2014 Hero: Steve Murray/Chip Zdarsky
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2014 Hero: Steve Murray/Chip Zdarsky

Nominated for: ruling both the internet and the comics industry with cuteness and crassness.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 5 p.m. on December 30. At noon on December 31, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

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Once, there was a man—and also an Applebee’s. Between the two, a friendship grew that would forever change the relationship between Facebook users and international chain restaurants.

When Chip Zdarsky, the pen name for comic artist, National Post illustrator, and one-time fake mayoral candidate Steve Murray, struck up an unlikely rapport with Applebee’s Barrie in 2013, their genial exchanges charmed the heck out of the internet. Finally, Toronto had gone viral for all the right reasons, with a story that celebrated being polite, encouraged genuine interactions, and was generally pretty sweet. Which is weird for anyone who follows Zdarsky on Twitter and knows he is almost always the exact opposite of all those things. His is a complex personal brand.

Though the ‘Bee’s buzz didn’t last forever, this was just the beginning of a whirlwind year for Murray/Zdarsky. His comic book series Sex Criminals, co-created with Matt Fraction, was the undisputed darling of the comic world in 2014, winning the Will Eisner Award for Best New Series (which he, of course, accepted with dignity and grace) and sparking a spin-off, Just the Tips. The story of two people who use the power of their time-stopping orgasms to rob banks displays Zdarsky’s bizarre, slightly bitter, yet emotionally affecting sense of humour; the plot is ridiculous, but Zdarsky and Fraction mix very mature and nuanced representations of adolescence and healthy sexual lives with depictions of Toronto streetscapes that even include a few familiar faces in the background.

Zdarsky’s next move may not be world domination—but it’s close enough. Marvel has taken Toronto’s best bad advice-giver into its well-armoured arms, tapping him to revive the Howard the Duck series.

It’s likely that Toronto will soon have to learn to share its strangest funnyman with the crew to the south. He might not actually be able to stop time with his orgasms, but Zdarsky’s lasting legacy of dick jokes have undoubtedly stolen our hearts.