“Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.” – Stan Lee, comic book author and publisher
FARMINGTON – The city’s beloved comic book store, Tales of Tomorrow, will soon close its doors and hang up its superhero cape for the last time, victim to the one villain even Marvel’s Stan Lee didn’t see coming – COVID-19.
Tales of Tomorrow has been in operation for the past three years and is the only dedicated comic book store between Farmington and Albuquerque. Its customer base also reaches westward, deep into the Navajo Nation.
The store boasts wall-to-wall bookcases, filled with graphic novels at the front, and stacks of comic books. The checkout counter doubles as a display to show off props and figurines.
The comic lover’s safe haven hasn’t always stopped at the side wall. Before COVID-19, like Batman adversary Two-Face’s coin, the store had two sides. The second was a coffee house that featured a barista, free comic book samples, a replica of the Tardis from Doctor Who, and tables and chairs for trivia nights, art nights, Dungeons & Dragons games and other gatherings.
Dakota Joplin, the store operations manager who has run the store since the initial shutdowns, said a pandemic-induced run on manga was the store’s kryptonite.
Manga are Japanese-style graphic novels. They differ based on their content and creators. They were one of Tales of Tomorrow’s biggest money-makers.
“The largest contributing factor is lack of product,” Joplin said. “Product like manga and Gundam (model kits and the like depicting vehicles and characters from the “Gundam” manga and anime franchise), there’s printing shortages because the hobby has become so popular that the manufacturers and the printers cannot keep up with demand for back stock.”
The books were available only the week they were released, and when Joplin went to order more, the supply had run out. Manga and Gundam counted for about a third of the shop’s revenue.
With that gone, Joplin said, they tried to focus on other things, such as obtaining more consignment items and toys. But Joplin said the demand for those was no match for the demand for manga.
Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, once said, “No man can win every battle, but no man should fall without a struggle.” While Tales of Tomorrow put up a good fight, the high demand and short supply of the pandemic combined to form a too formidable foe, and the small business lost the battle.
Tales of Tomorrow will close at an undetermined date. Until then, it will remain open at 220 W. Main St.
Sean Sharer, a Farmington City Council member, Batman fan and a weekly visitor to Tales of Tomorrow, said the store’s closing will be devastating not only to customers, but also to the community.
“I think having anything local, when you support local people who pay local taxes to help take care of local programs, I mean that’s important things,” Sharer said.
Sharer’s daughter also became a frequent visitor, and their visit became a weekly father-daughter date. Now, Sharer doesn’t know where he and his daughter will go for their comics and little “Baby Yoda” statues.
“It’s just been a really cool place, and I’m really sad to see it going,” Sharer said. “It breaks my heart.”
Sharer said that as a city councilor, the renovation of downtown Farmington successfully provided a new environment for novel and small businesses. It was exactly what the council wanted.
“To see them shuttering down, it’s just not fun,” Sharer said.
Joplin said he doesn’t know what he will do when the doors close a final time.
“It’s very daunting,” Joplin said. “This dream will never die, and I will never feel fully satisfied unless I am behind the counter selling comic books. … That’s the hardest thing, is going back into the community and finding your new place in it.”
If he were given the opportunity, Joplin said he would keep the shop open.
“It’s everything to all of us, so many of our customers, and so many of our friends,” Joplin said. “I would never want to let that go if I didn’t have to. … It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever done.”
As the small business in Farmington moves toward its end, employees hope the community will not forget about them or the manga and superheroes that they represent. Instead, they hope the community will come together to support other small businesses. As Groot says at the end of the film “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1”: “We are Groot.”
“Every ending is a beginning, and every chapter ends to go on to a better one,” Joplin said. “So we’ll see you guys on the next page.”