Tom Laing 1949-2013

On Monday May 27th 2013 Tom Laing passed away. That name might not right a bell right away, but he was the owner of Comic 1 Books in Stoney Creek Ontario. I don’t think I ever knew his last name until this week. My friend Marc at Big B Comics told me yesterday; people were coming into the store letting them know Tom was no longer with us.

Comic 1 Books storefront


Back in 1980 I picked up my first comic at the local convenience store, G.I Joe issue 1, based on the new cartoon. Shortly after I discovered on my family’s weekly flea market trip that there was someone selling old comics there, Tom. And so my love of comics and collecting began.

Tom was great to deal with, especially when I look back at it from an adult’s perspective. Here I was, 8 years old, harassing this guy at the flea  market every week with an avalanche of questions. He was always kind to me, answering my questions, taking back books I accidentally bought a second copy of, and helping me complete that run of Invaders and X-Men.

I lived in West Africa for two years and would send a list back every six months with my grandparents to pick up all my comics, and they’d come back with plain brown bags filled with new and wonderful adventures. Tom would take the list and have it ready for them to pick up, and brought a lot of wonder and joy to my very isolated life.

As we get older we stray from our childhood locales, but I knew Tom had moved out of the flea market circuit and into a store in Stoney Creek. I made infrequent visits by bus, to pick up a few extra copies of this and that or to see what he had lurking in precarious piles around the store. Highs include The Watchmen Portfolio and Marvel Moebius posters, lows encompass those twenty copies of Lobo issue 1 I was sure would take off.

Marc Sims, General Manager of Big B Comics in Hamilton, Barrie, and Niagara Falls, had this to say.
I was very sad to hear that Tom Laing, owner of Comic 1 Books in Stoney Creek, passed away last Monday. Tom was my gateway to comics as a kid growing up in Hamilton’s east end. I would walk the 20 minutes to his store every weekend for my comic fix, buying every X-Men title I could get my hands on. As a child I didn’t really understand how comics distribution worked. I’ll never forget there was one week I couldn’t find an issue of New Warriors I wanted to buy. I think it was #22. I was dumbfounded. For 6 years I’d bought every issue of the titles I liked off the stands without ever having a problem finding what I wanted. I honestly thought that if I couldn’t find it at Comic 1, Marvel must not have published it. In a couple weeks when issue #23 shipped without me ever seeing issue #22, I was convinced that it just didn’t exist. I never did find that issue.

Tom was one of the pioneers of comics retail in the golden horseshoe, setting up at a flea market stall in the late 70s and early 80s. In recent years I would stop in whenever I visited my family or was running errands in the old neighborhood. We’d talk shop and I always tried to make it a point to thank him for being the man who got me into the hobby that has now become my career. Last time I saw him he was contemplating retirement. After 30+ years selling comics, he was ready to take some time off.

He will be missed by the many customers and friends he proudly served over the years. Rest in Peace Tom.

Please feel free to contribute your stories and anecdotes about Tom in the comments below.

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

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Ron Kasman
11 years ago

I didn’t know that man but I enjoyed reading your reminiscence. Thank you.

Walter Durajlija
11 years ago

I moved to Stoney Creek back in the early 1980s and I remember Tom at the Flea Market but I was not a regular.

It wasn’t until Tom opened his Comic 1 store at the Elm King Plaza that I became a regular.

He was so easy to deal with. I’d buy my monthly Savage Sword of Conan mags from him and fill him in on my budding new part time hobby of selling old comics at conventions in Toronto. Tom was always welcoming and always friendly to me.

Rest in Peace Tom!

11 years ago

Thanks for the post Scott. I didn’t go to Tom’s store very often. I was a Snail employee for years and when it finally closed, I went there for just over a year before I started going to Big B. When I was a member there, I really enjoyed chatting with Tom when I could. He was a collector for a long, long time. We used to talk a lot about art and cartoons and such. To my surprise, one day he when he knew I was coming in, he pulled out some of the original art he had either purchased or given to him over the years. It was a small collection but really nice to see that it had been cherished and loved for a long time.
He will definitely be missed in the community.

Albert DeSantis
Albert DeSantis
11 years ago

Wow, just found this now, that is such a bummer, been going to comic 1 since the 1990s, always kept my stuff there for me. Always had something to say. Been a huge part of my childhood/teenage years/adulthood. My thoughts and prayers are with him.

Mike Heddle
10 years ago

This is a direct copy from the Facebook page for my store.

When I was a kid, I was introduced into the world of “Collecting Comics” by a man named Tom Lang. He had a stall at a Flea Market here in Hamilton, and the very first comic he ever sold me was a Batman comic featuring the Joker. He also sold me my first G.I. Joe comic, which ultimately got me hooked on Joe for the rest of my life!

I’d go to that Flea Market with my family and sometimes with a friend or two. Each time visiting Tom’s booth hoping the newest issue was in. (and of course begging my parents for for $2 so I could pick all 3 of them up! – Those were the days!)

Over time, my collection of comics grew, and Tom ended up leaving the Flea Market. I had no clue where he went for awhile, or why. I just knew I had no regular place to get my comics now. (I call this the “Variety Store Comics Era”).

