) was inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame in the first year of these awards along with the artist after which these awards are named, Joe Shuster. When it comes to comic art illustration, Nova Scotian Hal Foster is undoubtedly Canada’s greatest and most influential export.

Kingston, ON comic shop owner released from prison on drug charges

As reported in the Kingston Whig earlier today, Jorge M. Carquez, owner of Action Packed Comics in Kingston, ON, “has been released from jail after six months in pretrial custody.”

From the article:

Carquez, who was identified in Kingston’s Ontario Court of Justice as the owner of Action Packed Comics on Princess Street, pleaded guilty to possessing proceeds of crime — the money — when he was initially arrested in February; two counts of possessing marijuana and THC tablets for the purpose of trafficking; additional counts of illegally possessing morphine and psilocybin (magic mushrooms); and two subsequent violations of drug conditions attached to bail he received after his initial arrest.

While the Action Packed Comics Facebook page has been very quiet, looking at Carquez’ personal Facebook page there has some activity over the past 6 months, Jorge noting he has “been really busy”.

The Crown and Defence have recommended Carquez “be sentenced to time served in respect of the 188 days he spent in jail before dealing with the charges. The lawyers agreed, as well, that $608,594 in Canadian currency seized from the Carquez’s bedroom closet would be forfeited to the Crown.”

While the majority of cash and drugs were seized from Carquez’ home following an initial warrant, a second warrant which involved a drug sniffing dog entering Action Packed Comics, where “the canine’s nose detected a concealed shelving unit on the building’s main floor stocked with eight quarter-ounce bags of marijuana, one two-ounce bag, and 33 one-gram packages of the weed.”

After he was arrested Carquez “told police that he sold marijuana “on the side” and estimated that he was moving about a pound of it a month.”

Carquez used to own two comic shops, Action Packed Kingston and Action Packed Belleville. The Belleville store was sold to long time manager Andrew Goodsell less than a year ago, and renamed Goodsell Collectables. When asked about the timing of the sale, Goodsell said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

And people say comics are like drugs.

FCBD in London, ON — comic shops actually working together?

Not every comic city is engaging in a battle for attention. London, ON is holding it’s annual passport to FCBD event, where the comic shops in the city actually work together (…for the most part, 5 out of 6 is a great number…) for the good of the industry and the retail environment in the city.

If you are in London, you need to pick up a passport to get a chance to win one of many fabulous prizes donated by these amazing stores:
L.A. Mood Comics & Games
Heroes
Comic Book Collector
Neo Tokyo
Worlds Away

Visit these 5 stores and the Central Branch of the London Public Library and get your passport stamped at each place, and drop your ballot off at the last stop for the draws! Winners will be announced on Monday May 9th, 2011.

The Library will be hosting the first official FCBD Costume Contest at 2:30 PM, open to all ages, register before 2:15PM. Prizes will be awarded in various age categories. $50 in gift certificates and Downtown Dollars for Best in Show in each category, $10 gift certificates for 2nd prizes in each category and graphic novels for the runners up! Prizes donated by the Comic Shop Crossover stores!

Here’s some news coverage: Metro News, Londoner

Have fun, kids of all ages (and the retailers, too)!

Hobby Star Marketing files an injunction against the UFC over the name “Fan Expo”

The Superman vs. Muhammed Ali statue - based on the famous cover by Neal Adams

According to Postmedia News and other sources — Hobby Star Marketing, the Toronto based producers of the comics and pop culture event Fan Expo Canada (TM) have filed an injunction against the producers of the UFC Fan Expo taking place this weekend in Toronto at the Direct Energy Centre over the use of the name Fan Expo in Canadian markets, saying that UFC Fan Expo is too similar to Fan Expo Canada and infringes upon their trademark.

The UFC Fan Expo is produced by Reed Pop (who also produce the New York Comic Con and C2E2) for Kuffa, LLC the company that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship. While other UFC Fan Expos have taken place elsewhere this is the first time one is being held in Canada. HSM, a sports marketing company as well as a producer of pop culture events, contests the use of the phrase “Fan Expo” as well as the slogan  “the Ultimate Fan Experience”. HSM owner Aman Gupta, when contacted by PostMedia news, said:

We will do everything possible to protect our intellectual property and maintain the integrity of our event and our brand.

