The foundation of ComicBook.com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it.
If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.
This year on ComicBook.com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.
If you’ve been following these columns throughout the first few months of 2017, you’ll notice there’s something a little bit different about this one just from the title. Take a look at the name of the store “Isotope: The Comic Book Lounge”. It doesn’t sell itself as a shop or store; there’s a unique ring to that name making it clear this is a place that desires to stand apart. That isn’t due to a superiority complex or gag, it’s the very nature of this shop that it walk its own path and you can find that in every aspect of the shop.
Isotope was co-founded by owners James Sime and Kirsten Baldock in 2001 to offer those interested in comics with a stylish and welcoming environment to discover the medium, today it features an irreplicable interior that draws readers from across the world while they visit the Bay Area. Like many other retailers it does a lot with relatively little space, including two floors of room to read and shop, an incredible array of modern comics to buy, and art displays that will keep you spinning. The thing to remember when entering Isotope is to keep walking so you don’t block the door while looking up.
That Astro City mentality is something obvious now, but it traces its roots to the earliest goals of Sime and Baldock when creating the store. The mission statement of Isotope is both heartening and entirely unsurprising for anyone familiar with Sime’s way with words, it is “to represent comics to the world as the revolutionary art form that it is.” That mission has been explored in a variety of ways since the doors first opened almost five thousand and eight hundred days ago.
Over the course of a decade, Isotope hosted their own award: the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. Sime said the award was “to celebrate the art of handmade xerox comics and gave us an excuse to help promote one of the more unsung corners of the comics industry.” Throughout its existence, the award helped a half dozen up and coming creators discover their first publishers and promoted a variety of great work that most comics sites weren’t even aware of.
Eventually the award ran it’s course thanks to the rise of webcomics, Kickstarters, and other new ways for creators to get their work noticed, it was a forerunner in promoting a variety of voices and art styles. That goal speaks to the heart of Isotope and is well worth discussing.
But the thing that everyone who enters Isotope will always remember is the toilet seats.
To find out more about what makes Isotope an icon of comics shops and the toilet seats that ring its walls read ahead.