Here's a weird fact about me. When I'm on vacation, or I guess just somewhere away from home, I tend to look up comic book shops and visit them. I've done it for as long as I can remember. Don't judge...there are weirder things to do with your time...probably.
This summer was no exception. After Comic-Con and a few days in Los Angeles, my wife and I spent some time in windy San Francisco, home to national landmarks, natural wonders and some well known comic shops.
After taking in a farmer's market on a Saturday morning, I saw that I was just a few miles away from Isotope: The Comic Book Lounge. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had heard good things about it and I knew that it was a favorite shop of some popular creators, so I drove over and ended up finding a rare parking spot right next to the store.
I made it a few feet inside, but was taken back by what I saw. It wasn't the store itself that caused me to stop, but the person standing in front of the counter, talking to an employee. I knew this person, but I didn't know from where for a minute or two. Then it hit me: he was a comic book character. Specifically, this guy:
It was a bit unnerving, staring at a fictional character who had somehow, inexplicably, come to life and decided to visit a comic shop. Slowly, it came to me. The character is from Robert Kirkman's Invincible from Image Comics, and his name is "Isotope". Oh, heck. I had no idea he was modeled after a real person. It took me a while to get over that.
The real life Isotope is store owner James Sime, who, as it turns out, is a heck of a nice guy. We chatted for a while and I got my picture with him before I walked around the store, still trying to shake that "fictional characters are coming to life" feeling.
The store itself was smaller than I had imagined, but its layout was hip and friendly. The main floor had comics along the wall - nothing unusual there.
If you look up, though, you'll see something out of the ordinary but very interesting - original artwork on toilet seats. There were probably a few dozen of these lining the tops of the walls and they added to the unique feel of the store.
Toward the back of the shop is a staircase which leads to the lounge - it overlooks the store and has a small setup for a band. There were places to sit and stacks of comics to read - James mentioned that most of them were from local and small press creators, which is a swell thing to do. And it just so happened that I had a copy of Teddy and the Yeti in the trunk of my car...so it made its way into Isotope's lounge collection, which is great.
Lady Blackhawk also sits in the lounge, probably making sure that no one falls over the edge.
And what comic shop is complete without a full size Dr. Strange costume? I imagine that Mr. Sime could pull of a pretty convincing Stephen Strange.