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How Lion’s Tooth Grows Their Comics Community


Lion’s Tooth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, isn’t just a bookstore — it’s a vital part of Milwaukee’s thriving art scene. I caught up with owners Shelly McClone-Carriere and Cris Siqueira to learn more about Lion’s Tooth, the community it serves, and its unique programs.

McClone-Carriere and Siqueira have been best friends for some twenty years. In 2019, they decided they wanted to go into business together. First they had to decide what kind of business. 

“We both grew up with punk-DIY ethos and knew we wanted something to help create community,” said McClone-Carriere.

“I had a small bookstore inside a cyber café in the '90s, selling mostly indie comics,” Siqueira explained. “We also chose to have a café element because Shelly is one of the co-founders of the Riverwest Food Co-op here in Milwaukee, so she knew the ins and outs of that.” 

Ultimately they landed on Lion’s Tooth, combining their strengths and experiences into a bookstore with a café and art space.

Lion’s Tooth opened its physical doors in 2021, specializing in zines, small press books, and comics. The curation work is shared between them, with Siqueira taking the lead on comics and McClone-Carriere handling the nonfiction. Together they fill the store with their favorite alt comics and radical nonfiction publishers. They also include promising titles from University Presses.

“We don’t sell superhero ‘flimsies’ like a traditional comics shop would,” McClone-Carriere explained. “Instead we focus on collections, anthologies, graphic novels and self-published work.” 

“The comics community in Milwaukee is booming!” Siqueira told me when I asked about their customers. “We have many young cartoonists who are organizing, conducting creative workshops and meeting — some at Lion’s Tooth!”

Lion’s Tooth largely serves an alternative audience. But they’re also supporting families in their Bay View neighborhood and beyond. McClone-Carriere told me Lion’s Tooth aims to be a destination for small press books, and with some customers coming in from Madison and Chicago to see them, they’re well on their way to that goal. 

But Lion’s Tooth isn’t just supporting the local art and comics community; they’re helping it grow. 

Local art is always on display in the store. When they first started, McClone-Carriere and Siqueira were reaching out to artists they knew or liked, in hopes of exhibiting their art. Now, artists are taking the initiative and approaching Lion’s Tooth themselves. 

The shop is also home to the Dandelion Comics Residency. This residency program supports and mentors the winning artists (selected by a jury of professionals) as they work to produce an original comic that will then be distributed at Lion’s Tooth. It also gives the artist an opportunity to appear at the MILK comic festival.

“Being an artist myself, I have benefited tremendously from grants and opportunities like this,” Siqueira noted. “We are so proud of the Residency and lucky to partner up with MILK Comics Fest and local artists Quinn Blackshere and BearBear.” 

Their last artist-in-residence was Casey “KC” Harrison, who was selected unanimously by the panel of jurors (cartoonist John Porcellino, publisher Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics and Liz Mason, zinester and manager of Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago). Harrison created the mini-comic How a Flower is Born as part of their residency. McClone-Carriere and Siqueira called Harrison “joy to have as Artist-in-Residence.” 

When Harrison’s year-long residency concluded, applications for the 2023–2024 residency poured in and Drew Sternitzky was selected as the next artist-in-residence. 

Aside from the ongoing art exhibits and residency program, McClone-Carriere told me that “there’s literally always something going on at the store.” Lion’s Tooth is constantly working with local talent, hosting all kinds of artists and writers, and partnering with other organizations in the area. 

Both Siqueira and McClone-Carriere love the work they do and are passionate about the space they’ve created. 

“Lion’s Tooth is a mission-driven bookstore,” Siqueira explained. “Providing a space and support for these communities is a huge part of what we do.”

“It truly is a labor of love,” McClone-Carriere agreed. “We have met so many amazing people that make the hard times worth it. The bookselling community is full of lovely, creative people who are always down to collaborate or offer help.”

“I couldn’t think of a cooler, more rewarding job,” said Siqueira.