JOHN MINTON owns the San Antonio retail shop, Atomic Comics & Gaming, located at 4904 Broadway (210.826.3223). Minton’s origin story, in his own words: “I was born in a small town south of SA called Lytle, in a house my father built. I went to LA for ten years to be the actor of my generation. I actually got on the tube and in some flicks that I will never, even after water boarding, reveal the names of. Eventually I got sick of living so damn close to all the other out-of-work actors of our generation. My girlfriend left me and I really wanted some good carne guisada so I came home to form my own theater company. When my son was born, there was no way to continue working full time in theatre. Too much time and emotion is required to do that job. So “now what?” And then it hit me. I go out to a comic book store every Wednesday. All I have to do is find another couple hundred people like me and I could have my own store! Atomic Comics was born.”
Favorite authors, books and comics include:
Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, Joe R. Lansdale, Christopher Moore, ANUBIS GATES by Tim Powers, HYPERION by Dan Simmons, VAMPIRE LESTAT by Anne Rice, THE GREAT & SECRET SHOW by Clive Barker, ISLAND OF THE SEQUINED LOVE NUN by Christopher Moore, Y THE LAST MAN, WATCHMEN, WALKING DEAD, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and SANDMAN.
Which comics were your early favorites? Did you collect as a kid, or did comics come later?
I didn’t collect, which is to say I didn’t take care of my comics. I read the hell out of them, rolled them up and put them in my pocket. I traded for stuff I hadn’t read. If only I had some of that stuff in good condition now! My favorites were anything with Batman or Daredevil. I connected to the lone character facing long odds in the urban settings. Later, I became more anal about what I read and discovered bags & boards, but even now I don’t understand anybody that buys comics not to read, but just to collect. That’s like buying DVDs and putting them on your shelf without watching them.
Have you ever tried writing and drawing your own comics, or wanted to work as a creator in the comics industry?
I would hit my grandmother in the face to be a comic writer. I’ve even noodled around with typing some things out. I think we all have dreams of artistry. I just don’t think I have that juice. I admire artists to the point that I went into the arts, but I chose a discipline that allowed me to pretend that I knew what I was doing. As long as no one questioned me and I acted like an actor, I seemed to be ok. But painters, musicians, writers….those guys have to actually create, and they have my utmost respect.
When did Atomic Comics open and what inspired you to start the business?
We’ve been open five years now. I was leaving theatre and the question haunted me, what could I do now that I would love as much as my work in theatre. This is what I came up with. I have not done a play in five years and I haven’t missed it too much. Every day I get to hang out with people and talk comics–how cool of a life is that!
What are your current bestselling comic books, and why do they sell so well?
NEW AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA are my top-selling books right now. They just came off big events like SECRET INVASION and the DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA, and then the writing stayed really strong. I think SA readers want what all readers want: a retailer that has good taste and one that will be honest. My customers know that if I say they should read a book or stay away from a book, they can trust me.
Atomic Comics serves as a social hub for many customers. Did you actively cultivate this or did it just happen?
We went in with the “Cheers” model in mind. I know that’s going back a few years on the reference, but we always planned on a place where everyone knew your name and you wanted to hang and talk about books and such, after you picked up your comics for the week.
Your store’s nominated for a Nickelodeon award. What’s the story there?
I have no idea what the story is. I got the news in the mail. I have no idea who nominated us! But the votes started pouring in, and I think we’re pretty far ahead right now. If we win, I hope Nick comes by and slimes someone in the store. (Note: Vote here for Atomic Comics as Best SA Bookstore and here for Atomic Comics as Best SA Toystore.)
Any upcoming big events in 2009?
We have David Liss, a New York Times best-selling author, who is doing his first comics work for Marvel. He’ll be doing an in-store signing, when his book hits the shelves. The novel he’s working on has some undead goodness as well as excellent research. He does historical fiction, and some great prose.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve had as a comics retailer?
I would have to say the Jackie Earle Haley signing we did after the WATCHMEN movie hit. I’ve known Jackie since my theatre days and I was pumped that everyone got to see he’s not only an amazing actor, but one of the best guys around. It was great to see so many faces in the store at one time.
Is it true you’re making a comeback in the local SA theatre scene?
I will be returning to do “Uncle Vanya”, this summer. It’s with a great group and I couldn’t turn down the chance to do one of the classics. It will be at Jump Start Theatre some time in July, I think.
What’s your favorite place in San Antonio?
That would be Jump Start Theatre because that’s where I asked my wife to marry me and her saying “yes” has made everything else in my life possible.
Favorite San Antonio food (or foods)?
Big-ass chicken fried steak from Alamo Cafe or Shrimp Paesano from Paesano’s. Anyone that’s had either one doesn’t need me to explain.