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Paul Stock, co-owner of Montreal’s Librairie Astro (Astro Books) has died

Sad news to share today. Paul Stock, co-owner (with his wonderful sister Betty Handleman-Stock) of Montreal’s late and lamented comic book store Librairie Astro (aka Astro Books) has died. He died on May 22nd at the age of 74.

Paul was amazing. Grouchy and cantankerous on the outside, but that hid a really warm and welcoming personality once you got to know him. Both he and Betty were incredibly supportive of my art career, giving me both encouragement and retail space at a time when very few others did. And not just me; Astro was well-known for taking chances on indy creators and they cultivated an audience for small press titles, something that I dearly wish more stores would do.

Astro closed back in 2018 (covered here) and that was a discouraging loss, mainly because it really didn’t have much to do with their sales or anything like that. It had a lot to do with a number of other concerns, something that Paul himself wrote about:

“IT’S NOT ABOUT THE RENT. We’ve gotten a substantial amount of press since we announced the store’s closing, Unfortunately, they’ve all focused on a rent increase s the reason. While we couldn’t handle a jump to the new landlord’s asking of $9,500.00 a month, we had made the decision to shut down well before that number came up. In fact the number came as a result of a prospective store buyer making the call to the rental agent. It’s probably true, but it makes no difference to us. We’re finished any way you look at it. The actual reason is that neither Mark, Betty, Mary, nor I are physically capable of putting in the kind of effort needed to get the place flying again. To everything there is a season, and this happens to be the winter of our working lives.”

Paul was also notoriously camera shy, but my wife Samantha managed to snag a photo of Paul and I back in 2014. I treasure it now because we don’t have many. Paul had a stroke back in 2008 and his recovery was difficult, but he fought hard to put his life back together again. He obviously had a lot of support; from Betty, from his wife Mary, from his kids, and on and on. When Samantha — at that point my long time girlfriend — and I decided to finally get married, I sent Paul some photos of that happy day. He wrote back, “HEY, TERRIFIC! Congrats, and here’s hoping you have many years of looking just as happy as you do in that pic.”

Paul Stock and Von Allan, January 2014, in the backroom of Librarie Astro in Montreal

CTV News also did a story some years ago that managed to get Paul on video. This is one of the only videos I’ve ever seen of him.

I still miss the store, but I dearly miss being able to drop by and see Paul and Betty when my wife and I visited Montreal. I miss those conversations. I miss being able to “shoot the shit.” I miss being able to talk (and bitch) about the comic book industry. Most of all, I simply miss being able to talk with Paul. I suspect I always will. There weren’t many like him out there. He was a mensch.

Goodbye, Paul.

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