Monday, August 22, 2011

Rumor: Atomic Comics of PHX area closing/ closed its doors

Editor's note:  This closing has now been confirmed.

When we moved to Arizona in 2002, we didn't exactly move to the middle of the Phoenix Metro area.  We moved to a location about as far south as one could go at the time and still claim to be in Phoenix rather than Tucson.  Of course, some of that changed in the time we were there, but a concern I had when we arrived was that I wasn't clear on the comics-retail situation.

In the end, it worked out that I got about 70% of my usual stuff from a small store that did a mediocre job of actually fulfilling my orders, but which gave a steep discount and was convenient to my office (I won't name it here as its back in business under new ownership, and no reason to bemoan a store that's had two changes of ownership since then).  I got another percentage from a store that was even close to my office, but which, for reasons I don't recall, rubbed me absolutely the wrong way.  Enough so that I only went there if absolutely forced to do so.

But I think I discovered Atomic Comics before the first week was up of me living out there.

The first location I hit wasn't too far from Jamie's office, so in the window before I had a job, I'd run to lunch with Jamie and then grab some funny books.

The first thing that struck me was the the staff all wore golf shirts with the Atomic Comics logo (the matching golf shirts is still something that strikes me as "very Arizona-ish".  Not bad, but not something you'd see in Austin), and that they were clean and organized.  This... is not something many comic shops excel at.

In fact, only weeks later I would visit another PHX-area store and file through a mishmash of new comics just sort of out, and stare in wonder at the garage-sale like atmosphere while wondering what that smell was...*

They soon moved that location even closer to my house, but as it was then located within a very busy mall, and they offered no discounts for subscribers, I wasn't particularly keen to leave my half-baked shop I signed up for in Tempe.  But the store did something I'd never seen before from a comic shop (on that scale): it catered to the casual shopper.

Located in the hub of the food and entertainment portion of the Chandler Mall, it faced a well-traveled walkway and put fun items in the window so all those little kids walking by would get inside and get their hands on something.  Inside, their selection was great for newer stuff, including a decent indie selection, a fairly deep graphic novel selection, and they didn't just have a mess of old comics in boxes they called "back-issues", they had an organized, bagged-and-board and they-care-about-these-as-much-as-the-customer approach to their back issue selection.

Atomic Comics was where I went for bags, boards, boxes, back-issues, some trades and some current stuff. On weekends, Jamie and I would pop in, and they were always professional.

I visited at least two other locations, including the Mesa location, when I attended my first signing with Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark.  It was an education and fun.  And they had an even more terrific back-issue selection there than the mall.  When Spidey 2 opened, they had a line out the store and down the block to "come meet Spidey".

I'll never really be sure what happened to Atomic Comics.  I haven't been to an Atomic Comics since moving away in 2006, but its one of those things I recall very fondly of our time there.  I hesitate to speculate as to why Atomic Comics closed, although there's no way that Chandler store was cheap to run (and as I said, the location itself made it hard to be a regular customer).  But the place had three other locations.

I also have no idea what the competition looks like out there these days.  Frankly, in 2005, they were the BMW dealer and most other stores were used car lots.

No doubt, its a blow to the PHX comics scene, and its going to cause serious disruption to the readers and collectors in the area who may have wanted to continue with their comics this week.  Frankly, the area is going to be in short supply on a lot of titles now.

I'd love to find out the story was false, but several sources are reporting confirmation.  We'll see what's happening over the next few days.

Click here to see Heidi's story and a pic of the shop I would visit, not all that far from my house.

*still, the worst shop I've ever been to is a mile from my house and fills me with rage every time I think about the fact that somebody will think "this is a comic shop".


Matt A. said...

Funnily enough, there was a Gutters comic on this today.

The League said...

Yeah, I don't think "more cash going out than coming in" is necessarily indicative of much more than the basics of the problems with small businesses. Their overhead always looked excessive (there's a reason most comic shops are in shady strip malls). And I remember being shocked that they recovered from the young woman driving through the front door of the store a couple years back.

Mostly I was curious how PHX customers would deal with blow, but it appears other local shops are picking up Atomics' orders for the next couple of months. That's sort of amazing.