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Kawhi Life: A game so bold it jumps off the page in Toronto

Kawhi Leonard has admitted that the regular season is more of a practice for him. When he does choose to flex his skills, Kawhi reminds us of the superhuman feats of which he’s capable.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week In Toronto

On a day when the new Avengers: Endgame trailer was released, and we hit page seven of Point Man (our ongoing webcomic, just FYI), it feels appropriate to talk about the event coming to Toronto this weekend — lest you be surprised by some overeager cosplayers.

As has been tradition as of late, the Toronto Comicon rolls through downtown TO starting this Friday and running through to Sunday. Much like its counterpart in December, the Comicon offers up a huge floor space for vendors trading every kind of comic book, collectible, and art piece imaginable. To be clear, this runs well beyond Marvel and DC, the big two companies, to everything in between. What comes with that? Well, there’s the mega big stuff — like, for example, the chance to meet the original Hellboy, Ron Perlman, or, uh, Erkel — right down to the lesser known wares of Artist Alley. (I won’t lie, I hope to one day have a booth there too.) It’s a lot.

Between those two smaller events is the King Kong of comic conventions in Toronto: FanExpo, running for four days in late August. Think of everything I just described above and then multiple it by a factor of at least two. More stuff being sold, more people in costumes, more celebrities, more... everything. I admit, it’s all grown a tad overwhelming to me as a consumer, but I’m still glad it exists. Where else can I get a great deal (US cover price, no tax!) on some good trade paperbacks?

One of my personal favourite traditions at the cons (besides the deals) has become greeting the same vendors each and every time I showed up. It was, in a sense, a comfort to see the same people at the same booths, some offering the same deals, or providing some new book or art they didn’t have before. Over time, more people I’ve met from other walks of life have gotten involved, some selling their own comic and art work. As a result, the crush of celebrity has gradually faded away and the convention has become a way to celebrate local talent and local business. It’s why the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) in May has grown so much in my estimation, and why its year-round store in the Toronto Reference Library is such a valuable resource.

Comic book stores in Toronto are no new thing, of course, even if they’ve been forced to move and change over time. There was a day you could walk west on Queen Street and find Silver Snail, since relocated to Yonge and nestled onto the second floor of a dense commercial building, where now remains a gap in the landscape. Or you could head over to Mirvish Village, just west of Honest Ed’s, and find the Beguiling, which has since shifted south to College Street to escape the flattening of its former home.

For convoluted history in this regard nothing beats the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery — for which I have a soft spot. It began under the name Dragon Lady Comics on College, relocated to an upper floor on the same block and, for a time, offered printing services — via Guerilla Printing — and a whole suite of classes through Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Bootcamp. Did I take writing classes there years ago? You better believe it! Do I have a Mike Del Mundo (a local artist!) print purchased from there hanging on my wall? Yes again! The whole space is vacant now, last I checked, but its spirit persists at a studio over on Spadina called the Comic Book Embassy.

With the comic book movie craze showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, it feels impossible to imagine a future where comic book stores and their assorted paraphernalia are not present in Toronto. And as for the conventions, well, they’ve only been growing too. FanExpo was once a smaller three-day event (at least the first time I attended a decade ago), occupying one half of the Toronto Convention Centre. It’s since grown to a four-day mega event, consuming the entire north and south halls of the TCC. (The cost to attend has also skyrocketed, but I’ll leave that part alone.)

Taking it all in, a theme emerges: there is something for everyone at the various comic shops and convention events in Toronto. This, despite even the more toxic elements of fandom which seek to ruin the welcoming space that’s been created over time for everyone. And while my love of, say, FanExpo has transformed over the years into something personal to me, my appreciation for the whole scene has only grown — yes, even for those crazy cosplayers.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(But we have to ask: is Kawhi a comic book fan? It doesn’t feel that impossible. Most of the time, when a pro basketball player mentions having seen or enjoyed a movie, one of the rest Marvel — or even DC — films is mentioned. They’re impossible to miss, really, and the easiest to sink into after a hard days work at the office — of which Kawhi’s had a few. I also imagine he has to occupy his mind with something while being load managed? How much basketball and training can a person possibly go through?

Or, or maybe that’s Kawhi’s super-power, maybe he can commit himself so thoroughly to basketball that he checks out on all other things. In trying to thing of a power comparison, my mind keeps coming back to the Juggernaut. Now, he’s a character totally unlike Leonard in temperament — but in ability? Let’s just say few [if any] can stop Kawhi when he decides to get moving downhill. Sure, his opponents try, but they haven’t really been able to slow him down. Am I wrong about this? Do we have a better Kawhi comic book character comparison?)