Monday, May 18, 2009


This is the second-to-last post from my trip to Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) last weekend. I'll be putting one up later tonight with photos and capsule reviews of all the minis/zines from TCAF.

From my short time walking around Toronto, it because very clear that it's a comics and books-heavy town. Tons of used shops of different sizes and flavors flanked the University of Toronto campus, and I kept hearing about various cartooning events and shops carrying comics while I was there. Though I didn't make it to Magic Pony (gallery & shop), I did take time to make a pilgrimage to The Beguiling!

I'll go ahead and state my thesis up front: I think The Beguiling is the best comic shop in North America. While I did love Forbidden Planet in NYC, and Star Clipper in St. Louis is pretty great, I think The Beguiling takes the crown. Their closest competitor is the East Bay's massive and rad Comic Relief, which definitely bests The Beguiling in terms of sheer size and number of volumes.

The Beguiling felt different though, like it had been curated just to my tastes by someone with a strong love for the diversity of crazy shit out there. They had the most recent mainstream floppies on the racks, original prints by Mark Beyer, rare panel art for sale all over the walls, the biggest manga section I've seen (outside of Japan!), a treasure trove of minis and zines right by the front register, Spanish, French, and untranslated manga stacks, and a super helpful and knowledgeable staff. What more could you possibly ask for?

Here are a few photos from my visit:

TCAF posters past and present cover the front windows

Tintin guards the door, of what looks to be a converted Victorian house?

The Beguiling's Chamber of Secrets (aka, the minicomics & zine rack!)

Up front: my buddy Hellen Jo's excellent comic Jin & Jam #1 (go buy this!) and her earlier comic, Blister No.5.

What do we have hear? Copies of Electric Ant #1! Most were unsold, but thank you to the 4 brave readers who picked it up in Toronto.

And this was only about 1/3 of the store's manga selections.

The sign of a healthy shop... copies of Tokyo Zombie in stock!

French manga compilation, featuring a p-p-pretty rad contributor list.

French manga nerds got it better than us- the entire run of Taiyo Matsumoto's No. 5 was published there.

French edition of a Shin'ichi Abe book.

French edition of Akino Kondoh's manga Eiko (from our friends at Le Lezard Noir). Kondoh is featured in and on the cover of Top Shelf's upcoming AX Anthology Vol. 1.

I thought I took more pictures than that, but hopefully it gives a taste of the goodies within. Hats off to co-owners Peter Birkemoe and Chris Butcher on running such an excellent shop.


Christopher Butcher said...

Aw, thanks Ryan. Much appreciated.

zytroop said...

Makes me wonder, which are the world's best comic book stores?

zytroop said...

Also, I like how that book promotes Yoshiharu Tsuge as a Nouvelle Manga artist. He hasn't done anything since 1986. Otomo has not done manga since 96. And Tezuka has been dead for 20 years. They are not a part of your highbrow "movement"

Ryan S said...

@Chris: Thank you! Sorry we couldn't talk more in Toronto.

@Zytroop: Good question! What is the best place you've been to? I obviously would include the following three:
+ Comic Relief
+ The Beguiling
+ tacoCHE
But a lot of shops i've seen have their own charms. European readers?

As for Nouvelle Manga-- it's quite ridiculous, isn't it!? I wonder if that Yukiko's Spinach guy was behind this :) I really strongly dislike his works and approach. It's all wrong...

I do remember that he pushed hard on the terminology on his site and around here and there as a "movement"-- But, I would guess that folks realize that these are mostly entirely western constructions and groupings, right?

Krishva said...

I think the Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor, MI, is definitely among the best. The Beguiling has a better selection, though (that place is PACKED TIGHT).

by Michael DeForge said...

yeahhh we are so spoiled here. you weren't missing too much from magic pony, it's a similar set up to most other toy/boutiquey places in major cities!

elizafax said...

hey ryan, I've been watching your blog for a while silently, but you post so much great stuff i thought i should speak up!

I've been wanting to visit the Beguiling ever since i ran across their website about a year ago. It's awesome to get to see a look inside up close! (i'm jealous!)

France definitely prints a lot of great manga that never sees the light of day here (more jealousy).

But I just wanted to say hey, you're running an awesome blog! Thanks!

bittermelon said...

thanks for the brief photo tour of the beguiling. i recall being quite taken with it as well, and peter was a real hospitable guy too. cute neighborhood as well, close to some korean restaurants no? i love toronto. i do like to use quality of comic / book shop(s) as an effective gauge to how cool a city is. sounds like you had a fantastic time.

Ryan S said...

@Kris: Which shop is that? I'm from Michigan and used to hang out in Ann Arbor all the time... Is that the basement shop north of the Quad, that has a bunch of tabletop RPG stuff too? I used to go up to Ann Arbor just to by copies of Bone from that shop, if it's the one I'm thinking of...

@DeForge: Ohyeah, it sounded similar to Super7, Little Otsu, or Kid Robot in San Francisco-- japanese toys, stationary and comics. You will have to check out Comic Relief when you're out here and then can give your verdict on which store wins.

@elizafax: Thanks for the comment! I never can tell how many folks are really reading (and not just coming in from Image Search) so it means a lot to hear from you. Thanks again! Those damn comic-loving french... :)

Ryan S said...

@bittermelon: Yeah, the shop was just down the block from Honest Eds in what looked like a converted residential street. I read that Ed(?) purposely re-zoned that area and offered really cheap rents to arts-related retailers-- which explains the comic, book, video and art supply shops nearby. It's also just a few blocks off UofT campus and about 6 blocks north of Chinatown.

Pretty chill. The street north of it was a littttle bit Haight-y (in a not great way) but overall, it was super friendly. Toronto seems like a very book and publishing-friendly city... like berkeley or providence (i guess?)

by Michael DeForge said...

Honest Ed was such a sweet character!

Ryan S said...

I thought it was sorta a folk invention, but he sounds really sweet! From that wikipedia article:

"When his application to tear down the Victorian structures in order to build a parking lot was rejected by the city Mirvish, at the urging of his wife and son, rented them out at low rates to local artists and the street soon became a community of artists studios, galleries, boutiques and niche shops known today as Mirvish Village."

Unknown said...

You had me at Tin tin guards the door. Is it possible to pick up Shin'ichi Abe's manga or the Eiko here in the states or at least in English? Finding a store that caters to the weirder and lesser known interests is the best.

There are some awesome comic book stores in Portland, OR. Plus, there is Powell's which has an enomorous selection of indie manga and graphic novels.

Ryan S said...

I don't know of any way to order the Le Lezard Noir books directly (or that Abe book) but asking Chris at doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Abe will be included in the upcoming AX Anthology from Top Shelf though.

I've only driven through Portland once (back in college) but it seems like cartoonist mecca. I know the Pony Club gallery is there, and keep hearing about Powell's too. I need to come out some time! :)