The Secret Origin of the Comics Embassy with Interviews

by: Guest

 By Adira Rotstein

Some comic fans & creators in Toronto may have noticed a new presence on Spadina. Located above a watch shop near Kensington Market the “Comics Embassy” has some people perplexed as to what it is: school, shop or studio?

Whether you haven’t noticed it yet or have been wondering constantly about it over
 your red bean pastries at the bakery across the street, TdotComics 
is proud to bring you the Secret Origin of the Comics Embassy and its awesome 
mission in our Fair City!

After speaking with a number of people involved in the project I learned that the 
Comics Embassy was the brainchild of former “Holmes Inc” artist and Sheridan
 College graduate Megan Kearney. The Embassy Studio whose permanent occupants are comics creators Megan 
Kearney of the “Beauty and the Beast” web comic and  Savannah Mackintosh and Brice 
Hall of “The Adventures of Adam Brochu”, as well as Sam 
Noir.  There is also a desk available to be rented out on 
a monthly basis. The spare desk is currently occupied by “Steampunk Vixens” creators Rachael Wells and Jason Tocewicz.
 The third component is Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Boot Camp which occupies the 
school room at the front of the studio.

To learn more about the mission of the Comics Embassy I sat down with some of
 the ambassadors themselves, Ty Templeton and Brice Hall. Aside from being a
 noted teacher on the comics scene in Toronto for many years Ty Templeton has also served as 
the artist and writer of “All Ages Spider-man” for Marvel comics, “the Simpsons”
 for Bongo Comics and Batman
 Adventures for DC, for which he won an Eisner award.

TdotComics: Hi guys! Thanks for being here. So tell me, how did the Comics Embassy
 come into being?

TY: The Comics Embassy was started as a result of some friendships and
 professional associations among people who were working together in my Boot
 Camp courses. At the end of the year we do this self published comic called “Holmes
 Incorporated” and the end of the year about six or seven people decided they 
wanted to keep the energy going after the project was finished, so they wanted to
get a studio space together so they could continue to work together. That’s what this was–
a place for them to get together and retain that energy. The space they found 
to rent had a fairly sizable room in front. I needed a new location for running
 my boot camp and so it just worked out very nicely. I went in a week and half from
 wondering where I was going to go, if I was going to rent some rooms at OISE and
 about a week and a half later I had a permanent space and I didn’t even have to do 

BRICE: I was working full time and that job was ending around the time that all of 
us were involved in Ty’s Fit to Print course at the Cartoonist Workshop. A number 
of us were looking for a studio space and Megan Kearney came in. Meagan told us 
she found a great place which it turned out was this one. I was on board right away. 
I’d always wanted to get serious about making comics. I wanted to find a studio
 space. I was going to find another place, but this was a perfect opportunity, kind of
 like wish fulfillment. I think it was for all of us involved.

TdotComics: What interested you in comics? Was there one particular comic that got you
 into it?

BRICE: Not one in particular. I just always read and was always fascinated by the
 stories they told. I went to a French Immersion school where there were bandes desinees 
and there was “Tin Tin” and “Asterix” and there were the ones I don’t think the librarian 
knew were there. Some were pretty graphic. I ate them right up. And there were
 these `50s horror ones that my dad had. I remember reading those and they’ve 
always just been around in one form or another. I enjoy drawing so being able
 to tell stories with drawing is just a natural thing. And cartoons, cartoons were a
 strong influence.

TdotComics: Ty, as a teacher what makes your approach to teaching comics unique?

TY: The way I approach teaching is really about two things. First off I do not do 
anything from a theoretical point of view, I’m a person who does this for a living and
 I write and draw comics every day. When I’m teaching I don’t say “Here’s what I 
read in a book that other people made.” I literally go through my thought processes
 as I create and I try to teach it like a trade school even though it’s an artistic, creative
 thing to do. I’m treating it like this is how you make refrigerators, and this is how
 I make refrigerators and the lessons I teach are e things I do when I get up in
the morning to work so they’re much more applicable than theoretical. Second, I 
believe that these are skills you learn how to do and once you learn to do them you
 learn they’re not innate things, they’re not something inborn. People tell you that 
because they don’t want you to realize you can do it, that you can learn to do it and
 it’s easy and fun. Nobody says you have a talent for tying shoes, because we 
realize that that’s something you have to learn how to do, but they don’t realize that 
you have to learn how to illustrate and you have to learn how to write a story and so
 I think it’s roughly the same thing. Once you learn how to tie your shoes, you can do 
it well.

