This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 14, 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.
We often hear the phrase “dip your toe in” and think of the shallow end of the pool. It’s just a little bit of contact with water that allows you to adjust to the temperature and learn how to handle more of it. The vision of just dipping your toe in only alludes to a fraction of the overall pool though, and anyone who has learned to swim can tell you that the goal is to make it to the deep end, even when you only have one toe in. Another Dimension, a comic book store in Alberta, Canada, can be compared to a pool in this way. While it excels at helping customers dip their toes into comics, it has always been sure to show off the entire pool so they have an incentive to keep swimming.
Another Dimension is one of the oldest comic book stores in Canada or North America having opened 34 years ago. Throughout that time owner John Tinkess has seen a lot of changes, but his goals and mentality towards running the shop have remained consistent. He’s a lover of comics and believes the strength of the medium can carry a store a long way when properly shared.
That faith in comics is apparent in the appearance of Another Dimension. “We were stocking every graphic novel and trade paperback we could get our hands on in the 1980’s, long before the format was widely accepted” says Tinkess. Looking at photos of the shop (just two slides ahead) you can see that their stock has remained daunting. Entire bookshelves are dedicated to a single creator, providing an aesthetic that is as much like a library as anything else. The variety of comics on display cover a wide array of regions, creators, and genres, meaning the comics in Another Dimension really are for everyone.
This diversity of selection and massive stock of comics, popular and unpopular, is a feature, not a bug. While the audience has shifted over the decades, the goal of luring in anyone interested in trying comics has remained consistent. For a long time this meant tempting adults and non-traditional buyers to check out a medium with an undeservedly bad reputation, but that challenge has diminished, especially over the past ten years. “The growing acceptance of comics as a legitimate art form and the diversity of new comics being published now has only made our job easier” says Tinkess.
Tinkess is proud to announce that he still has some customers from Another Dimension’s very first year. Readers seem to stick with the store, even after 34 years. However, the current crowd of customers is a diverse set that covers all generations. Tinkess has noticed a surge in the number of women reading comics at his store and attributes this to the increase in both the quality and diversity of comics being sold. Despite many dreary predictions about the future of comics in North America, Tinkess has a different take. “It’s funny, people have been talking about the “end of the comics industry” for as long as I’ve been in this business and yet we keep getting new readers all the time” he says. It seems that in spite of any current bumps in the road, the longview for comics is still pretty cheery.
That shouldn’t suggest the comics sell themselves at Another Dimension. Tinkess and his employees have put in a lot of work throughout all 34 years of the store’s existence. Much of what makes it work can be said of any small retail store: “professionally run, well kept, inviting, and welcoming to people of all stripes.” The concept of the returning customer is even more important in comics though. Unlike with cars or computers, a comic book store needs readers to return on a weekly basis to stay in business. That’s where Tinkess and his crew really make the extra effort.
Tinkess stresses that his staff is energetic and positive. They don’t pass judgment on customers for what they read and try to help everyone find a comic they’ll love. The need to create a safe, welcoming space for anyone interested in comics dates back to when Another Dimension opened and comics were frowned upon. “When I was a kid, if you read comics beyond a certain age you were viewed as a freak or possibly mentally challenged in some way but the comic store was a safe haven to be able to enjoy your interests openly” says Tinkess. Another Dimension isn’t just a place to read comics, it’s a place to feel great about reading comics.
When asked about what comes next for Another Dimension, Tinkess can’t help but respond with a laugh and a joke. “Another 34 years, if I live that long?” he says. The real future of the shop isn’t too far from that kidding though. Tinkess and his staff are excited about all of the comics being made today and the many new voices rising in the industry. The adventure of the past 34 years has provided them with the fuel to keep going for at least that much longer, selling comics and having fun.
Name: Another Dimension
Address: 424 B – 10 ST NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1V9
Website: Another Dimension
Facebook: Another Dimension