Atomic Comics Explodes
Founder Of Iconic Valley-Based Chain Claims The Economic Drop Was Too Steep To Overcome
One incarnation of an Atomic Comics logo..
By Brad Hamilton
Modern Times Magazine .com
Aug. 24, 2011 — Like an H-bomb test in the desert, Atomic Comics, the world renowned, Valley based mecca for the industry, blew up this weekend, leaving a trail of stunned survivors in its wake.
All of the former chain’s four locations were shuttered Sunday amid a bankruptcy that few saw coming.
“The villain in this tragedy is the economy. I had hoped to be the superhero and triumph over the recession, but sadly the economic downturn of the past five years has proven to be unsustainable. For over 20 years I ran a successful and debt free business, provided jobs for up to 60 employees at a time, with some working for me for 16 plus years! I saw profits of up to $5 million during our best years,” founder Michael Malve wrote in the last of his “weekly reports.”
In the report, Malve said that the economic downturn resulted in fewer customers who spent less. To make matters worse, Atomic Comics had upgraded their locations — and the ensuing cost of their leases was too much for Malve to bear.
“My wife recently bought me a copy of the book, “ONWARD” by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. I could really identify with some of the problems Starbucks had faced. Some similarities were that during the best of times, Atomic Comics, like Starbucks, expanded into high profile locations, but when the economy went sour, low sales could not support the higher rent at these high visibility locations. The leases at these particular stores which had originally provided the consumers with greater visibility and more foot traffic to our wonderful world of comic books, the higher overhead proved to be too much for Atomic as we faced declining sales,” Malve wrote.
He also said that when a 16-year-old girl plowed a car through the Mesa store in 2006, the loss of inventory and customers due to this event also had a profound impact on the bottom line of Atomic Comics.
“I think the catalyst for Atomics’ downfall, as some of you may remember, occurred in October of 2006, just as the recession was beginning, when a 16 year old uninsured driver, drove her car through the window of our Mesa Superstore, our largest and greatest revenue producer. This in turn caused a flood as the water main had been hit. This caused such severe damage and loss that we had to shut down for over five months. The damages were so severe we lost close to a million dollars in product. The loss of revenue due to being closed all those months as we headed into retail’s busiest season was astronomical. What really stood out to me was how many of Atomic’s customers were lost as we rebuilt the store. It seemed as if half our customers never returned. The great mystery to me is what exactly happened to all those missing customers. I can only speculate that once you take away the habit of weekly buying, it is hard to jump back into it,” Malve wrote.
Although Malve did not mention that tax problems were to blame at any point in his written update, Jennifer Davidson, an assistant manager at Atomic Comics, tweeted that was the rumor.
“All I’ve heard is that everything in every store is now the IRS’ malve filed for bankruptcy,” Davidson tweeted.
Atomic Comics was renowned throughout the comics industry and was recreated as the hangouts of the heroes of the Hollywood creation, Kick Ass. Samurai Comics is the only chain now operating in the Phoenix metro area.
At the Mesa Store at Country Club and Southern Monday, several customers an hour were seen reading the note on the door announcing the closing and suggesting nearby comic stores where they could take their business with bewildered expressions.
“That is just totally screwed, dude,” said Kevin Smith of Mesa, “I’ve been coming to Atomic Comics since I was in high school.”
Malve said in his letter that for the time being he would not be available for comment.
“My family and I are headed into uncharted waters which is very scary for my wife and I as well as our children. We are losing our home as we had secured it against our leases which we obviously have to break. I know there are many people out there facing very similar situations in these difficult times and now I can definitely empathize with them. I have always been and will forever be an extremely optimistic person and will look at this situation as an adventure. I have very high hopes for the next chapter of my life. I have the support of my wonderful wife, Andrea, my kids, Alexandra & Jack, many loving family members, and lots of great friends. My passion in life, second of course to my family, is the comic book industry, of which I hope to remain a part of in the years to come. I don’t plan on giving any public interviews and would like mine and my family’s privacy respected so we can work on rebuilding our lives,” he wrote.
Brad Hamilton is a freelance writer from Tempe, Ariz.