Friday, December 30, 2016

Sticky Step Nineteen: Lee's Palace, 529 Bloor St. W.

Just a few blocks to the north and west of Dragon City Mall in Chinatown, while literally hanging out on the back cover of The Pitiful Human-Lizard #1, Lucas disguises his presence in the Bloor Annex neighbourhood like a chameleon by using his sticky gloves and boots to cling to the colourful monster mural that adorns the wall of Lee's Palace, the legendary live music venue at 529 Bloor Street West.

The Human-Lizard blends in with the monster mural art of Alex "Al Runt" Currie.

The building began it's life as a venue in 1919 as Allen's Bloor Theatre and, as ownership changed hands through the years, it was renamed several times. In 1985, the building was purchased by Mr. Chong Su Lee and opened it's doors as Lee's Palace on September 5, 1985. Although Mr. Lee passed away in 2001 and the venue has again changed hands several times since, Lee's Palace continues to endure as one of Toronto's hottest venue's for alternative and local indie bands.

Lee's Palace at 529 Bloor Street West.

Looking a little like a cartoon version of The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, the entire front of the building was painted by renowned Toronto muralist Alex Currie, who paints under the pseudonym Al Runt, or simply "Runt." While Lee's Palace is perhaps Currie's best known mural work, other examples can be found all over Toronto's neighbourhoods, from Parkdale's Electric Mud BBQ to Kensington Market's Big Fat Burrito, and even as far away as the Niagara Region, where a Runt mural can be found along the side of Park's Furniture in St. Catharines.

Another example of Runt's mural art on the side of 316 St. Paul Street in St. Catharines, ON.

Next up: A new year and a new issue as the locations found in The Pitiful Human-Lizard #2 are explored, starting with the Gladstone Hotel!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sticky Step Eighteen: Dragon City Mall/King Noodle/Saigon Pharmacy, 280/296/300b Spadina Ave.

Along with hanging out on the Honest Ed's sign, the first issue of The Pitiful Human-Lizard also features a second variant cover with Lucas enjoying the view of the CN Tower while relaxing above Spadina Ave. among the storefront signs of Chinatown.

The CN Tower seen from Chinatown along Spadina Ave., just north of Dundas St. W.

The Dragon City Mall sign, with the large LCD screen on top, is the tallest one shown. Whether you're looking for exotic tea, Asian market DVDs, Korean BBQ, official Hello Kitty merchadise or you're just craving plain old Orange Julius, Dragon City Mall has it all under one roof.

Dragon City Mall at 280 Spadina Ave.

Across Dundas Street West, and a few doors to the north is King's Noodle House. With a front window sporting more hanging meat than a butcher shop, King's Noodle is the place Torontonians go for Chinese comfort food. It's also the restaurant Jason Loo, creator of The Pitiful Human-Lizard, traditionally commemorates each Made in Chinatown mini-comic that he's completed by posting a photo on his Instagram account.

King Noodle at 296 Spadina Ave.

Next to King's Noodle House are a couple of the dozens of fruit markets found in Chinatown, and next to those is Saigon Pharmacy and the Yan Oi Chinese Acupuncture and Herbalist, whose storefront sign is the one Lucas has a seat on while taking in Toronto's skyline on the variant cover.

Saigon Pharmacy at 300b Spadina Ave.

Next up: The Human-Lizard sticks around Lee's Palace on the back cover of The Pitiful Human-Lizard #1!


Monday, December 26, 2016

Sticky Step Seventeen: Honest Ed's & Hero Certified Burgers, 571-81 Bloor St. W.

After the Battle of the ROM is wrapped up and recounted by a classroom full of students (and now the Human-Lizard's biggest fans), a one-page backup story follows one of those students home and sheds some light on the trials and tribulations of Mother Wonder, Toronto's busiest and most beloved superhero, as she contends with Rabb the Malevolent outside Honest Ed's, the legendary discount department store at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst streets.

Rabb the Malevolent gives Honest Ed a piece of his mind.
In a parody of the old Hostess Fruit Pie ads frequently found in '70s comics, Mother Wonder manages to subdue Rabb with the promise of a savoury Hot Flaky Cake, which she delivers with a solid right cross directly into Rabb's mouth.

Mother Wonder can't get clean enough after dealing with Rabb.

