Spider-Man. Batman. Manga. Tintin. “The Walking Dead.” No matter who your superhero is, it’s very likely that The Comic Book Shop has you covered.
With two stores, one on North Division and another on the second level of NorthTown Mall, The Comic Book Shop just celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Owner Craig Barnett said business is much better than expected and predicted.
“People thought comic books were going to go away or be taken over by computer games, but they haven’t,” Barnett said. “Comic book sales are up by 25 percent over the last year.”
Barnett opened the first iteration of The Comic Book Shop on July 1, 1988, across the street from the now closed Burgan’s Furniture near the intersection of Division Street and Boone Avenue. Barnett was 25 years old.
“I had studied political science for four years so it was pretty obvious I needed to find something completely different to do,” Barnett said, laughing.
At the time Spokane had eight or nine comic book stores, a number Barnett said grew to between 16 and 18 by the early 1990s. Today, The Comic Book Shop and Merlyn’s downtown, are the only ones left.
“As the years went by I bought the stock from many of the other stores when they decided to close,” Barnett said.
The Comic Book Shop stocks around 250,000 comic books at any given time, including some 20,000 comic books from the 1960s and more than 150,000 back issues.
Barnett said he doesn’t do much collecting.
“Early on I realized that I couldn’t collect everything because then I wouldn’t have anything to sell,” he said.
People stop in every day with comic books and graphic novels to sell or to have evaluated.
Barnett said some of the books are brand new and others are from the 1940s. Some are worth a lot of money and some are not.
“You never know what they are going to bring in,” he said. “As for the value it’s kind of like with old cars. One year’s model is worth a lot and the next year’s model is a dud.”
The Division Street store is mostly focused on comic books with just a few extras, such as board games, figurines and posters.
The store at NorthTown Mall features comic books, card games, plush toys, marbles, many board games and some snacks.
“I opened the store at NorthTown because I wanted to see if a pop culture store based around comic books could work,” Barnett said. It could.
The Comic Book Store’s two locations have a staff of 10 full-time and four part-time employees.
The NorthTown store has a big gathering area in the back and regularly hosts HeroClix and Magic Card tournaments there.
Barnett said he’s always wanted to keep his stores welcoming.
“You will not feel like an outsider when you walk in here, no matter what you are looking for,” Barnett said.
Right now, “Batman,” “Walking Dead” and “Justice League” comics are huge.
The exquisite printing and quality of the artwork in today’s comic books is one reason why fans continue to return to the books rather than digital versions.
Barnett said he loves his job.
“I consider myself so very lucky,” he said. “I mean, how many people do you know who work in a comic book store? There aren’t that many of us, but it’s a cool business.”
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