Bam! Pow! Zap! The season of onomatopoeias and blockbusters has arrived. Thor, the mutants from X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, and, of course, everyone's favorite patriotic hero Captain America. All of these are based on comic books, the type you flip through in a neighborhood store. Or once did.
Alhambra was once the land of comic book shops, with a collection of much loved stores on Main Street before they fell to the Internet and big box establishments. Only one dedicated neighborhood book store remains today: Comic Cellar. But while the shops may be on the decline, some top comics are being produced in the area, such as artist Kazu Kibuishi's Bolt City Studios just off of Main Street.
A revival of the comic book scene in Alhambra looked possible just two years ago. Full of aspirations, in February 2010 engineer Try Lam opened Nostalgic Books and Comics, with the intention of reviving the comic market that was once a dominant force in Alhambra. Unfortunately Lam had to close down his shop a few months later. “It saddens me to write this,” Lam wrote in a letter to his customers. “We can no longer sustain the store financially. We knew the road was tough, but we gave it our best."
But while the comic stores may be on the decline, a small but vibrant group of comic producers and promoters has emerged in the area. Alhambra will be represented at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego, the annual mecca for all things comic book, pop culture related. Gallery Nucleus*, which is a local leader in comic art, and Bolt City will be presenting the last installment in the graphic novel anthology, Flight, edited by Kibuishi.
Meanwhile Comic Cellar's owner, Ron Spanbaurer, sees the recent string of comic book movies as a great chance for a new generation to start reading comic books.
"Some movies help move comics and other times we see that not many people care about the books," say Spanbaurer.
"But it's great, because we have the high school right next door and there's always going to be a need for us."
It's a good thing too, because Alhambra was starting to lose some of its zip and pow.
*Full Disclosure: Gallery Nucleus' Ben Zhu and Shadi Muklashy helped design the Alhambra Source website. Kibuishi's brother-in-law, Tim Ganter of Studio Ten Four, is our web developer.
Comic Con starts with a preview night, Wed, July 20 and goes on till Sun, July 24. Bolt City will be at #2235 at Comic Con in San Diego selling Flight: Volume 8. Tell them the Alhambra Source says hi.