With an arm now covered in Rabb slobber, Mother Wonder goes straight for the store's entrance to get a good deal on some bleach. Meanwhile, right around the corner, on the Bathurst side of Honest Ed's, it looks like the Human-Lizard may have been trying to help out, but couldn't quite manage the iconic store's enormous sign on the first of two variant covers for The Pitiful Human-Lizard #1.

The Human-Lizard hanging out on the Honest Ed's sign over Hero Burger.

Located at 581 Bloor Street West, Honest Ed's (named for it's founder, "Honest" Ed Mirvish) first opened it's doors to the public in 1948 and has been an iconic Toronto landmark ever since. Following Ed Mirvish's death in in 2007, the store was put up for sale in July 2013 and is scheduled to close it's doors permanently later this week on December 31, 2016.

Next up: Lucas takes in the Toronto skyline from Chinatown on the second variant cover for The Pitiful Human-Lizard #1!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sticky Step Sixteen: Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), 100 Queens Park - Part 3: Rock Vs. Hard Place

Impaled on a human-monstrosity running at high speed for a fourth floor window of the ROM would be cause for alarm for anyone, but not the Human-Lizard. Thanks once again to his regenerative abilities, Lucas recovers just in time to dislodge himself from Bodyrocks' shoulder spikes and clings to the outside wall of the ROM's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal using his sticky boots and gloves while Johnny plunges to the sidewalk below.

Bodyrocks discovers the one enemy he can't defeat is gravity.

Scaling down the side of the wall, Lucas assesses the damage wrought by the encounter while still keeping a cautious distance from his spike-plated adversary. Coming in for a closer look, the Human-Lizard suddenly leaps back as Bodyrocks' prone figure slumps to the sidewalk with a thud.

The Human-Lizard warily approaches Bodyrocks after taking a header into the sidewalk.

It's not over yet, though, as Johnny stirs and pulls his bloodied and broken form up from the shattered concrete in an attempt to settle the score. In the end though, as Bodyrocks turns around to face his hated enemy and Lucas gets a clear look at his freshly rearranged face, it's clear that the fight really is finished.

Face first into the shattered concrete and Bodyrocks still won't give up.

Just like their first fight in the Club District, Johnny's reckless charging winds up with him taking a hit to the face that leaves him dazed, pain-wracked and, this time around, even blinded in one eye for his trouble. In the end, it takes only the slightest poke for Lucas to knock him over and out cold.

Lucas does his best not to lose his lunch after seeing Bodyrocks' wrecked face.

Later, in a classroom somewhere in Toronto, Barb (first seen earlier in the issue on a rooftop patio with her friends) is teaching a class of grade school kids. One student recounts his visit to the museum the day before, witnessing the battle between the Human-Lizard and "a horny, giant man." The students are enthralled by the adventures of Toronto's newest super-hero, but Barb remains unimpressed.

Next up: Mother Wonder battles Rabb the Malevolent outside Honest Ed's in a parody of the classic Hostess Fruit Pie comicbook ads!


Sticky Step Fifteen: Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), 100 Queens Park - Part 2: Rock vs. Lizard

Having frightened off all of the Royal Ontario Museum's staff and patrons while fighting with Majestic Rat (along with his loyal rat subjects and Gruber the gator) and now having the entire museum to himself, Bodyrocks tries to find his girlfriend, Josie. Suddenly, the Human-Lizard appears with Stieb the gator as backup and tells the marauding monstrosity that she'd run off in a panic with the rest of the terrified bystanders.

Bodyrocks searches for his lost love among the floating fossils of ancient sea creatures.

Bodyrocks, recognizing Lucas' outfit from their encounter earlier in the week, immediately recalls the chain of events that had led him to seek out the experimental medical treatment in the first place and which ultimately transformed him into the craggy, spiked man-creature now terrorizing the ROM.

The Human-Lizard prepares for a mammoth showdown with Bodyrocks.

Of course, Lucas had undergone the exact same treatment several days earlier and with far greater results. Instead of transforming into an uncontrollable monster (or, at least in the case of Johnny, becoming even more of an uncontrollable monster), he was granted regenerative abilities and, testing that this is still the case by allowing Stieb to take a bite of his arm, Lucas easily taunts Bodyrocks into a rematch.

The deadly duel begins, but who will survive and what will be left of them?

Bodyrocks gets a devastating first shot in and effortlessly tosses the Human-Lizard toward the hanging fossils of several sea creatures on display, suspended from the ceiling.

