Ontario Street Comics: the Comic Book Utopia         

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Ontario Street Comics: The Comic Book Utopia             

 Art is the means in which individuals can express themselves through their creative medium. Philadelphia has earned its place as an outlet for these artists and their creations. From the sculptings of the Calder family with their piece The Swann Memorial Fountain down in Logan Square, or Robert Indiana's iconic Love statue in its own respective park; there's no shortage of creative talent within the city of Philadelphia. Public art is something that has always been an interesting attraction for its residents and its tourists. Whether it be seen out in a public space or in a traditional setting like one of its museums, it's there for the public to consume and learn from and possibly invoke deeper thought. Another form of art that has garnered more and more attention recently, but has been going strong since its inception is comic books. Since the recent influx of superhero movies that have come out over the last ten years, more and more people have begun to take notice of comic books and the culture surrounding it. Ontario Street Comics, a store that has been serving the Port Richmond area for over thirty years is a haven for everything comic related. By involving itself through various different programs in its surrounding community, Ontario Street Comics has solidified its place as a public art space not only for the residents of the Port Richmond area to appreciate, but also newcomers to the area as well.

Having been in the business since Nineteen-Eighty Nine, Ontario Street Comics prides itself in appearing as open and as welcome to its customers as possible. In its early beginning Ontario Street Comics started out as a warehouse for jeans, which then evolved into the flea market that William Fink would inevitably turn into Ontario Street Comics. Fink states in an interview that due to the comic book business expanding quickly, we needed to keep taking over more space for the comics over the other type of merchandising(Fink). From the outside it looks like just another old warehouse, but its massive poster of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine on the left side of the building signifies this is something far more interesting. If its poster doesn't tell you that its a comic book store, then the white buick with the giant store sign mounted to the roof will.  As soon as you walk in the door you're greeted by one of the employees who works there. It's a family run and operated business by it's owner William Fink accompanied by his wife and sons. After you're in the door however that's when the fun really begins to start. Think of those candy store trips as a kid and you get a sense of what to expect when you visit Ontario Street Comics. Pop culture posters line the walls of the store, while boxes and boxes of comic books adorn the multiple shelves. One could spend hours upon hours just looking around this store and as William Fink states many of our customers with a lot of free time do(Fink).

 In addition to providing an all around great comic book store experience, Ontario Street Comics also makes great strides in supporting its community through different programs. Sam Dunnington, a local Philadelphia journalist states in his article about various comic book stores in South Philadelphia that Fink's alter-ego is a 216 year old pirate that's active on Ontario Streets Facebook page, where he auctions comics and promotes literacy and cosplay events to 6,500 fans. Last year, he gave 900 new comics to Webster Elementary School up the street. Fink states in an interview that the pirate thing started in the 1990's. We used to have a meeting each month of comic collectors/customers. We used to recommend comics that were coming out soon. One month I recommended a Batman comic where Batman, Robin, The Joker, & Catwoman were all pirates! There were lots of ARRR's from the people in attendance and it just sort of spiraled out of control after that. This level of absurdism and playfulness speaks volumes to that of Fink's character, as not only a comic store owner but as a person. Fink and his family care deeply about their store and especially the area its located in. It's because they care so much about their community, that they host a variety of events to bring everyone together. Events such as free comic book day are not just to celebrate the importance of comics as an art form, but to encourage people who are not that well off to come celebrate. Fink states in an interview that our store is in a tough area of the city. Some of the people in this area don't have much disposable income. Our free events give them something to do with never an obligation to make a purchase. The simple act of giving away free merchandise in most businesses, is in some form or another trying to also get you to purchase something. This is not the case with an event like free comic book day. According to an interview between journalist Jana Quinn and Joe Fields, the founder of free comic book day; there are three goals of the event. Joe Fields states that the first is To invite new people of all ages into our stories to get something for free and to hopefully discover titles and characters they'll want to come back to again and again. The second goal of the event is To call back former comic book readers to reignite their love of the comics entertainment medium. Lastly the third goal of the event is To thank our many regular comic book readers and give them a party with the coolest party favors ever!. Ontario Street Comics goes above and beyond these guidelines when it comes to free comic book day, as everyone that works there cares about literacy and the good that comes from it. Literacy is another important aspect to Ontario Street Comics that is shown through their cosplay events.

