|Headquarters||601 Markham Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Subsidiaries||Little Island Comics|
The Beguiling is a comic shop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It specializes in underground and alternative comics, classic comic strip reprints, and foreign comics. It has built an international reputation for focusing on and promoting non-superhero comics in the superhero-dominated North American comic book market.
The store has made effort to promote comics culture in Toronto by organizing the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) in coöperation with the Toronto Public Library, and by opening sister store Little Island Comics, the first North American comic shop aimed exclusively at children.
Founded in 1987 by Steve Solomos and Sean Scoffield on Harbord Street near the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, The Beguiling quickly built a reputation for the diversity of its stock, focused on art-oriented, avant-garde, underground and alternative comics—"anything that is even peripherally comic book-oriented", according to current owner Peter Birkemoe. In the earliest days, much of the store's income was made through mail order, as the material it dealt in was not mainstream. It also built a reputation for stocking the works of cartoonists such as Chester Brown and Julie Doucet, whose comics most stores would not handle due to the controversial nature of their contents. Well-known Toronto-based cartoonists such as the trio of Brown, Seth and Joe Matt became associated with the store, and sometimes depicted it in their comics. Others such as Jay Stephens made it their shop of choice.
In 1998, Solomos and Scoffield decided to devote their time to creating art (and later film production), and ownership was passed to Peter Birkemoe and Shane Chung, who expanded operations. In 1992 it relocated to a two-floor Victorian building in Mirvish Village in Toronto, and has since branched out into selling to libraries, organizing the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and running another location, called Little Island Comics, which caters to children.
Description and reputation
The Beguiling is "a store with an agenda", according to Birkemoe, and has been derided for some for its perceived elitism, which stems in part from its sponsoring of Crash, a journal of comics criticism that mainly condemned bad comics. Others, such as comics historian Charles Hatfield, have praised the store for its sense of history, saying, "You always leave the shop with a larger sense of what comics are about." The Beguiling is patronized by an international audience. The store has made the top five retailer list in The Comics Journal, and among the awards it has received, it shared the inaugural Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award in 1993, and it won the Joe Shuster Awards' Harry Kremer Retailer Award in 2010.
Toronto Comic Arts Festival
In 2003, Peter Birkemoe and Chris Butcher of The Beguiling first organized the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). Unusual in the world of comics conventions, TCAF is a free-admission event. It focuses on alternative and independent comics, but includes other creative arts besides comics. Rather than being like a traditional comics convention, it is patterned after European festivals such as Angoulême, and the American Small Press Expo. The organizers considered Toronto to be a hotbed of alternative cartooning, but were concerned that most Torontonians associated comic books with superheroes. Their stated goal was "to present the quality and prestige of ... local and international artists in a package that's respected and recognized". The festival was biannual until 2009, when in partnership with the Toronto Public Library it became an annual event. Starting that year, the festival took place at the Toronto Reference Library.
Little Island Comics
As most North American comic shops focus on teenage and adult customers, and The Beguiling itself mainly on adults, the owners wanted to fill a void by opening the first children's comic shop in North America, and possibly the world. Little Island Comics opened 6 September 2011 at 742 Bathurst Street in the Annex, close to The Beguiling. The shop was designed with children in mind, with bright colours and shelves at child-height.
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