One of the many things that make Oshawa such a unique city is its wide range of alternative voices in the arts. Within the city, there is a very vital community of graffiti artists, comic book artists and writers, spoken word poets, gamers, and others who populate the fringe of mainstream culture. Those among the 15,000 who attended the city’s inaugural arts festival, Convergence, in September 2023 would have met many of the members of this community.
This February, there are several opportunities to check in again on these homegrown poets, punks, comedians and comic writers with a string of events taking place throughout the month.
Wednesday, February 7, poets and prose writers are invited to perform at the Valentine’s Day edition of Hometown Spoken Word hosted by Berry Hill Food Co., located at 82 King St. West. For those who wish to partake, the writing prompt is stories of love and heartbreak. The publisher and editor of Wunderlit magazine, Chris Wunderlich, will be on site. Wunderlit is a quarterly magazine which publishes local poets and illustrators. The mag is distributed at cafes and galleries across south-eastern Ontario.
Saturday, February 10, Wunderlit hosts its own launch party at Kops Records, 34 King St. East. This is for the 14th edition of the mag. The event is a gathering of contributors but is open to the public. Along with several spoken word poets, three comedians from Punx Can’t Laugh in Toronto will also be featured. The launch is being presented in association with two neighbouring businesses: Fluffliies, a new Japanese pancake cafe located at 10 Ontario St. and one of the oldest businesses in the downtown core, Worlds Collide Comics.
Worlds will be at Kops to speak about their own launch event on Saturday, February 17. They have Oshawa-raised comic book author Ed Brisson in store for the publication of his new comic, ‘The Displaced.’ Brisson moved to B.C. and currently lives in the Maritimes. He has worked on such high-profile projects as Batman, Ghost Rider, and Predator.
His new book is a crime mystery; the promo reads, ‘The City of Oshawa, Ontario and its 170,000 residents have vanished without a trace. No one remembers it even existed. As the survivors of the incident start to become forgotten as well, they must seek each other out if they hope to have any chance of surviving in a world where no one believes they ever existed at all.’
“Every time I managed to get back to Oshawa to visit, it felt like I was losing my connection to it’" Says Brisson. “Things would change – the theatre I remember going to was replaced by a newer theatre; the mall was completely renovated, almost unrecognizable on the inside; the field I used to play in was developed into an outdoor mall; and on and on. The Oshawa of my childhood was vanishing. So, it was my own feelings of isolation, of being a stranger in a place where I’d lived most of my life, that really kicked off the germ of the idea for this book. The Displaced takes that feeling and brings it to the extreme.”
This love story to Brisson’s hometown is out on February 14. Brisson, along with illustrator Richard Pace, will be at Worlds Collide for a signing. Price has created a special limited-run cover for the book, which will be available exclusively at the store.
"Feeding Your Imagination since 1982!" is the slogan long used by Worlds Collide owner Tim Simms (The shop was formerly known as Unicorn Comics). For over 40 years, the store located at 80 Simcoe Street North has been a hub and refuge for many of the city’s young comic book readers and collectors, several of whom, like Brisson, have gone on to have illustrious careers in the comic book industry worldwide.
Brew Wizards Board Game Cafe has also been a refuge for the comic-con and gamer community in the city. Along with regular games nights, the cafe (and craft beer bar) located at 74 Celine St. East has live music. Saturday, February 17, punk rockers Wasting Time, thrashers Bare Minimum, and the grungy Wednesday Bender will be on the bill.
Music, comics, games, collectibles, and all the paraphernalia of indie culture have created an alternative self-sustaining ecosystem in Oshawa. In addition to established stores, there are also online entrepreneurs and flea market vendors. Trade shows are a perfect welcome opportunity for the dealers to get together, and one of the city’s longest-running trade shows takes place at Lviv Hall, 38 Lviv Boulevard, on Sunday, February 25.
The Oshawa Record Show has been trading all things music and sharing music histories since 1988. Originally held in Whitby, the trade show moved to Oshawa in 2004. With over 50 vendors selling records, CDs, cassettes, posters, toys, T-shirts, books, mags, and collectibles, the show draws upwards of a thousand people to the event.
As with all cities, Oshawa’s culture creators create in the liminal spaces, in between the institutions, on the side streets and away from the mainstream. February offers an opportunity to visit the city’s DIY punks and indie entrepreneurs, gathering in their own spaces, while the city builds towards its own Fall culture gathering of music and art, Convergence.