Reflections on Ontario Street Comic Book Marketplace

Nestled between a parking lot and a tattoo parlor lies the Ontario Street Comic Book Marketplace. The narrow storefront hides its actual behemoth of an interior. The first centerpiece sways by the entrance. Tethered to the right side of the door by rope and padlocks, a broad, blow-up Hulk looms two feet over the average customer.

The typical population of Ontario Street Comics includes me, the staff, and other customers. The self-monikered “Captain of the Great Ship Ontario” is the owner named Bill. He is an old, white-bearded man with crooked teeth fitting of his “212-year old” pirate persona. His two sons work behind the counter. Although there is little family resemblance, they all share a personality trait of not being able to look a customer in the eyes.

As I enter, the door is plastered with comic book posters and multiple certificates which declare Ontario Street Comics the “Best Comic Book Store in Philadelphia” award winner for many years since 2013. The immediate view of the shop is blocked by a multitude of display cases that house various action figures, statues, and DVDs. Following the path deeper into the store reveals another divide, this time a myriad of pegboards stretching to the back of the building. The boards are lined mostly with action figures, many now displayed on my shelves. The divide separates the main storefront into two hallways. Hanging above the entire store is a banner featuring the poster from the 2000 film Unbreakable, which filmed some scenes at the comic book store (as well as it’s sequel, 2019’s Glass).

As I cross to the right side, shelves of trade paperbacks and graphic novels line the opposite side of the divide, along with more action figures. A narrow hallway between the bookshelves and counter leads to another bookshelf filled with Japanese manga. The prominent display cases are in this back section. A collection of busts, statues, and expensive collectibles make up the inventory.

Closer to the entrance of the divide is the counter. It is decked with last minute impulse buys, some of which I have fallen victim to, and a cheap looking calculator. Before the counter is the “New Releases of the Week” wall. The shelf is old, brown, eight comic books high, and another 12 or so wide.

Deeper down the rabbit hole, a room larger than two living rooms has been organized into two sections. The deeper portion of this room is a collection of long boxes, the kind one would use to move one’s belongings, stuffed to capacity with back issues of comic book series long since cancelled. The nearer portion is another wall of recent releases; however, these are back issues, previous releases, of the recent books.

Ontario Comic Book Marketplace was almost a second home to me. Between the wonderful stories told both fictionally in the comics and in the reality of the store, Ontario Street Comics holds as many memories to me as it does my dollars.

But I haven’t stepped foot in the store front in years. I now live closer to Ontario Street as a soon-to-be college graduate than I did as a plucky high school student looking forward to my weekly visit to the comic book store. Someday, I will again board the Great Ship Ontario. I hope the visit reignites my passion and brings fond memories. As I come to a major transition in my life, I’d love to reconnect with my nostalgic past as I approach my hopeful future.




A Business Analytics, Economcs, Finance, & Operations Management quadruple major at Widener University, Evan is also a writer, singer, and photographer

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Evan Davis

Evan Davis

A Business Analytics, Economcs, Finance, & Operations Management quadruple major at Widener University, Evan is also a writer, singer, and photographer

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