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Eric Kostiuk Williams’s collection of party posters immortalizes Toronto’s pre-COVID queer nightlife

Eric Kostiuk Williams: 2AM Eternal

When Eric Kostiuk Williams first moved to Toronto in 2008, he was guided to the city’s wild queer west by provocative posters for alternative parties. Soon the cartoonist, now 32, was drawing these edgy invitations to the queer underground himself. 

He’s collected approximately 100 of his campy, cute, and often grotesque pieces alongside commentaries and comics in 2AM Eternal: A Decade of Queer Nightlife Posters + Comics. The collection will be published in a large format paperback on May 30, by New York state–based press Secret Acres.

The anthology documents the evolution of event posters from printed paper pasted to hydro poles through to digital designs and social-media trends between2012 and 2022. “Every six months we were updating the dimensions of whatever version of Facebook we were working with,” Kostiuk Williams recalls today from Future Bistro, a hangout in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, where he’s been drawing and drinking “too much” coffee. The posters soon migrated to Instagram, where some, such as one depicting the X-Men in creative queer couplings, went viral.

Despite their greater reach, these digital posters proved as fleeting as the print versions that preceded them. “Everyone’s been deleting their [socials] over the past few years,” Kostiuk Williams says. He found himself desperately scouring his old laptops to rescue high-res files that had been lost online. 

Also recovered in this book are the memories of more than 30 promoters, drag queens, and bon vivants who contributed to these legendary nights, all presented in graphic format. “I hand-letter my comics, but I quickly realized as I started getting more contributions from people that it would be tortuous and horrible,” he says. So, he created a comic-y font, dubbed EKW Bubbles, to replicate the hand-drawn quality of his work. 

Eric Kostiuk Williams: 2AM Eternal

As the book reaches the COVID years, a two-page spread of full-black pages marks the loss of nightlife as we knew it and the emergence of something new. “There’s something creepy and haunting about a few posters for parties that never got to happen,” Kostiuk Williams says. 

Toronto venues such as The Beaver and Club 120 closed amid lockdown, and Kostiuk Williams now sees younger innovators leading the way. “It’s such a punctuation of an era,” he says. “With gen-Z people putting on their own stuff, it’s a question of how much of it do I want to keep going to, and what do I continue to relate to.” One hard yes is the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, happening this year on April 29 and 30, for which he designed the poster and will be a featured guest. “I’ve missed it a lot,” he says. 

While queer culture enthusiasts immediately grasp the value of preserving the era, Kostiuk Williams has also parried some deliciously bitchy reactions. He’s been asked, “Aren’t you a little young to have a retrospective?” – and lets out a wounded shriek in the retelling.

But Kostiuk Williams sees 2AM Eternal as a valuable compendium of the recent past. “A lot of these posters were never printed physically, and it’s history that might just get lost,” he says. “As someone who’s a big geek for gay history and local history, it made me feel very chuffed to be able to contribute anything to that.”

Eric Kostiuk Williams: 2 AM Eternal

By: Ryan Porter

April 26th, 2023

1:32 pm

Category: Industry News, Writing Life