Have a look at some of The Beguiling’s rarest comic books
For 30 years, The Beguiling sat at 601 Markham Street, a frequent stop for local comic lovers and an occasional pilgrimage for geeky out-of-towners with a few extra hours between flights. “I like that people can’t imagine the city without us,” says shop owner Peter Birkemoe. They don’t have to. Though The Beguiling shut its Mirvish Village doors this month, it’s now up and running in a new 900-square-foot College Street space that houses most of the shop’s old collection of eccentric comics and zines.
“I heard a bookseller once say a move is worse than a fire,” Birkemoe says. “I never wanted to believe that, but I’m starting to understand what he’s talking about.” The exodus involved several blowout sales and a lot of heavy lifting, but it also yielded some unexpected finds: rare gems that have accumulated and been tucked away over three decades. We asked Birkemoe to show us some of the most curious and iconic items that emerged during the move.
Gothic Blimp Works No. 3
“The Gotham Blimp Works was a counterculture newspaper, like New York’s The East Village Other,” says Birkemoe. “This is one of the very few that is all comix.” Comix, as opposed to comics, describes underground artists from the 1960s and ’70s, distinct from more commercial ventures. This original 1969 newsprint includes works by some of the most influential artists from that movement, like Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, Kim Deitch and S. Clay Wilson. It would be a treasure to any collector; at The Beguiling, it got lost behind a desk for 15 years. “I’m sure there was a moment where I thought this was special,” said Birkemoe. “So I put it someplace safe, and it was very safe.”
Famous Funnies No. 36
“This is early. This is before Superman,” Birkemoe says of this issue of Famous Funnies, which sold for 10 cents in 1937. It was one of several 1930s comics that a customer gave to the store a couple of years ago. “He said he wanted us to have them. He wouldn’t accept any money.” Birkemoe loves the fountain pen drawings made by the original owner.
Marvel Tales No. 10
The Beguiling once acquired a collection that included this 1967 issue of Marvel Tales. The cover had fallen off, so the comic’s owner decided to redraw the cover to the best of their charming ability. “Sometimes things are too good to sell,” said Birkemoe, “and it’s not always because they’re worth anything of value.”
Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius, was a French cartoonist and forefather to contemporary fantasy art. He illustrated countless voyages through uncanny spaces in comics like Arzach and Blueberry, and frequently collaborated with the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. The Beguiling carries one volume that’s a little harder to find than others: 2011’s Voyage d’Hermes, a promotional comic for the French clothing label Hermes.
In 1997, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe raked in billions of box office dollars, Marvel declared bankruptcy. So Tom Devlin, later an editor at Drawn and Quarterly, put together this rare oddity. It’s a mock benefit book that lovingly mocked Marvel’s dire straits, featuring a bunch of non-superhero artists drawing ’90s heroes: Danny Hellman on Nick Fury, Mat Brinkman on Warlock, Brian Ralph on Iron Man, Brian Chippendale on Daredevil. The cover was created by Canada’s own Seth.
Lose No. 1
In the last decade, Toronto’s Michael DeForge has become one of the most prolific artists in the indie comics scene. His longest running series, Lose, helped start not only his own career but that of local publisher Koyama Press. Released in 2009, the first issue of Lose follows a struggling artist as he wades through hell. The book proposes that there is a netherworld of forgotten cartoon heroes who fade from consciousness and wallow about their golden years—time has not been kind to the likes of Dick Tracy, FoxTrot, Swamp Thing and Bullwinkle. It’s a sought-after item, given DeForge seems reluctant to republish the story (it’s not included in Lose anthologies). The book’s flagrant disregard for copyright probably has something to do with it.