It once took criticism for refusing to stock a controversial book, but Edmonton’s Variant Edition Comics is now making headlines for a new reason – it’s been named the best comic book store in Canada.

Variant received the Harry Kremer Award for Outstanding Comic Book Retailer in the 2019 Joe Shuster Awards.

Named after the Canadian who helped create Superman, the Joe Shuster Awards recognize annual achievements in the country’s comic industry.

“Located in the heart of west Edmonton, Variant Edition provides a comic shop experience unlike any other, perfect for those looking to discover or rediscover the joys of sequential storytelling,” the Joe Shuster Awards said on its website. “Variant Edition prides themselves on their inclusive environment and innovative recommendation system, which will help you find books you didn’t even know you loved.”

The award panel also credited Variant’s “friendly, knowledgeable and personal staff” and its wide selection of comics and graphic novels.

“We were just so surprised and happy to be a part of this amazing group,” said owner Danica LeBlanc. “Brandon and I created the store that we want to go to, and found out very quickly that’s a store that a lot of people would want to go to.”

The business has been in the news before for not stocking a book by Richard C. Meyer, an author who has previously been critical of what he termed “forced diversity” in comic books.

LeBlanc said she couldn’t sell a book authored by someone who has been known to misgender trans people, but her decision to pull it from shelves was met with hate mail, poor online review and calls for a boycott.

In the midst of the controversy, her store was broken into and had money stolen from the register, a crime she said was likely not a coincidence.

But LeBlanc says winning the award for best comic shop in Canada is proof that sticking to your principles can pay off.

“I have no regrets about that,” she said. “It was an incredibly tough time but I know that in 50 years from now I’ll look back and say ‘I did that.’”

Variant Edition Comics has posted an editorial on its website since winning the award to thank its customers and mention other stores that were nominated, including Calgary-based Alpha Comics.

Edmonton’s Happy Harbor Comics previously won the award in 2007.