Comic shops. If you’re reading this, I have no doubt in my mind that you’ve visited one, argued in one, spent money in one, and claimed one as “my spot.” The smell of books is unmistakable as is the realization that you may end up spending way more than you intended to before you walked in. I begged to go there as a kid, and I continue to visit well into my adult years. What is it about a good comic shop that keeps you coming back? Let me tell you about MY spot…
In 2005, I was in an awkward position in my life… well, a MORE awkward position. Personal changes had caused me to move away from my home on the south side and seek residence with a family friend up north. I was in a bad way and looking for any semblance of normalcy to take my mind off of things. Comic books.
My spot on the south side was the normal dingy dungeon of a store where the shopkeeper grunted as I walked in. I’d grab my books off the shelf in complete silence. I still remember how their HVAC unit sounds to this day. I’d then hand the guy my cash, and post up at the Burger King across the street to disappear into a world of distraction and fantasy. I was fine with this shop and a few others, but they were far from “home” at this point.
My co-worker and good buddy John Castro knew that I’d recently been relocated, and welcomed me to his neighborhood. In our talks, he mentioned a shop that was in business near him called Brainstorm Movies, Comics, and Games. That Wednesday, I went to check it out, and I was floored by the difference. The store was clean and covered in artwork. The staff was incredibly friendly but not pushy. I didn’t feel any eyes on my back as I made my way through the aisles. Every book was pre-bagged and boarded for convenience. They had movies for rent (that’s how long ago this was) and tabletop games ready to be played. I’d never seen a comic shop like this before.
As I mentioned, the staff was the best. Matt Fagan was their resident artist and helped me craft our one (and only) physical Superman/Batman Award. Robert Kimmons was the pusher who knew exactly how to get me to try out a new book. Last, but not least, Sean Akins, aka Cochise Soulstar, was the coolest dude you’d ever meet working at a comic shop by a long shot. Clerk by day, Emcee by night. He stepped up to help with the first Core Demo event. He introduced me to lifelong friends and trusted colleagues like Dave Losso, Melissa Kirk and Alejandro Rosado. He was also always there to offer an ear for support. A much needed reprieve to life outside those doors.
This is an obituary for a place that meant so much to me at a very important time in my life. Heck, I even gave them my TV when I moved away. A comic shop is much more than just a store. If it’s managed right, those walls can house a community, an ongoing therapy group, and in some rare cases, extended family gatherings. Unfortunately, I can’t direct folks to visit Brainstorm and the fine staff any longer because hard times have caused them to close their doors. Since I can’t do that, I’ll make this a cautionary tale.
Comic readers, support your local comic shops. Make sure to pick up your books in a timely fashion because they depend on you to keep the lights on and keep food on their tables. Attend events they host and buy books to share with friends and loved ones. Friendship and care are a big part of building that comic community, but they need your help for providing that environment. After all that, make sure to let them know you appreciate what they do. Sure, they may look at you funny for a second or two, but I guarantee it’ll motivate them to keep fighting.
I wish the best to the crew at Brainstorm. I truly thank them for their hard work keeping those doors open for so long. I hope our paths will cross again someday soon.
Stay mighty, folks…