Uh, you do know those are sea creatures, right Johnny?

Lucas manages to avoid the hanging fossils and, buying some time to allow his healing power to take effect, uses his lean frame and sticky extremities to cling to the wall and ceiling, keeping out of reach of the rampaging reptilian wrecking machine below.

The Human-Lizard plays hard to get . . .

It's a good plan, but when the Human-Lizard leaps onto one of the suspended skeletons, he overestimates the amount of weight it can support and the whole works come crashing down to the museum's floor.

. . . while jumping from one suspended skeleton to another.

While one remaining museum curator chastises the Human-Lizard for recklessly destroying a priceless artifact, Bodyrocks takes advantage of the distraction to land what appears to be a killing blow, impaling Lucas on one of his many shoulder horns.

Bodyrocks make a kabob out of Lucas and makes a run for the end zone . . .

In a murderous rage, Bodyrocks charges the museum's fourth floor window to deposit the Human-Lizard's carcass onto the street below, but could it really be that easy to defeat Toronto's pluckiest super-hero?

. . . or, in this case, the fourth floor window!

Next up: The battle of the ROM comes to a close in Part 3: Rock vs. Hard Place!


Sticky Step Fourteen: Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), 100 Queens Park - Part 1: Rock vs. Rat

And now, the beginning of a Human-Lizard battle so huge, I had no choice but to break it up into three parts to fully cover it. While Lucas is enjoying dinner with his family at Golden Diamond Chinese Restaurant, Bodyrocks decides to show his girlfriend, Josie, that he can appreciate Toronto's culture as much as anyone.

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) at 100 Queens Park.

Not surprisingly, Bodyrocks' idea of culture is looking at the dinosaur fossils on display at the Royal Ontario Museum, but as he makes clear to the ticket agent inside the front entrance, there's no way he's going to pay to see them. Things turn ugly fast, so one of Majestic Rat's emergency patrol rats seeks out Lucas to let him know the Human-Lizard is needed. Leading him through Queen's Park and past the monument to Edward VII, they make haste to reach the museum before disaster strikes.

The equestrian statue of King Edward VII in Queens Park.

The equestrian statue of Edward VII was originally created by the English sculptor, Thomas Brock, shortly after the king's death in 1910 for the Imperial Durbar in Delhi, India (a mass assembly meant to commemorate the succession of the Emperor and Empress of India, King George V and Queen Mary). Afterwards, in 1919, the statue was installed in Delhi's King Edward VII Park (since renamed Netaji Subhash Park), but was removed, sold and reinstalled in Toronto's Queen's Park between the years 1967-9 where it remains to this day, standing at the centre of the park's several radial footpaths.

Bodyrocks and Majestic Rat squaring off in front of dinosaur skulls in the ROM.

Back at the ROM, Majestic Rat (along with several patrol rats and Stieb the alligator) attempts to hold off Bodyrocks, but Johnny quickly overpowers Majestic and sends him hurtling through the glass windows of the now-iconic Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, which was added to the ROM's main building during a massive renovation of the museum and unveiled in 2007.

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

Arriving at the ROM's entrance just as Majestic breaks his fall by landing on Gruber, his other alligator subject, the Human-Lizard quickly runs inside with Gruber as backup, unaware that he's about to face down an all too familiar foe, who's now enhanced by an all too familiar reptilian regenerative power . . .

Enter: The Human-Lizard!

Next up: The royal rumble at the ROM continues in Part 2: Rock vs. Lizard!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sticky Step Thirteen: Golden Diamond Chinese Restaurant (formerly Bright Pearl Restaurant, now closed), 346 Spadina Ave.

Sometimes you get a goldmine of photos and sometimes you get nothing, or very nearly close to it. Sadly, that's the case with the next two locations I went on the hunt for. The first is the rooftop patio where the Human-Lizard briefly interacts with three young women (one of whom, Barb, will have a much more important role in the comic as it unfolds) while grappling with a giant worm monster.

Barb and friends on a rooftop patio barely tolerating the Human-Lizard's efforts to protect them.

I just couldn't for the life of me figure out where the rooftop patio in question is in Toronto. Jason Loo, creator of The Pitiful Human-Lizard, may have mentioned to me where the setting was, but if so, it was a part of town I'm less familiar with and I've completely forgotten since. Trying to locate it on my own has proven impossible because there are so many rooftop patios in the city, it could literally be anywhere. What's interesting is that this is a recurring theme with Barb's character, because as I've read through the series and studied each of Barb's appearances, I've discovered that she lives up to the self-appointed title of "street ninja" by nearly always being someplace I'm completely unable to identify.

