This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on May 24, 2017.
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.
A comics store sells comics. That is the very definition of its existence, typically accompanied by a set of walls and a roof. A good one sells comics well and encourage customers to read more of what they love. However, a great comics store does something altogether different; a great comics store builds community. If you’re looking for an example of what this means, then you only need to visit Escape Pod Comics on Long Island.
Escape Pod Comics has only been around for about 4 years, but it has already built a strong reputation and community within and outside of its walls in that time. It was opened by Menachem Luchins, a man who says he is “obsessed with matching people up with the perfect book for them.” Upon opening the store his goal was to show anyone who might enter that there was a comic for them. That goal has not changed, but the store has continued to expand its selection in order to prove Luchins right. Almost every inch of wall space is now covered in comics that include Scholastic trades, self-published indies, art books, Big Two superhero comics, Kickstarter incentives, and a whole lot more. It’s a store that manages to encompass all of comics in some way, and it’s too big for just one person to run.
Luchins was quickly joined by Conrad J. Roth who now manages the store. Roth received a recommendation to visit Escape Pod from none other than J.M. DeMatteis at New York Comic Con. Despite the notable trek between Queens and Long Island, Roth found himself traveling to the shop with increasing regularity until he essentially worked there, and then he was hired. Together Luchins and Roth keep the shop open six days of the week. They are only closed on Saturdays in order to observe the Sabbath.
Roth is more of a rule than an exception at Escape Pod Comics. As readers and creators come into the store’s orbit, they find it increasingly difficult to leave. It’s not just the incredible selection and outgoing nature of the staff, Escape Pod has had a notable impact on the lives of those who know it as a second home. The story of part-time employee and indie comics creator Andrea Shockling shows just how that happens…
Click ahead to learn how Escape Pod Comics has helped to nurture both comics readers and creators in New York City.
Shockling came into Escape Pod’s orbit when she was still a resident of San Francisco. Despite the continent-wide distance, she moved her comics pull file to the store and would have them shipped in bundles. After she returned to the East Coast, it was only a matter of time before she became a regular denizen of the store. Initially, she would visit the shop just to see her friends, but slowly began to spend more time there and started to help out with events. Soon Shockling was helping out at the store when she was in New York City. She was taking out comics guests when they visited for signings and filling in on a variety of other fun details. One of her most obvious additions to the store is the closed sign used for Saturdays. It is a hand-drawn depiction of Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski screaming “Shomer ****ing Shobos!” This sign is both a humorous reminder of the store’s observance of the Sabbath and that it loves to support comics artists.
Afterall, Shockling is a rising star in the indie comics scene who made her debut at Small Press Expo (SPX) just last year. She currently draws an autobiographical webcomic that details her life and its many roles in the wake of losing her mother. She’s not just Escape Pod’s semi-official artist, providing detailed signage and name tags for visiting creators. The store was the very first outlet to carry Shockling’s very first published comic “Mom Privilege”. Escape Pod has become a home for Shockling and her work in comics. “I feel like the stuff I can do at the store and for the shop relates to my identity as an artist.” says Shockling.
She is far from the only comics creator who feels attached Escape Pod Comics. The shop hosted a total of 13 comic book creators on Free Comic Book Day this year (which Escape Pod hosts on Sunday). The assembled artists and writers included C. Spike Trotman and Donny Cates. It was a diverse group of individuals and that reflects the attitude of the store.
“It sounds a bit corny, but the shop is a safe space.” says Shockling. There’s no judgement to be found within the walls of Escape Pod. Luchins, Roth, and the rest of the shop regulars are entirely focused on including new readers and finding a comic for everyone. “All are welcome and made to feel welcome. And that, more than anything else, builds community.” says Shockling.
When you examine everything that Escape Pod Comics has accomplished in such a short frame of time, it’s easy to think that the name is intended to be ironic. From the very first day Luchins opened the shop’s doors, Escape Pod has only attracted positive things – people, creators, and comics. It is a place that those who love the medium seem to never want to leave and that has fans across North America. It provides support to its readers, local creators, and whoever else might walk through its doors. That’s how Escape Pod Comics has built a community and why it’s difficult to imagine anyone ever wanting to leave.
Click ahead to see full details and photos of Escape Pod Comics.
Name: Escape Pod Comics
Address: 302 Main Street
Huntington, NY 11743
Phone: (631) 923-1044
Website: Escape Pod Comics
Facebook: Escape Pod Comics