"I'm the Fantagraphics curator and events coordinator," says Larry Reid as he leans against the sales register, the word "Fantagraphics" arching over his head in an old-timey typeface on the store's large front window. "That's just a fancy title I gave myself. It means I'm a clerk in a comic-book store." Reid's too humble—his little comic-book store is the first shop in the world whose shelves and small gallery are devoted entirely to America's most daring and reputable comics publisher, Seattle-based Fantagraphics.
The small publishing house doesn't cater to fanboys and Marvel junkies. Its artists and devoted readers are more likely to be broke and playing in a scuzzy band (or two). Squeezed between a record store and a coffee shop in an old brick building down in still-gritty Georgetown, the Fantagraphics store isn't really expecting a lot of walk-in traffic. Instead, it's meant to be a destination, a place to help revitalize the Seattle comics scene by hosting monthly exhibitions of cartoonists' work.
The new space is indicative of why Fantagraphics is successful and admirable—it supports good art, whether or not it will make money, and builds a supportive comics community. "I remember when Ellen Forney walked into the office all perky: 'I moved to Seattle! I'm going to be a cartoonist!'" recalls Reid. "And I thought, 'Oh God! Not another one! You're going to starve!'" Forney is now one of Seattle's most popular—and, notably, best-selling—cartoonists.
The store's official opening, at 1201 South Vale Street on Saturday, December 2, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., will be an honest-to-God cartoonist kegger, with beer from Georgetown Brewing Company down the street and the promised attendance of comics icons Peter Bagge and the Hernandez brothers.