Free Comic Book Day seems to have been a success all over the city of Seattle. On Saturday, I walked a route stretching from Fremont through downtown and up to Capitol Hill, and every one of the five stores I stopped in was packed with customers. And these customers were people who likely never would've felt comfortable in a Seattle comics shop in the mid-1990s: women, people of color, families with young children.
Starting my day at Outsider Comics & Geek Boutique in Fremont was the right choice. Seattle's newest comics shop is small, but it's everything a comics shop should be: packed with personality, full of all sorts of neat stuff to buy (including, it should be noted, lots of things you'd never see in a typical comics shop, like socks and jewelry and other nerdy items,) and staffed with enthusiastic employees who love to give recommendations.
Outsider is top-to-bottom filled with good ideas for a comics shop: they've got starter packs of LGBTQ-friendly comics, and a book club, and eager staff recommendation cards. If you're someone who's never felt like you belong in nerd culture because of who you are — your gender, your sexual preference, your particular nerdy interests — there is a place for you there.
My day ended at Phoenix Comics & Games on Broadway, which now seems to be the busiest Free Comic Book Day shop in the city. A long line stretched through the store, and in the very back of the shop comics stars G. Willow Wilson, Kazu Kibuishi, and Zack Davisson did a marathon four-hour book signing session. Phoenix Comics sold out of Ms. Marvel books by the end of the session, just as they did last year — proof that more and more new readers keep coming to the series with each passing year.
Phoenix Comics launched on Free Comic Book Day four years ago, and it's grown an avid customer base in the years since. I thought at the time that Phoenix would be the last comic shop to open in Seattle — I assumed that the industry was dying, and that the market couldn't sustain any new shops. The fact that people still come out to celebrate Free Comic Book Day, and that entrepreneurs are still opening new shops in this city — still bringing new ideas to the comic shop model — indicates that predictors of doom are missing something. There's a place for comics shops in the 21st century, and Seattle's shops are figuring out what that future should look like.