Atomic Comics Chain Shuts Down – Indicator of Industry Trend?

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The news broke via twitter. Atomic Comics manager Thomas Healy posted the message, “Yes Atomic Comics is now closed. I will miss running my store. I had the best staff ever!…”

Atomic Comics was a chain of four comic books stores owned by Michael T Malve (Atomic Mike) that had attracted serious notice throughout its 25 years of business. You might recognize it as being the store shown in the 2010 film adaptation of Kick-Ass. The store was held up as an example for its great marketing , regular in-store signings and events, and large inventory. Just how important was this store? Well the closing elicited reactions from those from on-high. Joe Quesada, former Marvel Editor-in-Chief and current Marvel Chief Creative Officer tweeted his response: “Incredibly sad day today. The best retailer I’ve ever met closed his doors. There’s never been anyone like AtomicMike and there never will.”  And critically acclaimed artist Brian Michael Bendis had similar words over the news “I don’t know what happened or what’s up but AtomicMike is and always will be one of the best retailers ever!”

The reason for the closing and declaration of bankruptcy has something to do with issues involving taxes. What is going to happen to the massive four-store inventory is yet unknown. Perhaps the only outward sign that there were issues was the $1 back-stock sale that was continuously extended week after week.

Of course the closing of Atomic Comics has led directly the elephant in the room question – if this hugely renowned and successful store can close, what does it mean for the rest of the industry? Is this a trend towards comic sales in general? Many fingers are already pointing towards digitally sold comics as the problem, taking people directly out of stores and providing them with the comics they want right in their own home. But, due to lack of details on how Atomic Comics got into financial trouble in the first place, true blame can hardly be placed.

According to Comic Book Resources, two retailers had two very different opinions on the subject:

Controversial retailer Larry Doherty chimed in, “If Mike Malve has fallen we could ALL be doomed. His genius in retail is the high water mark,” later adding, “Print runs are REALLY low. Publishers that market digital to the SAME customer base just put Atomic Comics out of business.” Retailer and promoter Jimmy Jay replied, “if Atomic has fallen, it didn’t happen overnight. […] Digital didn’t kill Atomic, that is simplification.”

 The point, unfortunately, is that the closing of this chain sent a worried ripple through many comic retailers and industry professionals. This news surely is sad for those faithful customers who are losing their personal comic book paradise.

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