Right here in Hamilton, Ontario, a brand new art space and retail location called Hammer Comics celebrated its grand opening.
Hammer Comics is not just a retail store that sells comics – of course they do that – but it is also the studio space of local artist Mike Gagnon who is a writer, illustrator and production and colours for various publishers. He has worked with Dark Horse and Marvel Comics.
Here is the short interview I had with Mike Gagnon:
Me: So you have a long history with the Comics Industry in a variety of ways. Explain exactly what this Hammer Comics is.
MG: Hammer Comics is a comic studio and artspace with retail product as well. We have new and used graphic novels. The key feature is that this is where I work out of as my studio. Previously I had been working out of my home for years and I have been getting really involved with the arts community in Hamilton and the folks at Homegrown Hamilton.
A friend of mine, who owns a print shop in the same building, told me there was an opportunity for a spot in here to do something public and I just felt the next step in my career right now is to kind of get the word out, and meet more people first hand and expand my own self promotion and get really involved in the business and arts community locally.
People can come in and watch me work. Get custom sketches, see me work on comics. There is also going to be other artists moving in later in the fall too. Ron Gravelle who is a small press comics veteran has been doing it for decades. He and I are working together on a graphic novel right now called Skidsville which is going to be black white and red. It’s a crime noir story that takes place right here in Hamilton.
Me: You are but feet away from one of the set locations of Kick-Ass (half a block from Hammer Comics), so I guess this area is no stranger to fictional crime.
Me: How big would you say the comic creator industry is in Hamilton?
MG: It seems to be in the last few years, the number of comic creators in Hamilton is growing. A lot of them are people who have lived here and moved away, and now somehow come back. I have met people randomly on the convention circuit over the last year who were from Hamilton before I lived here. In the last couple years, just by happenstance, they have all ended up moving back here.
There is a growing arts culture, and growing arts scene and any kind of arts goes along with that. Some, particularly in Hamilton, speculate that the shrinking of the industrial sector has left people with free time on their hands to explore something they have always wanted to do.
Me: So is the idea of Hammer Comics to always be small and personal, or is this planting a seed with hopes of growing and expanding?
I would say small and personal right now. I don’t have plans for a bigger spot anytime soon. I want to get comfortable here. I will also be teaching at an animation school this fall for Digital Comic Book Production. A friend of mine, Shane Kirshenblatt, who runs a business that provides after school programs to teach elementary school kids to draw, will be expanding into the Hamilton Area this fall and I will also be helping with that program.
Me: You also list yourself as being involved in Heroized? Tell me about that.
MG: Heroized is a unique business and personality branding service that is owned by X-Company out of Australia, with offices in New York and Poland. I am one of the two people in the company that work in Canada. I manage the Heroized Branding Services for them. What they do is take public personalities, small business owners, corporate management teams etc. and turn them into their own individual superhero character, based on their job and their hobbies. This image is then used for their branding and promotion. It becomes part of their marketing strategy, where they position themselves as the superhero of their industry – the superhero of their job. The idea behind that is that superheroes have become so much of the collective subconscious, that it is an instant positive reaction.
Me: We are in an era of blockbuster films heavily focused on superheroes. That sounds like a great opportunity to tap into that image for marketing purposes.
Also in attendance was, Jim Felker, the Official voice of Kermit the Frog for Canadian appearances. Kermit had a chat with my boy, then tried to shake me down for cash!
All in all, a fun time at Homegrown Cafe Hamilton, visiting with Hammer Comics and meeting other geeky artists, musicians and fans.