Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Eddy Smet Award

Last fall at the 2nd Annual Forest City Comicon, I was thrilled to be awarded the inaugural "Eddy Smet Award", which recognizes an individual's contribution to the advancement of nerd culture in London, Ontario.

This was a real honour for me because it’s pretty safe to say that if it wasn’t for Eddy Smet, I wouldn’t be the person I am today much less a cartoonist.

That's because as a young girl (who had a penchant for comic books), my Mom would drop me off every Saturday at the local comic book store, The Comic Book Collector, while she did her grocery shopping at Valdi’s down the street on Dundas St. in London, Ontario.

Run by Eddy and his wife Zorka, the Comic Book Collector was a real family business and they always made me feel welcome when I walked through the door. Eddy was a full-time Math Professor at Western University who loved comic books and who opened the store in 1979 (making it one of the first comic book stores in Canada if not North America).

Eddy Smet, circa 1980
The odd time Zorka’s mother (who often worked the cash register), would question some of my choices, but that just me laugh. I distinctly remember her frowning when she rang up my purchase of Frank Miller’s Wolverine #1 – “What’s a nice girl like you doing with a comic like this?”, but the Smet’s knew me and my taste in comics. When family members would come in to buy me Birthday or Christmas presents, the Smets always knew what I had already, and what would be the right gift for me - like a Silver Age appearance of Adam Strange in Mystery in Space.

Eddy Smet and the Canadian Whites
The Smets ending up selling the Comic Book Collector in 1986, but Eddy remained a fixture on the comic book scene. I would see him at comic shows going through the back-issue bins looking to fill in gaps in his personal collection. Dells and Westerns were his favourites. In fact I saw him at the Forest City Comicon, he's still trying to fill in some gaps in his collection.

In 2009, he donated a substantial amount of his personal collection (about 8,000 comics) to Western University to their Archives. At the time, it was believed to be the largest and most valuable collection of comic books ever donated to a Canadian university.

Then just this year, Eddy decided to donate another chunk of his collection including 125 "Canadian Whites" comics, which included Triumph-Adventure Comics #2, featuring the first appearance of Nelvana of the Northern Lights (one of the earliest female superheroes, pre-dating even Wonder Woman).

Eddy Smet and a "Canadian White"
Photo courtesy of the London Free Press

I’ve avidly collected comics for over 35 years now and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve come across any “Canadian Whites” comic books. The white existed to fill a vacuum created because American comics were banned in Canada during WWII due to restricted trades of non-essential goods. So some enterprising companies opened up their own publishing houses and printed comics starring original Canadian characters like Johnny Canuck and drawn by Canadian creators - like Adrian Dingle, Gerald Lazare and Jon St. Ables.

When trade restrictions were lifted at the end of the war, Canadian publishers of the "whites" soon went out of business.

Thank You Eddy Smet
During my formative years, the Smets gave me a home away from home, where I could while away my time and never felt out of place. That’s a real gift to give to anyone.

Thank you Eddy for opening up your bright four-colour world to a 9-yr old girl many years ago.

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