I made my quarterly pilgrimage down to the Fantagraphics store in Seattle yesterday, and that store never ceases to amaze anyone who walks into it. From the curator/owner to the punk rock pictures on the wall, to the awesome collection of Fantagraphics titles, traditional comics, underground comics, and some adult stuff tucked away in the back room under the stairs, the entire store is a place to go explore the darker side of comic books. There are very few comic book stores that are not main line Marvel or DC, and when you find one that doesn’t have a Marvel or DC comic in sight or anywhere near the front door it is awesome to see an indie store doing awesomely.
The Fantagraphics store is in the George Town neighborhood of Seattle, south of the West Seattle Bridge at 1201 South Vale Street. Just a quick trip down airport way will get you there into a seedy rundown neighborhood with tattoo parlors, coffee shops and a couple of punk rock night clubs. The old rainier brewery stock house provides a postindustrial wasted landscape for people, along with the ambiance of the whole neighborhood, the Fantagraphics store fits right in. This is a store for all ages believe it or not and the store is tastefully designed and executed. And you can find just about every single Fantagraphics title in the store, when they are so hard to find anywhere else on the planet. Stores rarely stock Fantagraphics titles because they are hooked on the two main opiates of the comic book trade, but no one should overlook the indie scene.
Indie comics are a hard sell at times, we have the main lines of comics in every comic book store, and that is really all the customer sees. Often they think of the alternative underground scene of cheap drug or sex comic books as the indie scene. Far from it, there is a history to comic books that Fantagraphics has been busy reprinting and cleaning up over the years that takes one back all the way to the 1880’s for comics. We can find original peanuts by Charles Schultz, we can find some of the first super heroes before superman, and we can find Oh Sinay! And other early comics that helped set the tone for the massive infusion of comics during the great depression of the 1930’s.
You can find just about anything from Hate, to Barefoot Gen (probably one of the most interesting comic books about Hiroshima), to Prince Valiant. This is one of the fun places to go, spend a couple dollars, and talk to the manager. While the neighborhood might make people a bit nervous, it is a good safe place to go, and if you go on a Saturday you can walk across the street to the farmers market and enjoy some lunch and some other things to do in the area.
If you get the chance to go down there, it is worth going to go see, enjoy, and get a feel for something that is on the near extinction list, a truly independent comic book and book shop that caters to anyone interested in the indie comic scene. A rarity, and given the state of the comics book market right now, it may or may not be able to survive in its current form or location. So while we have this truly Seattle treasure, you might as well make an afternoon of it, go see some awesomely cool comics, and meet some truly interesting people in the store.
- Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley (Fantagraphics) (gocomics.typepad.com)
- Castle Waiting (gooseberrybush.wordpress.com)
- Bosnian Flat Dog (comicsforge.com)
- Ask a Comics Expert (slog.thestranger.com)