Too much of a good thing or too little? Trying to get a handle on Toronto Con reports

When comics and pop culture meet you don't always get on the rainbow bridge to Asgard. Chris Hemsworth as Thor from the upcoming movie of the same name.

Last weekend we had three regional comics events in Canada, as well as one large  convention in the US. There are hardly any reports from the smaller one day comic shows, such as the ones that were held in Edmonton and Vancouver, but there have been a few reports from the 3-day Wizard Toronto Comic Con.

I didn’t go – I was at C2E2 in Chicago, so my impressions are drawn from what passes for the reports posted online (thanks to Sequential and Comic Book Daily for the most coverage) or from the people who I’ve spoken to about it that went. Loud annoying music and temperature issues aside, some patterns are emerging.

As with last year the pattern was Friday – slow, Saturday – busy, Sunday – moderately busy. It’s the same trend everywhere, really. At C2E2 it was busy Friday, crazy busy Saturday and slightly less busy than Saturday on Sunday. General consensus among most reports from people that went is that Wizard should just ditch the Friday and go to being a  2-day show, as that’s the way the attendance seems to be defining it.

This is a comics-themed site, not a pop culture one, and I personally have no interest in those areas of these events. So when reading these blog reports it’s been tough to discern what type of comic book show this was.

Generally the reports divide along three lines:

those that got in for free under media, fan table or dealer passes or as a volunteer for Paradise Comics. These people had a good time, with some caveats, but lack the perspective of a paying customer or paying exhibitor. Friday’s slowness aside, they got their sketches, they saw some celebrities and/or easily obtained the interviews they wanted to do, and those few who cared about comics wished there were more comic guests and noticed the absence of comic dealers*. They report a busy show in a smaller space on Saturday – the room capacity of Hall D at the DEC is 2300 people, so it’s no wonder the show looked busy.

those that paid for the event. These people divide along two lines as well: 1)  those there for comics – they felt ripped off and disappointed, and 2) those there for celebrity autographs – who were generally happy. In perspective – at $38 standard adult daily admission the show is more expensive than every other event of this type in the region, and I think that scares people away who just want to buy comics or get some items signed by the comic guests. The absence of new-to-Toronto comic pros for that price also hurt the event’s appeal to comic fans, as did the absence of almost all local and US comic dealers**. If you went to meet Star Wars and Buffy people you seem to be generally happy with what you paid, and if you dressed up you were not alone and people took pictures of you or oggled you, but if you went for comics creators or to buy back issues you were likely disappointed and maybe a little upset because there wasn’t much for you that you don’t get elsewhere (like TCAF or the other comic shows) for a lot less.

*There’s a legitimate reason why there are few comics dealers — at over $800 a booth (not incl. taxes) it’s the highest priced show in the region to exhibit at. So what if you can get 2 more boxes on a table, the bottom line is that the bottom line is too high and people are passing and watching to see what happens next. When you have to give away a thousand dollars worth of product to break even and your profit margins are tight as is, you tend to take these things into account, something your average blogger or opinionated fan doesn’t think about.

**The US dealers – an asset in the first year – chose to do Chicago’s C2E2, something I would probably have moved this show’s dates to avoid a conflict with and keep them, even though this show’s dates were announced first.

— finally, the many regular to the GTA creators recruited – some of whom reported deathly slow sales such as Tom Fowler, to some who had better than average sales such as Leonard Kirk. Kalman Andrasofszky, who I ran into on my way home on Monday, said it was better than he was expecting it to be. Sounds like it was a mixed bag.

If this show wants to improve: go to 2 days, lower the daily admission price, lower the table rates considerably, make sure it doesn’t conflict with other comics industry event dates (such as other March/April events in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Orlando) , get your US dealers back, better advertise to comic fans, get better new-to-Toronto comics pro guests as draws, try not to book so many guests who’ve been to Toronto in the last 3 years and try to get the support of the GTA retailers.

