Many reports tonight via Twitter that the Atomic Comics chain in Arizona is shutting down, and confirmed on an employee’s Facebook page. The four-store chain, owned by Mike Malve, was one of Diamond’s biggest accounts and a huge, progressive retailer known nationwide for its signings and aggressive, innovative promotions. Atomic and its logo were included prominently in the KICK-ASS movie, after Mark Millar became a fan following a signing. The four stores were located in Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, and Paradise Valley.

While the closings had not been confirmed on the Atomic website, their origin, 23 years ago, was told in full:

It all began in 1988 when comic book fan Michael Malve opened Bubba’s Comic Store in Phoenix. Following a successful opening year, Mike moved the business to Mesa, renaming it Atomic Comics and forever changing the face of comics retailing in Phoenix. Instilling Atomic with an attitude of helpful customer service and product diversity enabled Mike to build and offer a new kind of comic book store, wholeheartedly different from the traditional “Android Dungeon”-type store. This fresh new attitude allowed the mainstream public to experience the thrill and adventure of comics and gaming without having to enter the dreaded “comic store.”

Malve’s Twitter feed did not betray signs of distress, although the last tweet, posted on August 16, read

Man this might be the smallest New Comic week in the history of comics this week. All stores boxed up and out the door by 1 today

However, as news spread over Twitter, the subject is already coming up for debate.

The news comes as the industry prepares for seismic changes, with DC’s relaunch, the advent of digital day and date, and the evolution of the periodical-based business. While predictions of the death of comics shops have been only a hypothetical — if ubiquitous — debate of late, the closing of Atomic Comics is the first concrete sign that this is in fact more than a hypothetical.



  1. I live maybe 500 yards from the Mesa store, and was there just yesterday; things looked fine. But I guess they could have shut down today. I’ll stop by the shop tomorrow to confirm.

  2. I am in total shock over this. I worked for Mike in his Chandler store during my short stay in Arizona. He’s a great guy, and I hope he continues on in the world of comics. I know he just became one of the top board members at Hero Initiative, so his involvement in comics wont end, but man. I’m really bummed to hear this.

  3. That’s a shame. I’ve got a brother (and a comics-loving niece) in Phoenix, and would always visit Atomic Comics when I was in the neighborhood. It’s always sad when a really great comic shop goes away.

  4. Shows you what happens when customer relations goes out the window! I stopped going there as soon as I was treated rudely by their staff at their different locations. Their Mesa superstore staff was the worst. Wouldn’t ask if I needed any help, would look at me like I was an idiot, just bad customer support. Buy Atomic or Die? lol! Atomic Comics is Kick-Ass? lol!

  5. I own Samurai Comics in Phoenix, AZ. Mike Malve called me tonight with the news. In the last couple of years we’ve seen several local comic shops close up. I never imagined it would happen to Atomic though.

    Atomic Comics is what we aspired our store to be when we opened up. They were progressive and really pushed the envelope of comics retailing. Pretty sad news…

  6. Mike, hopefully you and Alan will more then make up for the extremely sad loss. I’ve known Malve a little less then when I met Alan and later you so this moment is still extremely stunning to me.

    Hopefully there’s going to be a mess of new customers to all the remaining stores here in Phoenix and its surrounding areas.

  7. Damn, really now. I just got two huge-ass posters from them last Wednesday.
    Damn shame. I also got the Sandman collection.
    Going to stop over there tomorrow.

  8. @Lotsoreasons You’re the only person I’ve ever heard say that. Mike is always big on customer service. If you would have brought this to his attention, I’m sure he would have taken steps to correct your experience.

  9. It’s a tough business to be in right now, but I stopped going to Atomic a long time ago. I always got the feeling that beneath the veneer of politeness there was a degree of contempt, a vibe you would never get from Banks or Ray, Alan or Marsha, or any of the other great retailers the Valley has seen (RIP Ken from AAA Best!).

    Malve is always about the next deal and maximizing his margins, regardless of fairness. He’s mellowed a little as we’ve all gotten older but quite frankly I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. The only sadness I feel is if this indeed is a harbinger of comics’ retailing in general.

  10. What type of bankruptcy is this?
    Restructuring or liquidation?

    If Atomic Comics has such a strong customer and professional base, then why no “Save Our Store” sales? Or has Atomic been digging deeper debts behind the scenes, and the problem now has only one solution?

  11. I think it’s more of an IRS seizure than any kind of bankruptcy. Usually happens when you collect money for sales tax then use it to pay off other bills. I’ve seen plenty of stores change ownership to the IRS over sales tax problems.

  12. I have known Mike for years. Very nice guy and master Retailer I l hope he does well in the future. If anybody needs a subscription service. I have a 20 % off one, at Greg’s Comics NW corner of Guadalupe and Alma School Rd . Mesa AZ 480 752 1881 The Comic Community has lost a great place to shop. Howard Harris

  13. If it’s a sales tax matter, any seizure would be by the state, not the IRS. The IRS does not have anything to do with sales tax collection.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but as an IRS employee I get tired of seeing the IRS blamed for every tax problem everywhere especially in my red state where “Obama’s IRS thugs” get blamed for the actions of the Republican lead state. Yes I am an IRS “agent” AND a comics fan. And no, when I read Superman I do NOT root for Lex Luthor thank you very much.

  14. A loss of another comic shop is never good for the hobby. We remember when Mike M. moved to town and came in to our store looking for a job and then opened his first store. Sad to see this turn of events.

    All About Books and Comics has been around since the inception of the direct market. With 30 years of retailing and the biggest inventory in AZ, rest assured All About Books and Comics in North Central Phoenix will be here for the long haul.

  15. Thank goodness there will still be Greg’s comics just down the street. I can’t afford to have my radio stolen so I’m staying out of phoenix for my funny books.

  16. I received nothing but excellent customer service every time I went into Atomic Comics. It was a good place to get hard-to-find back issues, but my problem was you paid a price. But it was a clean store with a great selection and knowledgeable staff. The good news is that there are a bunch of really good comic stores in the Valley, especially Greg’s Comics down the road from the Atomic Comics Mesa Superstore.

  17. A very technical correction on some of the comments here: if it was a sales tax situation, it would not be the IRS involved. The IRS is a federal agency, sales tax is a state matter – in this case, the Arizona Department of Revenue.

    Having said that, I feel for the owner, for all who worked at the shops, for all the customers they served (too many of whom are likely to forego regular comics purchasing now, rather than shifting to a new store)… and for the industry as a whole, as the lost of four outlets harms all of the many publishers they carried.

  18. I’m surprised Comicbook stores exist at all any more. Considering how insanely expensive they are! The days of casual readers are over and that is a shame.

    Had a favorite comic store back in California as a kid and I can guarantee it’s long gone :(