Toronto

Female creators take the lead in new homegrown comics anthology

Toronto’s diverse spirit has elbowed its way into a new comics anthology, putting female artists and writers on centre stage and highlighting rarely seen facets of life in the city.

New book highlights Toronto’s back alleys, bike routes and unspoken histories

All is not well at Trinity Bellwoods Park on the cover of this year's Toronto Comics anthology, 'Osgoode as Gold.' (Toronto Comics)

Toronto's diverse spirit has elbowed its way into a new comics anthology, putting female artists and writers on centre stage and highlighting rarely seen facets of life in the city.

Osgoode as Gold, the fifth annual anthology from Toronto Comics, takes readers from a streetcar-ride inspired meditation on the legacy of residential schools to a clandestine bike ride on the flooded Toronto Islands.

The goal, explained lead editor Stephanie Cooke, was to "usher in new audiences and diversify the stories that are being told" in comics.

The anthology is available through a Toronto Comics kickstarter campaign for the month of March, and will be more widely distributed in stores after that.

"White men kind of gravitate to [comics]," she acknowledged, adding that given Toronto's diversity, "there's so many stories that could be told."

In Osgoode as Gold, that means stories like Shift, written by Ardo Omer and illustrated by Katherine Olenic, in which two women stand sentry at a rift in time and space at the intersection of Jane and Steeles.

On the job watching over the Jane and Steeles rift in Shift. (Toronto Comics)

Another story, Finkel and Sons, goes back in time to the 1933 riot at Christie Pits park, when a swastika flag unfurled at a baseball game erupted into a violent brawl.

In the story, the Jewish protagonist battles against his father for permission to run to the park and wade into the fracas, eventually succeeding and taking off, bat in hand.

Kat Verhoeven's favourite coloured page from the anthology. (Kat Verhoeven)

Kat Verhoeven, one of the more than 50 contributors to the anthology, said her desire going in was to "show as many sides of Toronto as possible."

In her piece, that means drawing on her experience working in catering and as a bike courier to create a high-speed romance story.

Finkel and Sons, by Sam Ruano, Xan Grey, Nechama Frier, and Andrew Thomas, imagines one boy's perspective on the 1933 Christie Pits riot. (Toronto Comics)

The story, called The Flight, even references the hill on Pottery Road — a touchstone for any cyclist after a "speed high," said Verhoeven.

She told CBC Toronto that though she feels she's been lucky as a female comics creator, "I know so many women and diverse creators who have had issues" with finding acceptance.

"They do seem to be getting better," she said. "But it's an ongoing dialogue."  

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