At DC, The Flash speeds forward to big event

The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues HC cover by Francis Manapul

Matt Moore, of the Associated Press has an article that’s being spread far and wide today (for example, it appears in the METRO news today) in which he gives readers a heads up that some exciting things are happening these days with the DC Comics character The Flash under the creative wings of Geoff Johns and Canadian artist Francis Manapul.

It’s a well-timed article — the first hardcover collection was released last week to the direct market and DC is beginning to unveil their plans for the Flashpoint crossover that starts this spring. Continue reading

H.B. Fenn initiates bankruptcy proceedings

Breaking news: H.B. Fenn and Company, Canada’s largest book distributor (based in Bolton, ON), filed notice on Thursday that they were initiating bankruptcy proceedings.
Fenn distributes a number of comics and graphic novel products to stores, educators and librarians across the country.

Read more:

The National Post

Quill & Quire

The Toronto Star

It’s tough to buy new near mint comics in Yellowknife NWT

In Blackest Night... it's the Northern Lights above Yellowknife NWT, not a Green Lantern's light. In fact, it's pretty tough to get yourself a copy of the latest Green Lantern in Canada's northern communities.

The Northern News Service has a story up about how difficult it is to buy new comics in Yellowknife, and discusses the feasibility of opening a comic book store in this relatively remote location. It also addresses most of my initial reactions, such as:

- why not buy from an online retailer? well, you don’t know what you are getting condition-wise

- why not get into the whole digital revolution? well, there’s the issue of illegal scan downloading and costs, plus you know, comic book collectors have a tendency to want paper copies handy, even though it does mention that this is becoming less of a concern

One question that I don’t think is addressed is whether or not there are any booksellers that could order comics or graphic novels on behalf of the customer. The Book Cellar, mentioned in the article, once carried comics – could they not offer to order comics for customers? Canadian bookstores would be ordering from the Canadian book distributors and not the most recent comics sold by comics publishers through Diamond, but it is something to consider.

Canada is such a huge country, and we often forget about just how spread out it is, and how remote some locations are.  It must be a difficult thing, I imagine, to be a devoted comic book fan in the Northwest Territories. No stores, no shows, little access to material, and poor selection when you do get anything…

The New York Times Gift Guide: Graphic Books selected are 1/3 Canuck

From the NY Times’s Gift Guide for Graphic Books – 9 selections make the cut, including 3 by Canadians:

KILL SHAKESPEARE (IDW, $19.99) Volume 1 brings together the playwright’s heroes, including Hamlet and Juliet, and pits them against a pack of adversaries led by Richard III and Lady Macbeth, all of whom want to find a wizard named William Shakespeare. The story, written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, with art by Andy Belanger, is gripping, violent and dark fun, even if you’re not fully versed in Shakespearean lore. If you are — as one of my colleagues, Steven McElroy, is — rejoice: “There is the allure of familiarity and the joy of being on the lookout for who might show up next — even Parolles (still a coward) makes an appearance,” he said.

If you enjoyed the criminally underappreciated film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, you’ll love the source series. SCOTT PILGRIM’S FINEST HOUR (Oni Press, $11.99), the last of six installments by Bryan Lee O’Malley, finds the title hero mourning his lost love, Ramona, and acting as immature as ever. He tells his other love interest, Knives, who has recently turned 18: “Do you want to have sex? I think we should have sex. Casual sex.” Despite his many flaws, Scott remains a character you want to see succeed. The final volume is filled with the video-game imagery and breaking-the-fourth-wall asides that were evident in the previous tales. During his confrontation with Gideon, his ultimate barrier in reuniting with Ramona, Scott says: “I don’t even want to fight you! The secondary characters made me do it!” The complete series is available in SCOTT PILGRIM’S PRECIOUS LITTLE BOXSET for $72.

Darwyn Cooke revisits Parker, the antihero created by the novelist Richard Stark, in THE OUTFIT (IDW, $24.99). This book has everything the first had: tough guys, capers and a 1960s vibe that feels like an underworld version of “Mad Men.” Among the high points of this installment — Mr. Cooke plans to adapt four Parker novels in all — are the heists arranged against the criminal syndicate Parker despises. The six-page sequence about a heroin operation wonderfully, and incongruously, juxtaposes tense Mamet-like verbal sparring grit with an almost whimsical visual style. The coda promises “Parker will return in 2012.” Let the countdown begin.

