The Silver Snail by Jordan Ferguson
Friends, if you were to look back over my body of work since it began here on 22 Pages, you might find yourself wondering if I even like comic books, what with all the bitching and bemoaning I tend to do in this space. I'll grant you, my patience for the Big Two is thin and my tolerance for the state if indie books isn't much better. These days, a book has to be really special to muster any enthusiasm from me (Oh hai, Phonogram.)
This wasn't always the case. A scant seven years ago, collecting comics was a passion, nay obsession, shared between my best friend Jeff and I. We were those guys. You know them: the guys in the shop every Wednesday with the $60 a week pull lists, checking the next week's shipping forecasts on a corkboard above the new release shelves, throwing our hands into a C-shape as we got in the car to pick up the week's new offerings.
Of course, as boys of any age are prone to do, there was a certain amount of unspoken competition to our collecting. The same way music geeks will always dig and search for the new band no one else is into yet, that's how Jeff and I could be about comics. I was on James Robinson's Starman run; Jeff was on Transmetropolitan. I fell in love with Chynna Clugston-Major's Blue Monday; Jeff was picking up the first self-published issues of Infinite Kung-Fu. Because for us, we always wanted to find something awesome that the other one hadn't heard of or read yet. And a trade paperback? That was an insult. The hunt, that was the point; that was what mattered. Sometimes that was when our LCS would turn their basement overstock into a giant quarter bin. Sometimes it was hitting up the Motor City Comic Con in Michigan. But at its best, it was Comic Shop Road Trip.
It is very likely Jeff and I visited every comic shop between Taylor, Michigan and Kingston, Ontario between the years of 2001 and 2004. It was that serious. We spent the days leading up to the trip making wish lists. We spent the hours on the road talking about what we'd read and what we wanted. We hit up the dingy and mildewed with as much vigor as the shiny and dust-free. We loved them all, but if you asked us then to pick our favourite comic shop of all the ones we hit? Hands down, The Silver Snail. No question.
Sometimes I forget that this is supposed to be a site for Toronto comic fans. Well, as a man who came to the city five short years ago, allow me to offer you Toronto comic fans a friendly reminder: you have no idea how good you have it.
Do you know what The Silver Snail meant to us when we were at the height of our collecting? It wasn't a place to stop in at on the way to Urban Outfitters. It wasn't someplace we complained about for catering to fanboyism or not being The Beguiling (and heads-up: I like TCAF as much as anyone, but The Beguiling sells superhero books too, y'all. They just hide them upstairs like a dirty secret or predatory uncle). No, a trip to The Snail was... holy. It made you feel cool for liking comics, an idea that seems quaint now but was downright revolutionary in 2001. A store like that could never exist in our city, and we never took it for granted whenever we made it up here. It was the comic shop of our dreams, filled with the books we couldn't find anywhere else, the statues we couldn't afford and staffed by tattooed, attractive, distracted girls.
But change comes to us all, as they say, and after over 35 years at the corner of Queen and Peter, The Silver Snail is moving into the heart of downtown at Yonge and Dundas. Recently, owner George Zotti walked a cameraman through the construction site (formerly the rap/soul/world music department of HMV), outlining his vision of a cafe, a children's section, iPads for digital reading and gallery space.
And I listen to him talk and I know a lot of it might be pie-in-the-sky and impractical, but I want to believe him. I find myself falling in love with the place all over again, what it is now and what it can. A rare surge of optimism in my otherwise hardened demeanor.
Zotti estimates that the new location will be open in early July, and I'll be there in opening week. Might pick up that Flex Mentallo reprint collection.
Change or die.