Monday, July 19, 2010

Andromeda Comics and Piccadilly Square

My last entry about Mel's Lounge reminded me about Piccadilly Square, which got me to thinking most importantly about Andromeda Comics, the store that provided my brother and me some of the best comics ever created, as well as a place of some of our fondest memories.  Andromeda was located in De La Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara and was very easy to miss if one did not know it was there.  When Jeff and I walked in with our $2.00 weekly allowance, we wold bypass the tiny and packed front room of sci-fi and fantasy novels, making a beeline directly towards the much larger back room where the comics were kept.

The store was glorious.  I can faintly recall the slight smell of mildew, dark flooring and the complete lack of natural lighting.  When we walked in, we were greeted with the L-shaped display case that separated customers from the left and back wall where all of the back issues were kept in longboxes and were available for perusal only by request.  On the right wall was the expanse of wall racks where all of the latest new releases were displayed, with the far right back corner containing the indies and the XXX fare that I occasionally would sneak glances at.  Above the new comics area and vaulting up the wall close to the ceiling were bundled comic book series that the owners had tacked to the wall--I found Contest of Champions, Vision and Scarlet Witch, some Daredevil issues and countless other comics well out of our price range.

I had to learn to climb a rope before my mom bought this series for me

My brother and I must have driven the poor store workers insane with our constant requests to bring out a longbox of Chris Claremont's X-Men comics so that we could see all of the ones that we were missing and those that we desperately wanted.  Andromeda is where I also found all of the remaining Micronauts comic books that I missed between the time that the series went from being sold at grocery stores and newsstands to being sold only directly through comic shops; I cannot begin to express the happiness I felt to finally continue the series that had only improved over those years.  My brother happened to be a Daredevil addict, primarily the Frank Miller issues, and he found them all at Andromeda.

This is the issue of Micronauts that I found after issue 37!

During that time, I was also introduced to many of the series that changed the course of comic book evolution, as well as what it meant to be comic book reader.  I was introduced to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, The Swamp Thing, Miracleman, and countless other vital books that even today are touted as some of the most important works ever created in the super hero comic medium.

This comic changed everything.

A few years later, in the mid-eighties, a Goleta Andromeda Bookstore opened on Calle Real and although half of the store was for books, the other half was devoted strictly to comics and was almost as good as the downtown store.  It was here that I met Mike Baron, Stan Lee, attended a comic book auction and discovered Neil Gaiman's Sandman.  I loved the store, but to be honest, it could not compare with the downtown location, which was closer to our house, not as humongous in square footage, and had more of "Santa Barbara secret" feeling about it; it felt more like OUR store.  Unfortunately, the Goleta Andromeda did not last very long and closed it's doors a year or two later--it was just too big and too generalized in it's product scope.

This comic continues to rock the goth kids' world

Andromeda on De La Guerra, soon shut it doors as well so that it could open a new location on the ever costly and local business destroying State Street.  This store was great and had a lot of space as well, but looking back, that was probably working against it, since square foot lease rates are Kryptonite to any business (i.e. local businesses) that need to make money to survive and not write off the losses as marketing expenses as I suspect is the case of the big chains that now litter our city.  Also working against the store was the comic implosion of the nineties, where, like the housing market crash a few years ago, gamblers...sorry, I meant investors...sought to buy the slew of multiple covers and really BAD comics and become rich overnight, which did not happen for most people.

Another contributing factor to Andromeda's impending demise was that Metro Comics opened a few blocks up the way--off of State Street--and with what I assume is a much cheaper lease...Andromeda finally closed up shop in the early nineties.  It was a little while before this time that I had actually already defected over to Metro on the day it first opened.  It felt more like the friendly neighborhood comic store that I had loved so much as a kid and even though the store has since moved across the street, I am still shopping there twenty years later, and despite the uncertainty of the digital age of comics, I hope to be shopping there twenty years to come.

I still miss Andromeda, tucked away in its little nook, and before downtown had morphed into the multinational high rent chainstore soullessness it is today.  Goodbye Andromeda, I will never forget you or the fact that you introduced me to some of the best comics ever created.  Thank you for the good times and the fond memories.

*note* At one point in Andromeda's history, one of the founders Ralph Holt split from Andromeda to open his own store in Ventura called Ralph's Comic Corner, which is also a GREAT comic shop.  I usually make it down there once or twice a year just to look around.  Definitely worth a visit.


  1. I miss Andromeda, too. Wish some readers with photos of the place would share them

  2. Tell me about it. I don't think Mom has any pictures of the joint, but it would be nice to see some. "Can I please see the X-Men comic with Wendigo on it...again?"