As I was lurking on Twitter last night, I saw a retweet (by whom, I did not even notice) that the Atomic Comics retail chain in Arizona had shut down. Further looking and playing follow the links led me to the sad conclusion that this news was on the level. Today, we got confirmation from owner Mike Malve that it's true. All 4 Atomic Comics stores have been closed permanently.
I think it's silly to try to frame this as an "Oh no, comics are doomed!" argument when we know so little as to why it happened. Certainly, it can't be good for the industry when such a high profile retailer goes under. But does it mean comics are finished? Of course not. Everyone tries to equate comics to book stores or music stores, but that misses the fact that comics are unique in that they are entertainment, they are art, and they are collectibles. No one approaches comic books for exactly the same reason, and that is one of their strengths. Certainly, online ordering and digital comics will have an impact on the industry, but there is a sense of community that they can never replace for a segment of the population when it comes to the local comic shop. I know if my store went away, it wouldn't be the comics I miss, but the ability to drop in and see what was happening.
On a more personal note, I was lucky enough to visit Atomic Comics in its early days, and have an awesome experience there. More recently, I went by the Mesa store a couple of times when I was visiting my friend Sara. In fact, the last time that Sara and I got to hang out together and have fun was when we went by there one Sunday evening. I bought a couple of 1970s Justice League of America issues, while Sara bought a volume of Adam Warren's Empowered. So I will always associate Atomic Comics with happy memories - finding old comics, spending time with friends, talking tokusatsu, Japanese toys & G-Fan with the owner and namechecking people like Damon Foster and Igadevil along the way. And that is why I mourn for its loss, because those memories become a little more distant now that Atomic Comics is no more.