Atomic Comics’ Mike Malve on getting the brand back together

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Is the Gilbert, Arizona, store opening Nov. 24 just the beginning?

Atomic Comics’ head honcho Mike Malve says his comic store’s return after a 2011 bankruptcy closure was, to borrow a certain Mad Titan’s favorite word, inevitable.

Atomic Comics' Mike Malve (courtesy photo)
Atomic Comics’ Mike Malve (courtesy photo)

“I’ve always wanted to bring Atomic Comics back,” Malve told Nerdvana. “I was just waiting for the right time to do it, and waiting to find the right people to do it with.”

The right time, apparently, is now — or Nov. 24, 2021 — and the right people are his new business partners, local businessmen Joe Furman and Scott Hagen.

“I am really excited to be back in the comics retail game, I miss that nonstop everyday action that comes with owning a comic book store,” Malve said. “The daily interaction with your customers, publishers and other friends in the industry is just a lot of fun. Every day is like Christmas morning. We’ve had some old employees and friends come by the shop and help us bag and board comics and hangout. The joy I’ve seen from the people that came by and found the shop early, be it past Atomic Comics employees or customers, the happiness I’m feeling is really shared by them when they step into the new store and they realize Atomic Comics is back.”

Nerdvana asked Malve how the new Atomic Comics — starting out at Gilbert’s SanTan Village shopping center — will be different from the brand’s previous life, which comprised stores in Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler and Paradise Valley.

“The collectibles market has been incredibly strong the last couple of years and shows no signs of slowing down,” Malve said. “Since Atomic Comics shut down 10 years ago, no other stores have really been able to offer the type of experiences and culture that Atomic Comics was able to deliver on for so many years.

“People need something to keep them busy and find joy in, comics and collectibles have become even more important to collectors.”

“The current state of the world we are living in, people need something to keep them busy and find joy in, comics and collectibles have become even more important to collectors.”

Mike Malve and his partners called Gilbert “an untapped market in the Valley.

“There’s nothing like Atomic Comics on the east side of town,” Malve said. “We love being near movie theaters and SanTan Village had an amazing space that just so happens to be next to Harkins movie theater.”

When asked if he plans to take on other local stores (like Samurai Comics, which picked up where Atomic left off and recently expanded to Chandler), Malve said Atomic wants to be a part of the healthy and thriving geek community in the Valley.

“There are a lot of great comics stores out there, but we will be trying to push the envelope as always have by providing as many fun products as we can including comics, toys, statues, magic cards, Pokémon cards, board games, clothing, accessories, gifts, and anything else that is fun and geeky.” Malve said business partner Furman “has a great passion and knowledge of geek culture” and said he’s excited to work with him, and “Joe will be in the store everyday with me.”

Don’t expect Atomic to stay confined to Gilbert or even the East Valley for long, if Mike Malve and his partners have their way: “We will always be seeking opportunities to grow and expand our stores and this culture. We have several locations in mind throughout Arizona. And who-else-knows where?”

Malve said he’s had feedback from creators excited to see Atomic (which hosted many big names for meet-and-greet, sketch and signing events) return. “Many were not even aware that I had the desire to get back in the retail game,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement to be a part of the rebirth of Atomic Comics and we’re excited about everyone that wants to be involved.”

Asked how the new store will handle e-commerce, Malve said Atomic Comics will use ComicHub to offer all its products online. “And we will absolutely ship to anyone that would like to shop with us. If you are out of state we encourage you to shop at your local comic shop if you have one, but if you don’t Atomic Comics is here for you. We will of course have unique items that will only be available from Atomic Comics and we will have the ability to ship those to you around the world.

“One of the cool things about ComicHub is that our customers can download the app on their phone and that gives them the ability to start a pullbox with us and order/pre-order. It’s a really convenient platform that will provide a lot of opportunities to interact with our customers.”

Atomic Comics Gilbert will open Nov. 24, 2021, with a planned Local Comic Shop Day event featuring area creators 4 to 6 p.m. and a similar event planned to capture Black Friday weekend shoppers noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 27. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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About the author

Jayson Peters

Jayson Peters

Born and raised in Phoenix, Jayson Peters is a southern Colorado-based newspaper copy editor and website designer. He has taught online media at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and now teaches at Pueblo Community College. A versatile digital storyteller, he has led online operations at the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona, followed by the Pueblo Chieftain, Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pueblo Star Journal. He is a former Southern Colorado Press Club president and founder and curator of Nerdvana.