Toronto might seem like a world of larger-than-life characters, places, and events, but have you ever wondered what the city would look like if it was actually inhabited by mythical creatures? Inspired by their love of old video games like Might and Magic, the local art collective Catshrine has created a detailed map of a Toronto where Queen Street West is filled with condo hydras, Roncesvalles has a community of vampires, and there are dastardly rogues in Rosedale.
Torontoist spoke with one of the creators, Irene Angelopoulos, about the map. (Click here to see a giant-sized version, or click through the image gallery for a look at some details.)
Torontoist: When did you start making the map?
Irene Angelopoulos: We started making it in early 2013, like around January we had this idea. I think we worked on it for a solid month and finished it around February. It can be like a 12-hour day, 18-hour day, just to get all the technical aspects of it.
And how big is the actual map?
It’s 15 by 18. For the detail there’s a lot of fine work we had to do.
Where did the idea come from?
My partner and I, we really like playing old video games, so we were just thinking it would be fun to come up with different creatures that fit with people’s ideas of the neighbourhoods in Toronto. We found ourselves having a lot of fun coming up with these different characters, so we thought, “Let’s illustrate a map.”
What was the process from there?
We listed all the neighbourhoods we could possibly think of, and there were a lot more than appear on the map. We kind of ran out of room. Then we made a list of the creatures we encountered in games like Might & Magic. And then it was like a kind of puzzle to figure out which creatures go with what neighbourhood the best, for whatever reason. Sometimes there was no reason. Then we sketched it, and honed it down to whatever was the most amusing.
Some of the ritzier neighbourhoods are associated with more sinister beings—the Yorkville Yuppie Orcs, the Bay Street Imps, the Rosedale Rogeues. Was this intentional?
There’s a bit of social satire going on as well. I guess you can read in a bit of critique. We thought it was funny to associate those wealthy areas with typically mean monsters, but it was more people’s conceptions with the people who live in those neighbourhoods.
Then there’s City Hall as the Dragon Mayor’s Lair, and the illustration clearly shows Rob Ford as a sleeping dragon on top a pile of gold. Where did that comparison come from?
Well, we had to put a dragon in it, because it’s such an important creature. And with everything going on at the time when we were coming up with this idea, it was kind of perfect. You know, the dragon is often just sleeping in the cave and only comes out when it’s convenient. And it looks cool.
It’s very downtown-centric, and up north is just the Eglinton Wastelands. What does that say about Toronto?
Its funny. In a way, that’s what our everyday thinking of the suburbs is like. It’s a wasteland, there’s no point in going out there, there’s nothing out there. But, at the same time, tying it in with Might and Magic, if you venture out there you’re going to find things and see things you probably wouldn’t think about. I don’t think of it as a wasteland. There are a lot of interesting communities beyond Eglinton and High Park.
Do you think looking at Toronto through a fantasy lens offers up a new perspective on the city?
We love Toronto, we bike around a lot, and we think a lot about the change that’s happening in the city, especially with the development and new people moving into the neighbourhoods. And the space always seems to be negotiated. So we thought it’d be neat to add that fantasy element to this moment in time. On one hand, it’s timeless because it’s this fantasy world, but it’s clearly inspired by what’s going on in the city right now, or what we feel is going on. Because you never really know a neighbourhood unless you live there.
What has the reaction been so far to the map?
People get very passionate about their neighbourhoods, and we thought this would be a fun thing to get people talking. One person said, I forget what neighbourhood they were from, but they said, “At least we’re not the orcs. At least we’re not the trolls.” But if you play Might and Magic, the trolls can be a lot of fun. It’s everyone’s personal perception about whether these creatures are bad. Someone said, “You made the Kensington Market Slimes, do you hate Kensington?” No, I love Slimes! They’re fun creatures.
Do you have a favourite fantasy neighbourhood?
I think the Junction Hipster Gnomes are probably the cutest for me. But otherwise, I’d have to say the Danforth Medusas, just because I hang out there a lot, I have coffee there a lot. It’s just something that amuses me a lot, the drawing.
What’s next for the map?
We actually showed it at the Hashtag Gallery in the early spring, and because of the huge positive response and people wanting their own neighbourhood represented, we’re thinking of doing a more detailed and zoomed-in sort of series, maybe including some more of the east side. We do have prints of it for sale, we’re excited to get it out there now.