Friday, September 28, 2012

Conspirator Brock's Local Comic Shop Review - Portland, OR

A trip up to Portland, OR for a close friend's wedding gave me the opportunity to take some time to check out some of the comic shops of Portlandia. For this tour of comic book stores I had guide. Jordan Phegley of The Infinite Longbox was nice enough to drive my ass around, and put up with my bin diving and conversation. Before I go on you should really follow Jordan on Twitter, so click his name, follow him, and come back to finish this review.

The Bearded Duo!
We were going to hit four shops, but due to the time we spent at Excalibur Books & Comics and Cosmic Monkey Comics we were only able to hit up three shops, but I must say right off the bat Portland (from what I experienced) has some great comic book stores. With that said let's get this review going.

Jordan picked me up outside of The New Deal Cafe around 11:30 AM. I would recommend the food at The New Deal Cafe it was yummy.

The New Deal Cafe
5250 Northeast Halsey Street
Portland, OR 97213

Jordan recommended heading to Milwaukie, OR to check out the Things From Another World shop and the Dark Horse Comics Publishing offices.

Things From Another World
10977 Southeast 21st Avenue
Milwaukie, OR 97222

 It was Sunday so the Dark Horse Comics Publishing offices were closed, but Things From Another World (TFAW) was open and inviting. As brick and mortar shops on Main St. go TFAW was more of a shopping mall store than a quaint downtown comic shop. It had current books, trades, toys, statues, and a very small amount of back issues. I had actually been to the TFAW at Universal's City Walk in Universal City, CA a few years ago, and I was more impressed with that shop than I was with this one. Nothing jumped out at this store that amazed me, and after a few minutes I was ready to go. I did make a lampshade purchase and bought a Batman logo sticker for Brody before we left to take pictures of the Dark Horse Comics Publishing offices.

Dark Horse Comics
10956 Southeast Main Street
Milwaukie, OR 97222

Dark Horse has about three locations within a few block radius. One is the new building, one is the old and one is for digital publication if I am not mistaken. It was interesting to see the home (at least the outside) of a major comic publisher. On my next trip to Portland I should swing by during normal business hours.

On the way back to the car we decided to stop at this little antique shop.

 Collectors Mall and Soda Fountain
10909 Southeast Main Street
Milwaukie, OR 97222

Collectors Mall had a fair amount of comic book related toys and even some random back issues. They had old gaming systems and tons of interesting things that brought me back to my childhood. We didn't spend much time inside, but we did find an out of box Nintendo Gameboy with Tetris for twenty bucks. Jordan was tempted, but didn't buy it. We only checked out the front area of the store, and from the look of the place there was a lot more to explore.
Another interesting thing about Collectors Mall was they had a soda fountain bar in the shop where you could get a soda and even freshly baked cookies. Very interesting place, and I will have to check it out again if I'm back in the area with some time to kill.

Jordan was thirsty so we stopped  at a bar and had a beer before we got back in the car to continue our tour.

Excalibur Books & Comics
2444 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214

We drove back to Portland and went to the next stop on our tour, Excalibur Books & Comics. This place is a well known comic shop that has been around since 1974, and it is where Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis has his pull box. Other industry professionals frequent the shop so if you ever pop in on any given day you may casually bump into one of them.

Excalibur has a lot to offer comic book people. Half of the store is walls dedicated to trades which are all in alphabetical order. I didn't really look through them, but Jordan had a fun time looking through them, creating a wish list in his head of all the books he wanted.
Their new releases are in the far back corner of the shop, which is a great way to get people to possibly buy more as they make their way through the shop and eventually to the front counter. We do the same thing at Comics Conspiracy and it works wonders for impulse buying.
As for their selection of current books it is like a lot of mall comic book stores; only a few months old before they are moved to the back issue bin or put in a dollar box.