Barb dismisses the Human-Lizard with a word, and the giant worm monster with a thought.

The second disappointment was discovering that the restaurant Lucas and his parents go to dinner at, Golden Diamond Chinese Restaurant (located in the centre of Toronto's Spadina Ave. Chinatown district), has since closed down. Hopefully it will reopen again in the near future and, if luck holds out, the interior will continue to be the same as it has been since the restaurant went by the name Bright Pearl.

The interior of the now-closed Golden Diamond restaurant at 346 Spadina Ave.

Until then, however, I've had to satisfy myself with just a shot of the sign which still hangs from the front of the building at 346 Spadina Ave. The exterior of the building known as the Hsin Kuang Centre does feature in a later chapter of The Pitiful Human-Lizard and I've taken a bunch of photos, but I'll save those for another day.

The "Gold Diamond" sign still hangs in front of the Hsin Kunag Centre at 346 Spadina Ave.

Next up: Things get crazy at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) when Bodyrocks tussles with Majestic Rat!


Friday, September 16, 2016

Sticky Step Twelve: Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front St. W.

While Lucas battles with a giant monster alongside Mother Wonder in front of The Dufferin Street Tunnel and Parkdale Amphitheatre, his parents, Hugh and Lauren Barrett, are at home across town watching a news story covering Hugh's early career as the Lizard-Man, Toronto's "first superhero."

The Fairmont Royal York at 100 Front St. West.

In truth, Hugh was really the founder and one-time head of a local glue manufacturer, Barrett Strong Adhesives, and the Lizard-Man was just a gimmick he'd come up with to sell more of his stock-in-trade. By applying his glue to the gloves and boots of the Lizard-Man suit, Hugh could then effortlessly scale the sides of various iconic Toronto buildings to draw attention and demonstrate the quality and strength of his product.

Hugh Barrett makes a deal with the manager of the Fairmont Royal York.

In an interview during the news story, Hugh recounts the publicity stunt that propelled him to local stardom. He'd made a wager with the manager of the Fairmont Royal York that he could climb the outside of the hotel all the way to the top. With 28 floors and over a thousand rooms, the historic hotel was the largest and tallest building in the city when it was first built in 1929, and the east wing expansion during the mid-'50s increased that room total to 1,600.

The Lizard-Man: triumpant!

So, before the construction of the CN Tower and the proliferation of skyscrapers to follow, it would still have been one of the most prominent edifices along the Toronto skyline in the late '60s and early '70s and would have presented the greatest challenge for Hugh's sticky gloves and boots.
The Fairmont Royal York seen from the observatory level of the CN Tower.

Of course, Hugh was more than up to that challenge and won himself and Lauren a week in the hotel's Royal Suite, traditionally reserved for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of "The Maple Crown" when visiting the city. They then enjoyed a period of celebrity status which included in-costume visits to kids in the hospital, partying with the stars of the day and continuing to scale the sides of famous Toronto buildings, like Honest Ed's during Ed Mirvish's famous thanksgiving turkey handouts.

Honest Ed signs from a bygone era.

Next up: The Human-Lizard takes on a worm monster and then meets up with his parents for dim sum at Golden Diamond Chinese Restaurant (formerly Bright Pearl Restaurant).


Monday, September 12, 2016

Sticky Step Eleven: Dufferin Street Tunnel & Parkdale Amphitheatre, 1258 Queen St. W.

Alerted to trouble as he walks past Alexandria Falafel and Motel Bar, Lucas Barrett continues down Queen St. West, only to discover the intersection at Dufferin St. completely destroyed by a huge spiky-skinned creature rising up from beneath the city.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard running for his life on the first cover of his own series.

Emerging from the street, the enormous monster actually reflects a city-planning oversight that had plagued Toronto motorists since the dawn of the automobile, and which had only recently been corrected. For over a century, traffic along Dufferin had been forced to detour around the CP Rail line that also intersects at Queen and Dufferin Sts, resulting in what had come to be known as the "Dufferin Street Jog."

Trouble rears it's ugly head at the corner of Queen St. West and Dufferin St.

