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Monday, March 27

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One-Shots Mon Jun 20 2011

One-Shots: Shawn King

A cheerful, cozy comic book haven located in the Morse Arts District, Evil Squirrel Comics has weathered its share of bumps -- since its opening on Free Comic Book Day in 2006, owner Shawn King's dealt with leaking roofs, the move to its current location, and the economic recession that's hit businesses across the board. But the Detroit-born, now-Chicagoan has pulled through and continues to, thanks to community outreach, a diverse selection of comics, toys, and games, and an enduring love of the sequential art medium. We talked about how he got there, what's next, and what's going on right now at the Northside institution.

Name: Shawn 'Sparky Bobby' King
Job: Owner of Evil Squirrel Comics
Age: 34
Location: Chicago
Hometown: Detroit
Favorite place in Chicago: The Glenwood Bar


Did you always want to open a comic book store?
Truthfully it wasn't always my life's ambition to open a comic book shop.but when I moved back to Rogers Park in 2004 and realized that the nearest comic shop was in Evanston, I saw a void that needed to be filled.

Your store's gone through some economic and location shifts in the last few years. How did you, in the words on your website, get your shit together? What do you feel really pulled you out?

We only moved the shop once. After our first year we outgrew the incredibly small space that we started in, and moved to our current location nestled in the Rogers Park Art District. I think getting our shit together is still an ongoing process. We've recently upgraded our website and are currently getting ready to sell digital comics. Times are changing and I'm always willing to adapt, so I'm constantly getting my shit together. Unfortunately, I don't feel that we've been pulled out of our economic problems yet, but if we can keep up the pace we're going I am sure we will be by the end of summer.

Current storefront [via Comic Book Candy]

What do you feel the neighborhood contributes to the store? And vice versa: how do you feel you affect the community?

I have always thought that Evil Squirrel Comics fits in perfectly with the Rogers Park Art District strip. I'm lucky to have such an eclectic neighborhood embrace us and make us feel welcome. I feel hosting scheduled actives each night provides a safe and cheap alternative to going out to a bar and gives people the ability to experience the geekier side of life that they only see on shows like Big Bang Theory and Smallville.

I know a big obvious answer to this question is "buy comics", but is there anything specific people can do to help you get economically stable again -- even moreso?

I think a big thing that helps is the sharing in social media. I've had a fair amount of new people from Facebook sharing or someone seeing one of my videos.

I've had people suggest a community jar, which I might try at the next event. Having a dollar here and there could help fund more events and bring in a larger crowd.

What do you feel makes you unique as a comic shop?

I truly believe our approach to customer service helps us stand apart from other comic shops. We make a point at Evil Squirrel Comics to know each person who walks through the door. There's been too many times that I've walked into a comic shop and never once been talked to by whoever is working or looked down upon for the comics I was purchasing. There will be times we make fun of you for what you buy, but it's more in jest than comic book elitism.

Seasonal comic rack

You offer a lot of activities. Was that the idea from the beginning, or did it grow organically as the business progressed?

When we first opened we only offered Magic: The Gathering and occasional parties at the shop. Now we're doing Heroclix weekly, Magic: The Gathering events and board game nights. It's always been the idea to have activities and events at the shop to build a sense of community and make Evil Squirrel a destination and not just another comic shop.

Magic: The Gathering September 2009 Pre-release

How would you describe your customer demographic?

All over the board. When we first opened, we appealed to males 18-50ish, and occasionally would get a few female college students in. Since diversifying our products, we do get a wider variety of guests in -- from families with young children to senior citizens.

When you say "diversifying our product" -- how so? What have you started buying that appeals to families and seniors?

We're located down the street from Lifeline Theatre (they have a very successful children's series each year), so we have to be prepared for "kids" of all ages. Our children's section has reading material for kids learning the alphabet to those at the brink of teenhood, and we also carry board games for all ages, such as Apples to Apples and Ticket to Ride.

What are some popular titles at the store? Do you feel like customer's tastes trend in certain directions?

There are a wide variety of popular comics at the shop. Superhero comics are always popular, with DC Comic's Green Lantern being a regular at the top of the charts. Marvel Comics is always a fan favorite and their summer event, "Fear Itself" has been flying off the shelf. On the smaller press side, Vertigo's American Vampire has been a steady seller, even after Stephen King left the book. Fans of the gross and horror have been eating up anything being put out by Avatar Press, while publishers IDW and Image have been pumping out some regular hits as well. IDW's series Locke & Key (written by Stephen King's son, Joe Hill) has recently been picked up by FOX for a series and AMC recently saw success with Image Comics' Walking Dead.

I've noticed many comic fans have a wide variety of taste, but a comic buyer's tastes usually trend toward superhero or independent books. Few actually seem to read both. New television series and movies affect the casual reader's tastes, trying bits here and there til they find their own niche. Conveniently, there's such a broad amount of genres with comics that it's easy to find a comic or graphic for novel for anyone: from the History of Night Club BCBG to the life story of Roberto Clemente, there's something out there for everyone.

Customer Buddy Jon enjoys Marvel Comics

What do you see as the next big thing for your customers?

There are a few events we're testing in the future. We're going to play around with having live music during the summer, launch the book club and host regular comic book swap meets.

What are your plans for the future, either immediate or long-term?

My plans for the future are to continue providing a safe environment for people to hang out, shop and have a great time.

Store sign

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