Guest Column By CW Cooke
Have you ever used the website comicshoplocator? Itâ€™s an amazing tool that can show you places youâ€™ve never been. It can lead you to a wonderful world of comics that you might have never even knew existed.
I can tell you right now that I havenâ€™t used it in years. I used to use it once in a blue moon just to see if a new shop opened without me knowing about it. And it seems that today there are two comic shops I had no idea about, right under my nose.
Go to the site and put in an area code. I used 66204 just for grins and it came up with six different comic shops. Three are legit comic shops Iâ€™ve been to many times, one is Vintage Stock which has their own pull lists and comics that actually does indeed make it a comic shop, and two Iâ€™d never heard of. But I will be checking out. Thatâ€™s for sure.
Put in any zip code you can and it might lead you on an adventure you never thought possible. But you might also be wondering why Iâ€™m asking about this. Itâ€™s simple.
Last week it was announced that all four Atomic Comics shops were closing. They were located in Arizona and had an amazing website devoted to selling comics and comic book related merchandise. I used to frequent their website as well, checking out books before they came out, using their website often as a link for many people across the country to find books that I was reviewing for another website.
And now here we are, and theyâ€™re closing.
It drives a stake right through my heart to hear about another comic shop closing. AfterÂ being in business for years, it drives me nuts. Iâ€™ve seen comic shops come and go in the KC area alone, but hearing about one as influential and well known as Atomic Comics really makes me pretty mad. It makes me feel like I need to say something, I need to do something, I need to drive you out of your homes and away from your iPads and your computer screens to go and visit your local comic shop in order to keep them flourishing.
The first three comic shops I ever visited closed. The first was Castle Comics on Quivira, right off of Shawnee Mission Parkway. I loved that place so much. I was very young when they were open, but weekly my dad would take me to check out the store when my mom would go get groceries or he would take me in just for fun and let me pick out a few books. I still have every single comic I ever got from that store, and some of the last purchases I ever made there were, I believe, related to the Age of Apocalypse. But I treasured them and still do.
Castle Comics made it okay for me to be a kid and a comic fan. They didnâ€™t despise me and my grubby hands. They loved that I was in there, reading comics and just diving headfirst into the comic book world.
Around the same time, Clintâ€™s still had a store on 95th Street near Toys R Us, and we used to frequent that as well when we didnâ€™t go as far. This was prior to my having a severe loyalty to one comic shop, but you learn as you grow. I loved that Clintâ€™s, but in my reading experience as a comic fan, it didnâ€™t last long. It seemed to be there one week and then gone the next.
I attempted to get my dad to take me down to Clintâ€™s on Main from time to time, and he would, but it was never the same as Castle and Clintâ€™s on 95th. It was strange, because there are thousands of people who love Clintâ€™s on Main immensely. To me, it was never my store. Iâ€™ve been there a number of times over the years, but itâ€™s never been my store.
Once I hit high school, I started to find a loyalty to two different comics shops. Sidâ€™s Sports Cards and Comics on Johnson Drive and One Million Comix on 95th and Nall.
Those were my stores. Sid always had the back issues that I wanted or the brand new comics you couldnâ€™t find anywhere else, and One Million had my pull list. I spent my entire high school career reading comics and spending hours on end in both stores, spending entire paychecks from summer and weekend jobs just on comics or shirts or toys or trades or anything you could think of.
I spent hours talking to Sid. Hours talking to Tina, Robert, Dave, Big Dave, BJ, and the rest of the gang at Million. I met local comics creators there and was pushed to develop my own because of guys like Dave Coates. I even, randomly, ran into Tina when I went to Chicago for Wizard World.
Seemingly, I spent years of my life sticking with comics and sticking with the people that treated me right. At that point, I had no clue Elite Comics existed. It seemed so far south of where I had ever been that I didnâ€™t even know there were any other comic shops in existence except for Sidâ€™s, Clintâ€™s and Million.
Those were my stores. And just like Castle and Clintâ€™s on 95th street, things changed. Sid moved locations to 87th street which was actually a bit closer to where my parents were (even though I had just started college at the time) and Million closed its doors.
I was heartbroken when Million closed. When Million got sold to Bebopâ€™s, my heart was crushed. I felt betrayed. I felt like I had failed them and that I was losing a family member.
I had spent thousands of dollars by this point inside those doors and had spent so much time there that it felt like a blow to who I was as both a comic fan and a person. It made me, literally, almost give up comics entirely. I spent a few months away from comics, miserable and distraught over the loss of one of my favorite hangouts and just one of my favorite places to be every Wednesday after school and almost every Saturday of the same week.
But I didnâ€™t lose heart forever. I came back to town one random weekend in 2003 after a particularly miserable year and spent time at Sidâ€™s store, Pop Culture Comix. I was back in, heavily. I had a new pull, full of books. I had a new lease on my comics reading experience, and I was buying books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, everybody.
I was back in full and I was loyal. I was buying comics every two weeks when I came home from school, once again spending my paychecks on comics and furthering what could be considered by some to be a nasty habit but by others as an amazing show of faith in the comics industry.
It was where I needed to be and it was what I needed. Comics have always provided me an escape from certain things, and Iâ€™m certain always will. But finding a store to call my own made me feel right at home. It made everything right again.
Comics didnâ€™t feel so much like an escape, they felt like an amazing adventure.
And thatâ€™s the point Iâ€™m trying to make. I donâ€™t want every local comic book store to close in Kansas City. I want them all to stay open. I want you to go out the door right now and drive to your local comic shop and buy something. Go to two stores. Go to three. Find the place that feels at home to you and buy something.
This past weekend, my wife and I were close to Elite Comics so we stopped in. Itâ€™s not where I keep my pull list, but I donâ€™t feel out of place there. I like the location and Iâ€™m sure they do too. If youâ€™re close to 119th and Quivira, stop in and tell them I sent you.
If youâ€™re close to 87th street, go see Sid or Jaymes or any of the guys working the register at Pop Culture Comix. Tell them Cameron sent you and just see their eyes light up. I love those guys, and Sid has been good to me. Heâ€™s allowed me to get a pull list there for almost 10 years straight now and heâ€™s allowed me to do a number of my own comic signings there. And heâ€™s welcomed me with open arms, each and every time. No matter how big or how small my books might seem, Sid is always available for me, always letting me do my signings, meet fans, and just be a part of the culture at Pop Culture Comix. I couldnâ€™t ask for anything else from Sid or from a comics shop.
Donâ€™t let your local shop close. Go in and buy something. Support local businesses and especially support these local comic shops. You donâ€™t want to wake up one day and realize theyâ€™re gone. It will leave a hole in you and it will knock you on your ass if thereâ€™s nowhere in the city to buy your comics.
Get out there and save these local businesses. Go to Clintâ€™s. Go to B-Bops. Go to Vintage Stock. Go check out comicshoplocator and find the closest comic shop to you and get out there and buy something.
Cameron “CW” Cooke is a professional comic book writer whose credits include biographies of Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Howard Stern, and many others. He’s also written Violet Rose and Baneberry Creek.