The Comic Book Dream
How a local man took his love of comics to the next level.
Maichina Veri, January 02, 2023 // Brantford, OntarioThadeus Zebroski of Looking Glass Comics sits down to talk with BTOWN. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
It’s a cold, dark night. The clouds cover the stars and the weather threatens a winter storm. BTOWN arrives at top secret coordinates in Brantford – the private lab of Thadeus Zebroski. We are welcomed into the space where only five people have ever entered. This secret location is responsible for highly sought-after gems. Gems that take the form of comic books.
Thadeus was once a public school principal, now he’s a successful business owner. His business: Looking Glass Comics. His occupation: restorer of rare and collectible comic books. In his lab he has seven presses, a humidity chamber, an array of fine tools and a trusty white eraser. Thadeus can take almost any comic and, with his meticulousness, care and training from the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Massachusetts, greatly improve it.
Thadeus Zebroski in conversation. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Some of Thadeus’ earliest memories are of looking at comic books on the farm where he grew up. The comics provided a fantastical escape. Now, Thadeus calls comic books an art form, which is why the once disposable (and now collectible) books need to be preserved. “I think art really is a commentary on the world. Life. For that reason, preservation is important for all sorts of historical documents, which is what they [comic books] are in part. But they’re art. They have value intrinsically as art and as commentaries on the ages they come from,” says Thadeus.
An artist and writer as well, Thadeus, who has knowledge steeped in 80 years of great comics, has developed his own comic book The Ephemera Project. Working with local artist Chad Leduc, Thadeus created an homage to the stories and artists of science fiction and fantasy from the 1960s and ’70s. “Ephemera is art that is meant to be enjoyed, but not necessarily last. It’s temporal. It’s in the moment. Comic books were ephemera,” Thadeus explains. “Ephemera was something as a concept that I wanted to try to capture as a character.”
At work in the Looking Glass Comics studio. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Thadeus created Ephemera, a goddess of creation and beauty, who loses her powers. In the self-described Jack Kirby-esque story, the sci-fi fantasy has interplay between gods and humans and follows Ephemera as a girl trying to regain her goddess abilities. Thadeus wanted to learn the process of how comic books are made and The Ephemera Project was his experiment in this process. He says, “I thought, ‘I’m going to do something I love and I’ll see if it works out. I hope it does, but if it doesn’t, well, at least I tried.’ And, you know, you only fail when you don’t try, right?”
Working on his own comic was a learning experience, but what is it like to restore and preserve other people’s comics? Thadeus says he enjoys his calling, but that ebbs and flows. He’s currently working two shifts seven days a week. Thadeus is tight-lipped about his clients, but the network he’s involved in keeps him busy. With his reputation, Thadeus says he is one of the best – if not the best – regarded in his field in the area of Eastern Canada.
Tools of the trade being used to precision. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
One of his most memorable pieces was from a local collector that he received when he first opened up shop: Amazing Fantasy #15. This book, from 1962, is the first appearance of Spider-Man and, at the time, was worth between $20,000 to $30,000. “I felt like I was in surgery for the weekend I worked on it,” recalls Thadeus. “I was literally sweating.” The task isn’t as challenging for Thadeus with his experience now. At this point, only a few years into his business, Thadeus estimates he’s worked on a “few million dollars” worth of comic books.
Whether he’s restoring, preserving, writing, drawing or appraising comic books, Thadeus has created for himself an important job born of passion for something that was once overlooked and is now a defining part of our culture. To learn more about Thadeus’ business Looking Glass Comics, and to support him on social media, follow the links below.
For the Looking Glass Comics official website click HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Paul Smith has been shooting photos professionally for the past eleven years. After graduating from Applied Photography at Sheridan College in 2008 he returned to Brantford and opened Photohouse Studios with his partner.