Update: Atomic Comics owner Mike Malve has released an official statement confirming the abrupt closure of the chain’s four stores.
In the letter, sent to members of the comic book industry as the final installment of his weekly newsletter report, Malve discloses that he has filed for bankruptcy and he and his family are also losing their home, though “I have always been and will forever be an extremely optimistic person and will look at this situation as an adventure.”
Malve compared his experience to the struggles that Starbucks has faced.
“When the economy went sour, low sales could not support the higher rent at these high visibility locations,” Malve said. “The leases at these particular stores which had originally provided the consumers with greater visibility and more foot traffic to our wonderful world of comic books, the higher overhead proved to be too much for Atomic as we faced declining sales.” All of Atomic’s four stores were larger than the average comic book shop, including a mall location at the Chandler Fashion Center.
The full text of the letter can be found on Robot 6, with Malve also noting the difficulty of recovering after an uninsured driver plowed through the window of their Mesa store (their biggest location) in October 2006. Local newspaper the East Valley Tribune noted that Atomic’s online sales and eBay store had been dormant in recent months.
Original story: Several reports on Twitter and Facebook state that Atomic Comics, a chain of four comic book stores in the Phoenix, AZ metropolitan area, has shut down as of Sunday, Aug. 21. The stores had been in business up until that date.
Word first surfaced in the late afternoon, with unconfirmed rumors quickly growing into conversation among several comic book professionals. John Layman, writer of Image’s Chew and a resident of the area, wrote “Hearing stories about Phoenix’s Atomic Comics stores closing shop. Absolutely heartbreaking, horrible news.” Rob Liefeld and Skottie Young, among others, also relayed the news.
As of the writing of this post, there has been no official confirmation on the store’s website, Facebook or Twitter account; nor from the personal Twitter account of Atomic Comics owner Mike Malve. Writer Ben McCool, of Image’s Choker and Pigs, stated on his Twitter account that he received a text message from Malve confirming the closure.
Atomic Comics has been one of the highest-profile retailers on the national scene for years, regularly attracting big-name creators for events, scoring nominations for the Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award and serving as the model for the shop in the 2010 film adaptation of Kick-Ass.
There are still many details left unknown about the situation, like the exact nature of what led to the closure (though it’s easy to speculate given the trying economic times and the struggling direct market), and what will happen to the chain’s four stores’ worth of inventory, as there appears to be no liquidation or going-out-of-business sales planned. Newsarama will have more on the situation as it develops. (Full disclosure: I was an employee at Atomic Comics from 2002 to 2004.)