There were no surly, Simpsons-esque Comic Book Guys to be found at the opening of the Comic Book Lounge & Gallery.
The Comic Book Lounge & Gallery is more than just a comic book store. According to manager Joe Kilmartin, the College Street space, which celebrated its grand opening on Friday night, is meant to be a community hub.
He wants Toronto’s comic fans to use the lounge as a place to bond over the titles they love.
“The whole idea is to have people come in, get their books, sit down a while, read, have a cup of coffee, listen to music, and take it easy,” he said.
The idea for the lounge came about following the January demise of Dragon Lady Comics, where Kilmartin was a manager. The upstairs space at 587 College Street, where the lounge is now located, was already home to both the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop and Guerilla Printing, a digital print shop that has worked on small comics and zines. When Comic Book Lounge co-owner Kevin Boyd, who is also the director of the Joe Shuster Awards and the event coordinator for FanExpo, first heard about Dragon Lady’s closure, he contacted Sean Menard, the mind behind the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop and Guerilla Printing, about using some of his vacant space.
“When I heard that Dragon Lady was closing,” said Boyd, “I went to Sean, the owner of the Cartoonists Workshop, and I said, ‘You know all the empty space at the front of your school? Why don’t we put a comic book store up there and keep Dragon Lady alive in some way?’”
Boyd, Menard, and Kilmartin convinced Dragon Lady owner Josh Biernet to transfer his subscriptions over to them, then started imagining their dream store.
“We didn’t want to do a huge space with back issues,” said Boyd. “There are a lot of traditional comic book shops in town, and I said when we were putting this all together, ‘If we’re going to do this, let’s not do a traditional comic book shop. Let’s do something unique, like a gathering space with a community aspect.’”
In addition to being a shop and clubhouse for comic lovers, the lounge will also function as an art gallery, showcasing work from artists in the city’s comic scene. The artist on display right now is Mike Del Mundo, whose portfolio includes almost 50 Marvel covers. For him, having his work on the walls of the Comic Book Lounge is a treat.
“We don’t really get a chance to enjoy what we do,” he said. “We’re so involved with hitting deadlines and whatnot, just to to put it all on the wall and enjoy it and digest it—it’s amazing.”
Kilmartin said that he hopes the fun, convention-like vibe of the lounge’s opening will be characteristic of the shop.
“Any small group of people who are interested in anything—essentially you all like same thing,” he said. “If you’re a sports fan, you might have your differences in teams that you like, but ultimately it’s the game that you love. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being in a room full of people who love the same thing.”