The jog was first seen as a problem during the 1960s, when traffic picked up to such a degree that Dufferin St. became a much more heavily used artery into the city's core. In the end though, it took the city nearly fifty years to correct the traffic flow snag in 2010, by completing the 72-meter-long Dufferin Street Tunnel, running under the railway line and directly adjacent to the Queen Street underpass.

Phone booths are a rare thing nowadays, so Lucas resorts to changing in the bushes.

While Lucas is off getting changed behind some nearby shrubbery, Mother Wonder rockets down Queen St. West like a TTC streetcar, ready to tackle the titanic beast. The Human-Lizard quickly enters the fray, but no sooner does he leap up on the creature's shoulder than things take a turn for the horribly unexpected.

Mother Wonder's got this, while Lucas is still tucking in his shirt.

The sudden jolt from a Wonder punch causes one of the creature's spikes to slice through Human-Lizard's arm, cutting it clean off and sending the now critically maimed Lucas hurtling to the street. While he lays bleeding out, thinking his super-hero career is over before it's even really begun, Lucas is shocked to see his arm reattach itself and heal at incredible speed!

The Human-Lizard looks around for a helping hand next to Parkdale Amphitheatre.

Meanwhile, Mother Wonder makes short work of the rampaging menace and, checking in on the now-completely recovered Human-Lizard (minus the bloody sleeve of his uniform, of course), thanks him for the assist in taking the monster down before heading off to her next super-heroic feat: Taking care of the family back at home.

Mother Wonder giving the beast a taste of it's own medicine.

Before the Dufferin Street Tunnel was completed, the area where Mother Wonder and Human-Lizard tackle and overcome the giant, spiky monster was nothing more than a few unkempt trees and a large, unsightly billboard.

Parkdale Amphitheatre with, and without, giant spiky monsters.

Shortly after though, it was revitalized into a more neighbourhood friendly green space with wheelchair accessible terraced seating, surrounding the pocket park now known as Parkdale Amphitheatre.

Parkdale Amphitheatre at 1258 Queen St. West.

Next up: A trip down memory lane with Lizard-Man . . . on top of the Fairmont Royal York hotel!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Sticky Step Ten: Alexandria Falafel & Motel Bar 1233-5 Queen St. West

As Lucas leaves his apartment dressed in a Blue Jays jersey, possibly to take in a baseball game while grabbing a bite at the hot dog cart just outside Rogers Centre, the last of Majestic's scout rats flee en masse, down the street.

Lucas leaving his apartment at 1381 Queen St. West.

Lucas proceeds in the same direction (with his Human-Lizard gear stowed in his knapsack, as always), but whether he's tailing the rats or just heading downtown to catch that ball game is never firmly established because as he approaches the corner, Lucas closes the distance between himself and fresh trouble brewing on Queen St. West.

Lucas walking down Queen St. West, directly in front of Alexandria Falafel and Motel Bar.

As he passes by one particular storefront, a huge crack in the sidewalk appears, throwing Lucas off-balance and heralding the arrival of serious trouble just up ahead. Could this be a job for the city's newest protector?

Lucas loses his footing right in front of Motel Bar at 1235 Queen St. West.

Located at the corner of Gwynne Avenue, Alexandria Falafel at 1233 Queen St. West has been keeping the visitors and residents of Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood fed for years now. Open late, it primarily caters to the after-last call crowd as patrons empty out of the surrounding bars in the area.

Alexandria Falafel at 1233 Queen St. West and the corner of Gwynne Avenue.

One such establishment, Motel Bar, just happens to be right next door to Alexandria Falafel. So titled as a play on the names of other hotel-turned-watering holes in the Parkdale area, like the Drake and the Gladstone Hotel, Motel Bar is slightly different from your typical hole-in-the-wall dive bar.

Motel Bar at 1235 Queen St. West.

In addition to offering up live music for patrons Sunday to Thursday, it also doubles as a vintage record store, as well. The vintage doesn't end with the vinyl, though. Inside, the walls are adorned with old record sleeves, cathode ray tube TV sets and even an original motel sign recovered from Toronto's long-lost strip of cheap, seedy motels along Lakeshore Road.

Motel Bar's namesake, an old rusty sign recovered from Toronto's seedy past.

Next up: The Human-Lizard helps out Mother Wonder (well, sort of) while battling a mutant monster by the Dufferin Street Tunnel and Parkdale Amphitheatre!