Yesterday evening, various sources on Twitter began reporting that Phoenix, AZ comic book chain, Atomic Comics, had closed its doors and was going out of business. Sadly, the news is true. Recession, mishap, and customers going elsewhere for their entertainment fix.
I suppose there were comic book shops when I started reading comics in the mid-70’s, but not any around me. I got my comics from convenience stores and liquor stores and mom-and-pop groceries, or sometimes from the cardboard box tucked in the back corner of the weird little smokeshop on 5th Street in Santa Monica. I didn’t even know comic book shops existed until I happened into one at the Old Towne Mall in Torrance. And what happened then was my skullcap hinged open and a steam whistle emerged from my brain pan and birds flew out.
As my ability to ride my bike improved, along with my ability to beg my parents to drive me to strange and obscure places, like West Hollywood, I gained access to now-famous comic book shops: Hi-De-Ho, in Santa Monica, and Golden Apple on Melrose, and the not-so-famous Graphitti in Culver City, where I eventually inherited my older brother’s job when he stopped showing up to work and I started showing up in his stead.
Atomic Comics was special. The stores were spacious, open, and admitted natural light. One could suck down a lungful of air and not breathe in spores and exotic pathogens. The stores were a clubhouse, a headquarters for all things geek, and the employees were helpful and friendly and largely non-creepy. Women and girls worked there. My girlfriend could shop there and not feel as though she were being simultaneously dismissed and leered at.
My years living in Phoenix were not universally wonderful. Constitutionally, me and that town did not always get along. But Atomic Comics was one of the good things I missed when we moved to San Diego.
I want there to be comic book shops. That’s why I continue to buy my comics at a comic book shop (principally the very fine Comickaze in Clairemont Mesa). This is simple: If you want there to be comic book shops, you must shop at comic book shops. If you want there to be bookstores, you must shop at bookstores. If people don’t do that, there will be more stories like the shut-down of Atomic Comics. These stories are not indicative of a better world.