Atomic fallout: Samurai to the rescue for comic book subscribers with possible foray into East Valley

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Atomic Comics (Tim Hacker, East Valley Tribune)

Customers of Atomic Comics who had their favorite titles reserved at one of the Arizona chain’s four now-shuttered stores will be able to get their fix after all: Newsarama reports that Samurai Comics in east Phoenix will be receiving this week’s Atomic shipment from distributor Diamond.

Samurai owner Mike Banks goes even further, telling the site that he’s looking at setting up a temporary East Valley location where patrons of Atomic’s stores in Chandler and Mesa (pictured) can get their comics without driving across town. (He said the east Phoenix Samurai store at 1051 E. Camelback Road and the West Valley store at 10720 W. Indian School Road will be able to accommodate Atomic’s former Metrocenter and Paradise Valley customers.)

Stay tuned — I’m working to bring you details on Samurai’s East Valley plans as soon as I know more.

UPDATE: I just spoke with Banks, and he confirmed that he’s in discussions with the landlord of Atomic’s Mesa location to set up temporarily in a vacant space next to the closed store just to the south (left in the photo above). “If all goes well, as early as tomorrow we’ll have something open in that spot,” he said.

That will mean that many customers in Mesa will have uninterrupted service on Wednesday, which is when new comics come out each week. Customers of the Chandler Fashion Center store will have to drive a little bit out of their way, but not all the way to Phoenix.

When asked whether this could lead to a more permanent arrangement for Samurai Comics in the East Valley, Banks said “anything’s possible.”

“We’re definitely looking at this as a short-term solution for now, but we definitely have eyes on getting something together for the East Valley for the long term as well,” he said.

Banks said Samurai faces many of the same challenges Atomic did — a sluggish economy and increased competition across the board from the boom in digital comics as well as traditional mail order — but he is far from ready to herald the end of the local neighborhood comic book store. He opened Samurai’s West Valley store six years ago resulting in “amazing business,” he said, and considered further expansion but held off. Now he’s glad he did.

Like many in the industry in response to Atomic’s fate, Banks expresses admiration for Atomic’s owner, Mike Malve, who he said has been very helpful with the transition.

“Malve was amazing,” Banks said. “He was arguably the most progressive comics retailer in this country. But coming with that was rapid expansion. That amazing Chandler store was just beautiful, but he already had the East Valley clientele locked up. It was almost like he was competing with himself.”

Malve isn’t doing interviews, but he spoke out Monday in a final newsletter to people in the comics industry, saying he was bankrupt and losing his home as a result of the Atomic chain’s failure. He said the economic downturn and a car crashing into the Mesa store in 2006 were major factors in his business’ collapse.

As many wonder where the industry is headed, Banks said he will work with other comic shops in the Valley to meet the market’s needs. “It’s a community effort to start off with, to make sure that everyone who is into comics has a place to get their books.”

UPDATE #2: Comic Book Resources carries a press release stating that All About Books and Comics will honor any Atomic orders. Owners Alan and Marsha Giroux tell the website that the store, which has been in business nearly 30 years at various Phoenix locations, has more than enough stock to meet demand but is having additional books shipped from Diamond to cover Atomic customers’ needs on Wednesday.

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East Valley Tribune photo by Tim Hacker

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