Eventually I found out Tom opened up Comic 1 Books in Stoney Creek at the corner of King & Elm. My friend Jason and I were so thrilled, we rode our bikes there quite a bit to pick up some books. It was NOT a short bike ride. We lived up the mountain in Stoney Creek, and Tom’s place was in downtown Stoney Creek. Sure, it was easy to get there – going downhill on a bike… but going home was a pain! (Totally worth it however, as we enjoyed talking to Tom). It was much easier when I got my license and could just drive there to get my books every week.

As I grew up, I told friends and random people I started meeting to check out Comic 1 in Stoney Creek. Many times, these people already knew about Tom and his store and everyone spoke highly of it – and Tom! I was always amazed that he remembered me each time I went into his store, and even more amazed that he would remember my wife’s name years later!

When I first started selling toys in this city, Tom bought a 12″ Mego Wonder Woman from me at an Ancaster Toy Show. I remember what a cool feeling it gave me as the guy that introduced me to collecting was now purchasing something from me. It’s just a memory, and I know it sounds lame, but it was a very important moment in my life at the time and I’ll never forget it.

I’ve spent many hours talking with Tom over the years, as I’m sure many, many others have as well. I no longer collect new comic books, and haven’t for years – but Tom was always my first choice to pick up anything hot, new or old that I needed. I was planning on visiting him next week to fill some holes in my Spidey collection. Now I’m pissed off at myself for not going a couple of months ago when I was in the area.

I have no clue how to end this… nor did I expect this to become this long. But, I want to thank Tom. Because of him, collecting is immersed into my life, and while I’m sure he never knew it, he was “the guy” that started it all for me. All because of one little comic book.

Thank you Tom, you’ll be missed.
– Mike

10 years ago

Wow, I can’t believe this is true…last week I decided to introduce my nephew to comic books and I thought it would be great to take him to Comic 1 in Stoney Creek (thats where I went when I was a kid). I saw a bunchy of empty racks and sign stating that they moved. Today I decided to google the store and found this.

You will truly be missed TOM!!!

10 years ago

Me and my 2 brothers were regulars at his store also while we were growing up. My youngest brother ended up working there for years and was very good friends with Tom until his passing. Him and 2 others took the Comic 1 store and moved across the street, they’re carrying Tom’s torch now at the new store. Tom taught Casey all that he knows so if you ever need a fix, or share stories with him, he’s there 🙂
It was nice to read your story

10 years ago

When I first moved to Hamilton in 1992 I took the long trek from the North end out to Tom’s on the bus to buy, trade and talk comics every few weeks. Tom was a supporter of my work early on…he bought up all of the artwork for my indy comic I published in college and let me distribute some of my books there. We recently moved into the area and I was going to take my youngest in to meet Tom and buy some books and chat, but we never seemed to get to the store.

Jason Marcy
Jason Marcy
9 years ago

I know I’m late to this, but let me share anyway…
I first met Tom Laing when he was doing his flea market gig. He had all kinds of interesting independent comics, and I was at the time looking to branch away from standard superhero fare. Tom was my major doorway for this and I would drop in just about every Sunday to pick up stuff from him.
Of course when I learned Tom was opening a store I became a semi regular, and when the Silver Snail closed, Comic 1 Books was my go to shop for five years.
I would see Tom every year at FanExpo. He’d stop by my Artist Alley table to see my latest book and to talk comics. By then I had moved to Oshawa so these yearly chats were precious to me.
Four years back I moved again to The Hammer. i would drive by Comic 1 and always mean to stop in but you know how it is. Well today we drove by and saw the shop papered over and of course, what I feared worst had come to pass. Tom was gone.
I have a lot of fond memories of Tom and Comic 1, the many hours I would spend there. In the early days I’d often walk from Gage/Beach Road area to Stoney Creek on Summer weekends just to drop in and buy books. When I was a regular and had my own vehicle of course every new comic day I would pop in and pick up my weekly stash, talking with Tom about the various Indy books I had ordered in. He always showed an interest in what I was buying.
He was a great guy, quirky and weird but hey, aren’t most comic people? I’m sad as Hell I never stopped in these past years, though I’m really happy to see someone taking up Comic 1’s torch and carrying it in memory of Tom.

9 years ago

I was just going through some items I have and I pulled out 6 boxes of comic books that are taking up a lot of space. I started reading comics in the 70’s as I had difficult reading in school. My teacher suggested it to my parents. I became a voracious reader.
I first met Tom at the flea market in Stoney creek. I would get up there every second week and get doctor who, every war comic in existence (weird war was the best and sgt rock). He always had a LOT of patience and I would blow my allowance all the time. Later I started collecting other stuff and as a young teenager thought I should get multiple first books as they were released. I still have them all.
My young kids now read some of them.
I just found out as I was looking for a comic book store and I remembered Comic 1. I drove by there several times over the last few years but thought it silly to think about stopping in.
I wish I had.
Tom was the best and really fueled this big kids reading habit.

Thank you for everything Tom.