West End Comics at 1590 Queen St. West is a comic book collector’s dream. Bronze, Silver and Golden Age comics* line the shelves alongside new issues, toys and action hero figures. Hard-to-find graphic novels and trade magazines, Role Playing Games including old Dungeons and Dragons’ manuals rest alongside rare accoutrements like twenty-sided dice. The whole shop is fashioned to fascinate collectors and inspire the uninitiated to dive deep into the most compelling narrative art in the city.
This is a passion project, and Kirk Sutterfield is the proud proprietor. Kirk is a visual artist and general contractor with a life-long itch for collecting and curating his own vast inventory of comic books and graphic novels. He opened West End Comics in the autumn of 2012 with little or no retail experience, but a gut instinct told him that his niche would mesh nicely with the neighbourhood and over time his market would mature. He renovated the store interior like a boss. Shelving the walls entirely, he completely reshaped what was once a boring chiropractor’s office into a well-appointed retail store now capable of displaying over twenty three hundred items for sale, simultaneously.
Kirk’s store is fitted with myriad cubbyholes and perfectly sized magazine racks which let the graphic art on the covers of each magazine stand out and shine. This is a retail shop where where every object on the shelf has or is a rich story. Its overwhelming for adults, and must be mind blowing for kids. Could you imagine growing up in this place?
West End Comics is a place where children (of all ages) can come to learn about and enjoy comic books. Kirk has set aside some ‘formative’ classics and select back issues which are priced as low as 25 cents each, so children will have the opportunity to dive into the mythic worlds of Batman, Superman, Captain America, Spider-man and Wonder Woman. Kirk believes comic shops could be niche libraries and give kids the opportunity to read and enjoy the classic tomes without parents having to pay full retail price for each issue.
West End Comics vends Custom Costume Statues made by 3D Printing in Toronto
There is a growing trade in fantasy lifestyle in Toronto, and now costumers can have their likeness 3D printed onto the bodies of their favourite super heroes, or they can re-imagine themselves as their own costumed crusader. My 3D Agency does 3D printing in Toronto and through their special relationship, Kirk can wave a magic wand (3D scanner) and capture anyone’s likeness in an 8 inch statue, or a piggy bank or jewellery box. This makes a very unique and special gift.
West End Comics is the comic shop that Kirk dreamed about when he was a kid.
Like most comic book collectors this man’s desire to buy and sell the artistic tabloids came from his own natural enjoyment reading and trading them when he was young; he grew up down the road and was buying Bronze Age comics in corner stores in the 1970s and 80s. Back then, all the kids reads comics and occasionally they’d visit Dragon Lady Comics downtown. That store was the Mecca of his youth. Kirk couldn’t afford to seriously shop those racks until he was older. Like most comic book collectors, at some point he stopped buying new stuff and spent his cash acquiring the best older comics he could find; he was buying his ‘investment properties’ and waiting for this day.
West End Comics is Perfect for Parkdale
The section of Queen street outside Kirk’s front window is called ‘West Queen West’, and all manner of collectors already know this neighbourhood and the ‘antiques alley’ at the corner of Queen and Roncesvalles. There’s no less than ten used furniture shops in this part of town, and they all congeal to become a shopper’s market for buying vintage goods. West End Comics is now part of this cultural milieu and thrives in this section of the city, which lies just beyond the shadow of the new condo towers where new money meets old in the part of town we call Parkdale.
Its no surprise that cool comics, games and toys do well in this culturally sophisticated quarter. Sandwiched among the antique shops in lower Parkdale is exactly where you’d expect to find the best comic shop in the city. The place opened because Kirk loves comics and he realized that there were no good shops in the West End which carried his favourite books. He knew other devotees were also searching and suspected there were more.
Kirk opened West End Comics in the autumn of 2012 and in just over five years he’s become a fixture in the community. When this author asked Kirk, what sells the best? The man replied without too much hesitation that the trade publications which are paperbacks put out by small press, indie stuff, things like that. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got tons of superhero stuff too – from traditional classics to all the new releases”. Kirk pointed to the racks of Marvel Comics, but then went on to explain how the indie novels with fresh premises were out-selling the big brand action-hero themed publications at the local level.
And of course there is mass Star Wars and Star Trek collectibles because Kirk is a fan of these science fiction titles. And while that’s predictable, the rest of the shop is full of surprises. This really isn’t a typical comic book shop as there’s odd swag here that grabs and holds different shoppers’ eyes. Unusual action figures, strange statues, castle-building and defending games and novelty items, cuff-links, piggy banks, and retro tin toys. The most pleasing part of this print paradise is how well arranged the merchandise appears on display. Shoppers scan the shelves from left to right, and the characters parade before their eyes. Everything is sorted into sections for easy perusal which begets pinpointing that perfect gift or missing collectible.
Kirk has a wide selection of graphic novels, up to date weeklies and more awesome stuff for fans, readers and collectors to explore and enjoy. This author is excited about that.
West End Comic Books has pretty good video on YouTube,
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*Bronze Age comic books denotes a period in the history of American superhero comic book to run from 1970 to 1985, and Silver Age is considered to cover the period from 1956 to circa 1970, while the Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930s to 1955.