What got me super excited was their large back issue selection which took up most of the store. The back issues were very organized with clear labels marked on the front and back with title, year, issue count and publisher all easy to see. Main titles were the main separation point, but the popular mini series did get their own labels, and as for the rest they went behind their respective main titles under a various label.
I was itching to start bin diving to see if there was anything I needed for my binding projects. After fifteen minutes I already had a decent stack, and I still had almost half of the back issues to go through. I even got Ryan Higgins some Dark Star and Legion of Super-heroes issues he was looking for. The prices on back issues were reasonable, but during a sale I could only imagine the trouble I would get into. I could have spent a lot more money at the shop, but I was on a budget and we still had at least one more shop to visit.
There was a very nice lady named Debbie behind the counter who was very helpful, and also the owner of the shop. We talked some shop and touched on back issue organizing woes, subscriptions, Marvel Now difficulties, trade organization and point of sale systems. Debbie wants the shop to continue being one of the top comic book retailers in Portland, and with her attitude, knowledge, drive, passion and devotion to her store she has accomplished this and more. Running a great comic book shop takes a lot of work and things are always going to be a work in progress, and at Excalibur Books & Comics they put in the work to bring comic book fans what they want, a shop to call home.

Jordan and I were famished at this point and so we stopped in at a Safeway and got some sandwiches and Rockstars to give us a little boost of energy before heading to our last stop on the tour.

 Cosmic Monkey Comics
5335 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
Portland, OR 97213

Cosmic Monkey Comics at first glance when you enter appears to be a boutique style shop, but as you venture in it becomes so much more. Filled with trade shelves organized by categories like zombies, vampires, Vertigo, artist, and alphabetical by actual book title to name a few. It was definitely a interesting way to organize the trades; very targeted organization, but with the overall boutique feel I can understand why.
Current books were very few and like mall comics shops Cosmic Monkey Comics seemed to keep a small amount of new and current books actually on the shelves. This was okay because with being a boutique comic shop you have to keep the product moving or else you are paying to store the unsellable overstock. 

One thing Cosmic Monkey Comics did have that I found really cool was a larger than normal selection of kids books. A fair amount of single issues and part of a wall dedicated to kids trades and books. I think they had the most kids comics I have ever seen in a comic shop. Of course I got the feeling from the neighborhood the shop was in, and the fact that they had a loft area for reading with a huge sign for Sesame Street on the wall that they had the audience for it. Kids must love this place. I know I would if I were really a kid.

They even feature local indie comics that I would have liked to spend more time checking out, but I was on a mission to find some back issues and I did. In the back of the shop I found the thing I was searching for, the back issues. There is a separate room for back issues. I was in a little pocket universe of back issues; it was heavenly. And then I saw the best sign ever "50% of all back issues." Cosmic Monkey Comics had so many books I needed for my binding projects that I cursed the fact that it was the last stop on our tour. Guardians of the Galaxy run, done. Illusive Green Arrow issue number 86 for my Catwoman run, found it. Batman and the Outsiders volume one the later Baxter paper reprint issues, picked those up. All and all I left that back issue room with a huge stack of books, and I wish I could of had more time looking around, because I could have found so many more books to fill the holes in my collection. If you are bin diving in Portland I would hit Cosmic Monkey Comics up first and then branch out from there.

At the counter a nice guy named Tim helped ring me up, and we got to talking shop. Come to find out that he had moved up to Portland in 2005 from San Jose, CA, and that he had worked in some of the shops in the South Bay. He even worked at R & K Comics back in the day, which meant that he may have been selling me comics when I was a kid. Small comic book world

I want to thank Jordan again for taking me around, and yes I know I owe you a graphic novel. Even though we only hit up three shops I was really impressed by the type of comic book shops I saw in Portland. Except for TFAW, I found the other two shops to be well organized, inviting, stocked, in all good shops to start a pull box at.

To any one visiting Portland, OR I would highly recommend both Excalibur Books & Comics and Cosmic Monkey Comics as really great places to find comics and such. I can't wait to go back myself, and do some more bin diving, and maybe even get over to the handful of other shops we didn't get to on this tour. Jordan you up for another round, because I am.


  1. You just admitted that your chaperone was drinking and driving and I have just reported him to the Portland Police Department.

    1. Congrats. Not only did you blow having a single beer and driving out of proportion you also managed to waste the Portland PD's time. Got to love the Anonymous people of the internet for yet another example of the current state of stupidity in this sad blue world.

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