The storefront of Fantom Comics in Washington, DC. Photo credit: Fantom Comics.

Last week, Fantom Comics in Washington, DC announced via Facebook that they would open their doors as a safe space and rest area for those protesting the Inauguration of President-Elect Trump on Friday, or marching in the Women’s March the following day. From their Facebook event page:

We know inauguration weekend will be physically and emotionally taxing on all of us. For anyone seeking shelter, solidarity, or just a drink of water, Fantom Comics will be a safe space and rest area for all during Inauguration Day on Friday and the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday (and all the other protests, we know the Women’s March is only one of many).”

The store, which hosts book clubs (January 26 features Black Panther #10) and geeky Cocktail mixers in addition to more traditional events and signings, is accepting donations of water and snacks to help with the effort. It’s part of Fantom Comic’s larger mission to be more than just a great comic book store; they hope to also be a “positive community space.”

They even welcome Trump supporters to check out the store during inauguration weekend, as long as they are respectful to those utilizing it as a safe rest stop from their protests.

Intrigued? We spoke to Jake Shapiro, general manager for Fantom Comics, about the event. Shapiro has worked for Fantom for three years, moving from assistant to general manager when the beloved Esther Kim left to work for Image Comics late last year.

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Fantom Comics hosts a comic book reading club. Photo Credit: Jake Shapiro

Edie Nugent: How does the creation of a safe haven during this years’ inauguration (and related protest march) “for anyone seeking shelter, solidarity, or just a drink of water” fit in with the mission of your store?

Jake Shapiro: Many of our close friends and family of the store are worried for their safety, not just in this upcoming inauguration weekend but for the upcoming four years in our country. We pride ourselves on our diverse community, so it behooves us to stand up for those people in a time of need. We’re trying to be as inclusive as possible, though–none of our messages are anti-anything. If a family of Trump supporters wants to shop here this weekend, they’re more than welcome, as long as they’re respectful to the folks in our space.

Edie Nugent: Do you have any fears about backlash resulting from publicly providing this type of space?

Jake Shapiro: Yes, we’re definitely a little worried about backlash. Not in our direct community–DC is one of the most progressive cities in the country, and went over 90% for Clinton in the election. But tourists are visiting from all over, not to mention angry people on the internet. Of course, what happened to our friends at Comet Ping Pong is always on our mind, and we know anytime we take a stance we’re going to make ourselves a target. But that risk is worth it to us, because being a positive community space for marginalized groups is more important now than ever.

The staff of Fantom Comics pose with Fresh Off the Boat’s Eddie Huang. Photo credit: Viceland.

Edie Nugent: Comics and cartoons have long been intertwined with politics, whether it’s political cartoons or comic books that explore the issues of the day. In your view, why are comics and political expression such a potent combination?

Jake Shapiro: Comics are a visual medium, which gives them wide appeal. They’re no better or worse than any other medium for socio-political commentary, but unlike literature or film, comics are still fighting the stereotype of being “just for kids.”

Edie Nugent: What other types of events can the greater Washington, DC area look forward to from Fantom Comics in the coming year? 

Jake Shapiro: We’ve always got a ton of stuff coming up! After this crazy month, in February our focus will be on hosting a ton of events for Black History Month, headlined by Ron Wimberly doing a big signing/panel discussion here for the print edition of his Black History in Its Own Words series. There’s always some sort of book club or workshop right around the corner, and we hope to ratchet it up even more as the year progresses.

Building community is important to Fantom Comics. Photo Credit: Esther Kim.

Edie Nugent: Anything else you’d like Beat readers to know about Fantom Comics?

Jake Shapiro: We’re not really a big comic convention sort of store, so one of my favorite things has been tabling at the small local shows like DC Zinefest and DC Art Book Fair, where we get to go to places all across the city and reach people who wouldn’t normally come to Dupont Circle to visit our store. It gets our creative juices flowing and creates all sorts of long-lasting partnerships throughout our community.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully the pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces will be respectful to each other. It’s a two-way street here, and Fantom Comics should be applauded for this. And, more importantly, let’s not let politics get in the way of a great opportunity here. Chances are, most of the protesters and pro-Trump people who stop in aren’t comic book fans. Well, it’s a great time to try to convert them all! We need new comics readers, and I hope Fantom Comics entire staff will be there, telling all visitors about the wonderful world of comics. Have sales storewide. Hopefully, we’ll end up with a bunch of new readers, whatever their political beliefs are.

  2. “They even welcome Trump supporters to check out the store during inauguration weekend, as long as they are respectful to those utilizing it as a safe rest stop from their protests.”

    Wow. When you put it this way, it doesn’t sound like Trump supporters are very welcome at all……
    Everyone is always welcome at my store. All viewpoints are welcome. Liberal and conservative. To say that Trump supporters need to be warned to be respectful is rather rude and not a very inclusive or tolerant remark to make at all. Why on earth would you want to alienate 50% of your potential customer base? Could you imagine the backlash you would be getting if you had said the opposite. You should sit back and think about that for a moment. Just some friendly advice from someone in the business for over thirty years in the most liberal state of all….

  3. Love the whole “Trump supporters WATCH YOURSELVES” line.. When it’s just as likely the anti-Trump people will be violent.. but I guess the owner is saying that Anti-Trump people can be disrespectful and violent against the Trump supporters. and the Trump supporters just need to take it..

    Sorry, this space doesn’t sound remotely safe to me. Why not instead of trying to scream that it’s a safe space and promoting violence against one side by implying that ONLY one side is capable of it when that is clearly not the case.. not just say “My store is for everyone. Period.”

  4. I’d congratulate this store for coming out for people protesting a racist, sexist president. And it’s all but logical that the owners are wary of people who actively support the racist, sexist president.

    If this all sounds a bit difficult to grasp – imagine a Washington store in the 1963 promoting themselves as a safe haven for people in MLK’s March to Washington. Can you imagine that they’d be wary of people who’d be in a counter protest (if such a thing happened)? Or would you maintain that they should be equally welcome, with their white sheets and burning crosses?

  5. And the “All Lives Matter” folk will think that Rusty’s comment was a compliment.

    Saw “Hidden Figures” last night; one of the most memorable scenes was set in the (newly desegregated) restroom where the racist supervisor says to Dorothy something like, “I really have nothing against you”, and Dorothy replies, “I know you truly believe that.”

  6. Not every Trump supporter is a white supremacist, but a disturbing fraction is, and quite open about it as well. It seems to have escaped their notice that Trump’s daughter married a Jewish man — or that a great many iconic superheroes were created by East-coast Jews.

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