TdotComics: What projects are you currently working on in the comics field?

BRICE: I’ve currently just launched the “Adventures of Adam Brochu.” It’s been
 around in one form or another since grade five and it is based on a friend of mine.
There is a real Adam Brochu!

TdotComics: Is he aware that there’s a comic based on his life?

BRICE: It’s not his real life. He’s just been turned into a kind of vigilante in the

TdotComics: So he doesn’t fight ninjas in real life?

BRICE: He may, he’s a pilot. I’m now sketching up the outlines for issue two and
Ed (Ed Leung aka Sam Noir) is writing. I’ve also got various things planned. Just
drawing here and there and kicking some other ideas around.

TdotComics: I’ve always been curious about this. What’s your theory, why do you think
 Toronto has so many comic shops and local comics creators?

TY: Toronto is a uniquely entertainment hungry city. It’s not just that they have a
lot of comic shops, but we are also the highest per capita consumers of films and
the highest per capita consumers of novels and I believe the highest per capita
consumers of television in Toronto in the world. In the world! So we’re actually the
highest film-going city on the planet.

TdotComics:: So we’re just starved for entertainment?

TY: I think it’s just a combination of things. We have a sophisticated international
city and up until global warming it was cold all the time! So we didn’t do a lot of
 outdoor activities because it’s snowing, so I think as Toronto grew up we always
went indoors for entertainment. We go in for films. We like to watch movies and
sports, we like to do things that don’t require us to be outdoors for long periods of
time. We like indoor entertainment. In Buffalo, I think they seem to be hardier, they 
seem to go outdoors more. Also, I think a reason we have a lot of cartoonists here
is that we’ve had a proud tradition of famous cartoonists coming from Toronto and
it’s inspired a lot of people from here. The reason why I do this is that when I was a
kid I knew that the most famous cartoonist in the business, Joe Shuster who created
“Superman,” came from Toronto. I knew the guy who was drawing “the X-men” at
 the time, John Byrne lived in Oshawa which is just outside Toronto.

TdotComics: No way! Does he still live there?

TY: No, he lives in California now I think, but he was a Canadian. John Byrne. That’s 
where Wolverine comes from.

TdotComics: That’s why Wolverine comes from Canada?

TY: And then the whole “Alpha Flight” team which was John Byrne as well. They were
a well-known Canadian superhero team. You didn’t know he was Canadian? Holy
cow! That was a big deal to me when I was a kid. The guy who was inking “Batman” comics, a guy called Bob Smith, he used to live about two miles from my house when
I was a little kid. I grew up in Mississauga and so a part of me would just say, wow,
you can be from here and you can make comics. You don’t have to live in New York 
City, other Torontonians are doing it. It just didn’t start when I came around, it’s
been around since the forties or fifties.

TdotComics: Do you think those avenues are still open to Canadian comics creators

TY: I believe every avenue is open to creators today and even more so because the 
internet allows you to get in touch with anybody instantly. You can put up your
work and then bang! It’s being seen by somebody in Botswana and Japan and that’s
all you ever need—an opportunity to be seen. Now the meritocracy of ANYONE
 can be seen means that all you have to do is be good. You can’t win being mediocre 
anymore. That’s the one difference– that second rate people get thrown away
because we have so much more access to the first rate people so opportunities are
for people who are good.

TdotComics: What do you think is the mission of the Comics Embassy?

TY: The Comics Embassy is the building that houses the studio and the school and
I don’t really have a say in what the people in the studio do, they could be trying to
overthrow the world for all I know! I hope their mission is to create great comic
books and promote their work, that’s their mission. The mission of the school, the
only part I really have control over the, the mission of the school is to introduce
everybody to the opportunity to be good. That the skills that you need to be a better
writer, a better illustrator or better inker, better layout artist or anything to do
with comics we can teach you here so that you have the opportunity to become that
person you aspire to be. The thing that I think frustrates most people is that the
idea in their head won’t go onto the paper the way they want it to. That’s what I
teach– that I can take it from your head or that you can take it from your head and
put it on the paper and you will have very little signal to noise loss because you’re
able to now use that skill.

For those looking to hire artists or writers through the Comic Embassy contact the 
facebook page. 
For people interested in the Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Boot Camp check out the
website at:

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