Michael Cho’s gloriously retro drawings of superheroes like Iron Man and the X-Men made him a star in Toronto’s fanatical comic book world. But like the crusaders he drew, the 40-year-old Cho had a weakness: he lacked the chops needed to render buildings and backgrounds with as much style as he did people. To remedy this, he started wandering the streets near his Little Portugal studio with his sketch pad, and for the past five years, he has kept it up—sometimes in the dead of night, occasionally with a friend who brings along a flask of something potent to ward off the chill. Cho’s delicately coloured, fastidiously detailed drawings and paintings of downtown alleys and depopulated streets are collected in his new book, Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes. They aren’t scenes you’d find in a tourist brochure, but they’re immediately familiar to the millions of us who take shortcuts through these hidden mazes.