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Write On Ottawa: Mirror Comics and the geek culture renaissance

By Alejandro Bustos on May 1, 2014

The creation of comic books is not something that many people would associate with Ottawa – unless, of course, you include the cartoonish behaviour that regularly occurs on Parliament Hill.

If you peer a littler closer, however, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Canada’s capital city is booming with local artists.  In fact, the growing number of locally produced comics is so impressive, the word “renaissance” has been used by some to describe the emerging geek culture in town.

One of the leaders in this creative boom is Ottawa-based Mirror Comics, which has been publishing high-quality comic books and graphic novels over the past few years.

Co-founded in 2010 by Dominic Bercier (president/publisher) and Allan Isfan (vice-president marketing and web), the company’s growing reputation has led them to collaborate with artists from around the globe.  This artistic work has led them to publish about eight books per year since 2011, or more than 25 titles in total.

“We’ve worked with about 20 creators in only three short years of publishing,” says Bercier.  “About 25% are Ottawa based creators.  Another 25% are from Toronto and the GTA.  The other 50% are from all over the world including the USA, Europe and South America.”

Originally publishing solely in digital form, Mirror Comics decided in 2012 to branch out into printed books.  They also brought on Kristopher Waddell, who is now a co-publisher and editor-in-chief.

Image from Ghost King courtesy of Mirror Comics

Image from Ghost King courtesy of Mirror Comics

Thanks to the highly creative work of Bercier and Waddell, comic book fans can pick from a wide range of works, which are quite different from each other in terms of both narrative and drawing styles.

For instance, Ghost King is set in ancient China and tells the story of the young warrior Water Dragon who is tasked by the Emperor to track down and defeat a renegade general.

Drawn with a minimalist approach that echoes Asian drawings, this black and white graphic novel displays a fair amount of artistic ambition.

Image from Zomkey's courtesy of Mirror Comics

Image from Zomkeys courtesy of Mirror Comics

The Zomkeys series, meanwhile, is an old-fashioned thriller about zombie monkeys.  The premise of the story is that a nature preserve has been contaminated by factory pollution, and that this toxic sludge has transformed the monkeys into violent killers.

Drawn in colour, this promising series will appeal to readers who enjoy supernatural and/or zombie stories that are filled with adventure and fast-paced action.

Then there is the three-part Mission Arizona that has been combined into a graphic novel.  This interesting tale describes how Padre Martin Risk is overcome with grief after the death of his bride and new born son.

Image from Mission Arizona courtesy of Mirror Comics

Image from Mission Arizona courtesy of Mirror Comics

In desperation, Padre Risk trades his soul to the devil in return for the child.  Year’s later, the young boy, now a grown man who has become an outcast and loner, returns to Mission Arizona where he has to confront the waiting devil, while atoning for his father’s sins.

This wide of range of stories and artistic styles is something that Mirror Comics purposely sets out to do.

“We work in different styles and genres and the story should ALWAYS guide the artwork,” Bercier tells Apartment613 in an email.  “We have, since our creation, delved into drama, fantasy, science fiction, horror, comedy, B-Movie homage, folklore, action-adventure, superhero and even weird western . . . .

“Each book has to be as different from our other books as possible.  That keeps it interesting for us.  We are trying to map out as much territory in the realms of art and literature as possible.  Clichés are death.”

While most of their titles are for mature readers, they also have a children’s book called Please Daddy, Hold My Hand, which will be released in a brand new redux edition at this Saturday’s free comic book day event at The Comic Book Shoppe at 1400 Clyde Avenue in Nepean.  This new edition will also be available at Ottawa ComicCon 2014 that is taking place from May 9-11, in which Mirror Comics will attend.

Image from Challenger courtesy of Mirror Comics

Image from Challenger courtesy of Mirror Comics

When asked to describe the local comic book publishing scene, Bercier is quick to praise his fellow fans of comics.

“We came about during Ottawa’s Geek Renaissance a few years ago and so it seems that we could not have planned it better.  Geek chic is in and it’s here to stay,” he says.  “There have always been nerds and geeks and artists in the capital, but since Ottawa ComicCon’s inaugural show in 2012, we have suddenly realised that these maligned social types are legion.

“The arts and culture scene is vibrant and alive in Ottawa while time remains for one to be creative and productive here.  We love the capital, and Ottawa has been very receptive to Mirror Comics.”

The company has several other titles that they hope to release, including converting Zomkeys into a graphic novel.  This month, meanwhile, the graphic novel Big Box Apocalypse is set to be released, which brings together a mini-series originally released in 2013 by Kristopher Waddell and Tom Szyc.

Other titles in the works are Bring Me to Life, an Evanescence adaptation by the cartooning duo of Rodrigo Moreira Pinto and Deivs Mello from Brazil, and plans to bring back the 1970s satirical superhero Captain Canada for an epic finale.

You can purchase titles by Mirror Comics at The Comic Book Shoppe’ (228 Bank Street and 1400 Clyde Avenue), Myths Legends and Heroes (240 Montreal Road) and online. They are also available in Toronto, Halifax and Moncton.  The long term plan is to expand to Montreal and Western Canada in the coming year, and then be distributed throughout North America.