I’ve been collecting comic books for twenty years in Tacoma. In that time many comic shops have come and gone. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a shop in Tacoma that’s more than ten years old, but the best one in Tacoma right now is just about to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
When I started collecting the two best places to buy the latest issue of X-Men were Lady Jayne’s and O’Leary’s. O’Leary’s wasn’t technically in Tacoma. It was in Lakewood, which is it’s own city but really might as well be a suburb of Tacoma. But if you were looking for some old issue from the late 70’s or that one issue of Avengers that you missed, O’Leary’s was the place to go. They also had the largest section of new comics and the staff was reasonably knowledgeable.
Lady Jayne’s however was different. They went through half a dozen locations. Usually in the North End of Tacoma. At one point they had a second shop at Frieghthouse Square. Lady Jayne’s. Jayne’s was not only closer to where I lived but also far nicer. It wasn’t that O’Leary’s was mean. It’s just that when you bought from Jayne’s, you felt like you were buying from friends.
So I went to Jayne whenever I could. I think part of the appeal was that O’Leary’s had a large staff whereas at Jayne’s, behind the counter you’d always find Jayne, her husband, Conrad, or J. Howard Boyd, the friendliest and one of the funniest guys you could hope to find anywhere in Tacoma.
During the early 90’s, comic shops started popping up all over the place and disappearing almost as quickly. For a while, out in Puyallup, you could go to The Spider’s Web, a comic shop partly owned by Spawn creator and famous Spider-Man artist, Todd McFarlane, but as McFarlane Toys got bigger, their selection got smaller until it was little more than just a storage area for toys. The last time I went in there I couldn’t even get to half the racks because of boxes of toys.
Eventually Lady Jayne retired and her shop closed down. All that was left was O’Leary’s, which was all fine and good. It’s like if the only grocery store in town is Safeway. You’ll get what you want and the check out girl might be cute, but it’s not the same as that mom and pop store that used to be on the corner.
Personally, the other problem I had with O’Leary’s was it was too far from where I was living. So I was happy when Dark Tower Comics opened up on 6th Ave. It was an okay shop and seemed to be a one man operation. The guy seemed to be more into role playing than comics, but so what. He had a reasonable selection and I didn’t have to drive across town anymore. But the more I went there, the less I liked it. The selection and layout wasn’t very good, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that this guy seemed like someone who had opened a comic shop because he wanted to hang out in a comic shop all day and O’Leary’s wouldn’t let him.
Then in October of 2002, John Munn opened up a shop at 26th and Proctor called Comic Book Ink. I’d known John Munn for years. We had many friends in common. He was seriously into theater. Both acting and directing. And he was a serious comic book geek. Opening a comic shop was a dream of his and he was finally doing it.
I was one of the first people to sign up for a file when John opened his doors. His store offered something I’d honestly never seen in a comic shop in Tacoma: class. Walking into Comic Book Ink, I didn’t feel like was walking into some overgrown kid’s bedroom. For the first time, I felt like I was in a shop that actually treated comics like the fun literature that they are. Tacoma finally had a truly world class comic shop.
Shortly after Comic Book Ink hit the scene, O’Leary’s closed its doors after more than 20 years in business. Sure, I never really felt that personal touch there, but it was the place to get anything you couldn’t find. The closing of O’Leary’s marked the official torch hand off to Comic Book Ink as the Tacoma area’s premiere comic shop.
A couple years ago, Comic Book Ink was forced to move. They moved all the way across town to the East Side of Tacoma over on 72nd and Portland Avenue. Honestly, not my favorite neighborhood, but it’s good shops like this that can turn neighborhoods around. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about their new location, but they’ve really made it work for them. There’s more space than the old location and the layout rocks. Even when there’s a book signing and the place is packed, it’s still not too bad.
In its almost five years in Tacoma, Comic Book Ink has been featured in Wizard Magazine (That’s like Entertainment Weekly for comics) and received Eisner Award Nominations for best shop in the country.
Okay, whether you actually read this entire post or just skipped down to the bottom, here are a few links for you.
Comic Book Ink Official Website: http://www.comicbookink.com/
For you people who haven’t read comics, are open minded enough to try, but too cheap and/or lazy to spend money to find out if you like them, here are a few links to comics that are absolutely free that you can also buy at your local comic shop.
FYI: Dark Tower is closing.