Quill & Quire Books of the Year *UPDATED*

Quill & Quire, Canada’s Magazine of Book News & Reviews has started announcing their choices for Books of the Year online (the lists have been published in print in the December issue). We thought you might be interested in seeing their selections, and of course, we’d like to note the inclusion of the graphic novel KENK in the Non-Fiction category. Here’s the philosophy behind the lists:

There’s no formula for choosing the books of the year. Some break ground, some tackle familiar themes with new energy. Some represent the best work from established authors, some introduce us to important new voices. And some are simply in-house favourites we feel deserve a little more attention.

Fiction and Poetry

Non-Fiction

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait
Richard Poplak; Nick Marinkovich, illus. (Pop Sandbox)

Graphic novels are, by definition, a hybrid form, but the first book from Toronto upstart Pop Sandbox is sui generis. Composed almost entirely of repurposed, deliberately distressed video footage, Kenk presents a fly-on-the-wall portrait of internationally notorious bike thief Igor Kenk in the weeks leading up to his arrest. The book’s gritty, foot-in-the-gutter aesthetic is perfectly suited to its subject, a crank philosopher with a skewed moral sense who is alternately fascinating and infuriating. This “graphic portrait” walks a fine line, humanizing Kenk while never excusing his misdeeds. As reviewer Alex Good wrote in July/August’s Q&Q, it is “a well-conceived and brilliantly executed book that draws an insightful, realistic portrait not just of a man, but of a specific time and place.”

Books for Young People

Covers of the Year

Kenk: A Graphic Portrait
by Richard Poplak (Pop Sandbox)
Cover design by Nick Marinkovich, Alex Jansen, and Jason Gilmore

This book captivated my ­imagination. Kenk is an asshole. A bike thief. A creepy, shifty dude. He is also a legend in Toronto. This book adds mythical proportion to his already ­incredible story. Using photocopied film stills scraped with sandpaper, scratched with razor blades, and literally torn to pieces, Nick Marinkovich et al. create an ugly world charged with emotion. I looked at a lot of book covers this year. Many were clever and clean, but nothing has stuck with me as much as this one. – Erik Mohr, a designer with ChiZine Publications

Remembrance Day – Two Generals

Two Generals — Scott Chantler’s excellent graphic novel translation of his grandfather’s war journal (published by McClelland & Stewart), is definitely one of the better books to come out this year by a Canadian cartoonist, and now that it is widely available in bookstores and comic book specialty stores, today would be a perfect day to reflect on the the book and it’s topic – remembering the Canadian veterans that fought in the first Two World Wars. Two Generals is a WW2 book – looking at the actions of Scott’s grandfather and infantry leading up to and following the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It is not a political book, but a translation of one man’s personal experiences.

Canada at War: Remembrance Day, by the books is the Toronto Star’s selection of Remembrance Day reading picks – and there’s a positive review of the book, which the Star selects as their top pick:

We were a wee bit apprehensive about what Guelph’s Scott Chantler would do with his attempt to present World War II and his own family history through a graphic treatment. A comic book as a lens for such a sombre, sensitive subject? As evidenced by his previous Northwest Passage, a serious multi-volume history set in colonial Canada, we should have known better. Chantler’s Two Generals (McClelland & Stewart, 144 pages, $27.99) is our top pick this Remembrance Day, not for its novel mix of format and subject but for its stunning success in bringing home the real foot soldier’s experience of those awful days.

(To read the full review follow the link above)

Additionally, The Beguiling’s Chris Butcher submitted a generally positive special review of the book to the National Post which ran last Friday.

Finally, the website iFanboy gives a very positive review of the book.

Upcoming appearances by Chantler have been posted earlier on this website — he’ll be at Guelph’s the Dragon this Saturday, November 13 for a signing and a children’s art class, and he’ll be at the upcoming Toronto ComiCON at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Sunday, November 21.