Free Comic Book Day unites lit and art lovers, creative types, and penny-pinchers looking for some free swag. I have no interest in owning a Smurfs comic book, but slap a free sticker on that bad boy and within seconds I’ll don a white cap, paint my face blue, and move into a mushroom hut. Free merchandise is a foolproof way of broadening your audience and once again FCBD pulled out all the stops this year.
On my street car ride down Queen West I passed by the Silver Snail and saw lineups that nearly curled around the corner. There were rumours that TCAF was turning people away due to the Reference Library being over capacity and the idea of having to wait in line made my stomach churn. So headed up to Paradise Comics instead, and to my surprise it was delightfully low key, but still had the same buzz as the downtown scene.
Entering the store for the first time, I was amazed at how they’d utilized such a small space – despite wall to wall product you are still able to navigate around without fear of bumping into someone or something. The shop was attractive, clean, organized; its Yonge and Lawrence location boasted modest customer traffic that never became overwhelming. With such a low head count my meandering around the store wasn’t a big inconvenience. Best of all was the quaintness that inspired a feeling of being apart of something unique and special, a quality that many bigger stores have lost.
This being my first time in Paradise and new to the dork crew, I wanted to introduce myself to the staff. Unsure of where to turn, I set my sights on the first person to come out from behind the counter, who actually turned out to be Paradise regular and self-proclaimed volunteer for the day, Jason Federman. “If I’m going to be hanging around here for 3 hours, they might as well put me to work,” he said, “I came in here on a whim one day to buy a graphic novel for something to read at work, and I never left.”
I asked him if he prefers coming to a smaller store. “Definitely,” he replied, “I love this neighborhood and so does Peter (the owner), it has lots of families with children and the traffic today is not unlike any other Saturday, and the vibe is a lot different up here.”
I was then pointed in the direction of owner and fellow comic book enthusiast Peter Dixon, who quickly greeted me with a handshake and a warm welcome. Without skipping a beat, he rushed downstairs to show me something. When he emerges he tells me, “It’s great to have a day where we can give away comics for free, while also buying comics for 2,700 bucks,” and presents me with the comic seen to the right.
“This is the fourth appearance of The Flash,” he told me. A rarity not every comic book store has on its shelves. Peter has a real passion for the old school, it shows in his enthusiasm and his collection, but it is also refreshing to see he does not discriminate against the new school – he embraces it.
Marvin Law was also doing prints by request on this holiest of comic book days, for free no less. Marvin, who is usually situated at the Silver Snail for FCBD, says he likes the change of pace of a lower traffic store because it gives him time to be a little bit more social with the customers.
Marvin is currently working with New Myth Comics out of Oklahoma, who discovered him through his deviantArt page and wanted to collaborate. He is now the head artist on the book Salt and Ignite. Law is also working another book called Hot Heads, that is geared for a younger audience. Not something he usually does, but is really enjoying doing it.
My visit with Marvin was short and sweet. I made my way to the front of the store, picked up a few of the usuals, said my goodbyes, and was on my way. Success.
In an over-saturated and over-stimulated market where “bigger is better” and only the strong survive, it’s a breath of fresh air loitering in such a fabulous store that is independently doing its own thing. A place where everyone is welcome and elitism is left at the door. Stay dorky my friends.