In Buffy Naillon's article How Do Comic Books Promote Students Literacy Skills, Buffy goes on to talk about the validity of comics and graphic novels in the classroom. On the acquisition of skill sets aspect of the article, Buffy states Teachers have discovered that writing comics creates an avenue for students to develop important skills in reading, writing, spelling and vocabulary building. Students also get a better grasp on harder-to-teach concepts such as point of view. Finally, through the use of comics, they also learn about literary devices, which helps them to create engaging plots and write better dialogue for their characters. This idea of comic books being literacy Literacy is invaluable to Ontario Street Comics, as it's shown through their cosplay events hosted at their store. These events also include giving out free comic books, with their cosplay event Superheroes read too! being aimed to encourage kids to read. Fink says that many of the people who participate in cosplay, make their own costumes and props. That in itself is an art form. Local artists can also set up shop in front of Ontario Street Comics, where they're able to sell their artwork and comic books. By allowing them to share their work at Ontario Street Comics, it's giving them an opportunity to touch on old fans excitement for new material as well as attracting new fans unfamiliar with their work. Not only does Ontario Street Comics give back to their community at their store, their reach extends into the school system. Fink states We also give comics to a few schools that use them to promote literacy and their art programs . These events are not only key in bringing together members of the community, but to new people as well. According to Fink the local community certainly seems to enjoy our events. Many of our cosplayers have also met people and made friends at our events (Fink). By creating such a warm and inviting atmosphere, Ontario has embodied itself as more than just a comic book store, but as a literary institution in a social setting. This sense of camaraderie and community is also seen on social media through Ontario Street Comics facebook page.

Ontario posts daily updates to what new stock they have for the week, as well as posting videos of preexisting boxes of inventory that some may have missed. These videos are filmed by William Fink, and in them gives a clear idea of what the comic looks like and its pricing based on the condition of the item. Fink says that we don't hide anything here at Ontario, what you see is the truth and nothing but it. Regular and even new customers are of great importance to Ontario Street Comics, as its whole foundation relies on customer service and interaction. With the recent rise in digital streaming of comic books, some comic book shops have taken a hit from it. On the subject of this matter Fink says some customers do read lots of digital comics, and some do digital and paper, but thankfully many people still prefer paper comics. Fink also mentions that  reading digital comics is just not the same as a paper comic. I will stop selling paper comics when they pry the last one out of my cold dead hands!. Ontario Street Comics also has a separate page for its Pirate Bay Auction, a page where people can bid on different items either from the store or from the back catalog that they have. As well as keeping the community up to date with what they have to offer, Ontario also uses its power of social media to help those struggling in the community. While Ontario Street Comics has only been on facebook since 2016, it's made a tremendous effort to reach out and help residents and longtime customers who've experienced traumatic events and struggles with personal health. Just recently Ontario Street Comics set up a go fund me page, for one of its longtime customers Donald Forrest who just began his battle with cancer. On their post William Fink says that He is a great guy and often sold some of his comics on Ebay with the proceeds going to charity (Fink). Another go fund me page was established to help with the bills of an aunt whose niece and nephew were shot while trick or treating a couple blocks away from Ontario Street Comics. In this post Fink expresses This kind of crap should not happen! Especially to innocent kids caught in the crossfire on Halloween! Hoping that the both make a fast and complete recovery (Fink). Displays of generosity like this are what reinforces the ever growing character of the store.

        Ontario Street Comics is more than just a regular comic book store, it transcends past that into something far greater than itself. As a public space and business, its main goal is to draw in customers to browse and buy different products. It exceeds that stigma by going above and beyond what a comic book store should be like. Established non-profit programs such as Free Comic Book Day and Super Heroes Read Too!, are there to not only promote a positive message through literacy but to also bring together new people. Other happenings like cosplay events and promoting local artists and their work, also work to promote literacy and connect new people. Altogether Ontario Street Comics has earned its place within the Port Richmond area, as not only a public space for residents and non residents to enjoy, but as a literary institution that thrives on bringing positivity to its store and the surrounding area. It's also unique in the fact that what makes my store different is no other comic shop is run by an insane 216 year old pirate (Fink).

Works Cited

  • Dunnington, Sam. South Philly Comics Is Hosting Its Own Funeral, but It's Not a Death Knell for Other City Shops. Billy Penn, 1 Sept. 2017, billypenn.com/2017/09/01/south-philly-comics-is-hosting-its-own-funeral-but-its-not-a-death-knell-for-other-city-shops/.
  • Quinn, Jana. Interview With 'Free Comic Book Day' Founder, Joe Fields. Promotional Products Blog | Quality Logo Products (QLP), Quality Logo Products, 30 Sept. 2014, www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog/interview-fcbd-founder-joe-fields/.
  • Naillon, Buffy. How Do Comic Books Promote Students' Literacy Skills? Synonym, 26 Sept. 2017, classroom.synonym.com/comic-books-promote-students-literacy-skills-5952.html.
  • Fink, William. Ontario St. Comics. Facebook, 03 Dec. 2018, www.facebook.com/pg/OntarioComics/posts/?ref=page_internal.
  • Fink , William. Ontario Street Comics: What About It? 03 Dec. 2018.

Visual Texts

  • Fink , William. Aisle Pictures of Ontario Street Comics . Facebook, 17 Aug. 2013, www.facebook.com/OntarioComics/photos/a.548635725185512/548635735185511/?type=3&theater.
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Ontario Street Comics: The Comic Book Utopia         . (2019, Dec 31). Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from

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