Published April 26, 2017

Retailer Spotlight: Samurai Comics

Owner Mike Banks introduces us to his Arizona-based comic shop!

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In each installment of Retailer Spotlight, learn more about some of the world’s top comic book shops and how they came to be!

It all began with a quack and a Gene Simmons cameo for Mike Banks, the owner of the Arizona-based comic shops known as Samurai Comics.

We caught up with the die-hard Marvel fan to talk about his 30 years in comic retail and a journey that began with quizzical looks from fellow parents at PTO meetings to the operation of three separate comic shop locations and the former skeptics now beginning for recommendations. What factors led to you wanting to open up your own comic store?

Mike Banks: I owe my comic book career to Howard the Duck! Way back in the sixth grade I was a fan of the band KISS. When I heard that they appeared in an issue of HOWARD THE DUCK, I begged my mom to get it for me. I didn’t even know that there were comic book stores then! Any comics I bought I would get off the newsstands. We found a shop that had it, though, and I was immediately hooked—and amazed that such a thing as a comic shop existed! I decided that I had to buy all the issues of HOWARD THE DUCK. I remember when I finally got a copy of #1. My mom said “I can’t believe I’m paying $12 for a comic book!”—little did she know what that purchase would mean for the future!

As time went on, I got more and more involved in collecting comics, eventually landing a job at my local comic book/baseball card store. We always joke that my mom would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up; well, eventually I decided that I didn’t want to grow up so I opened my own comic book store.

The original Samurai Comics was opened by myself and my then fiancée—now wife—Moryha. She shared [my] love for comics and anime, and had a great job at Charles Schwab Corporation so she could pay the bills while I followed my dream of opening a comic shop. As it turned out, she got laid off two months into the store opening, and one week before we got married! It all turned out fine, though, she never had to go back to another job, and instead worked alongside me to build our then tiny 950 [square foot] store into Arizona’s largest chain of comic book specialty stores. We now have three locations in Phoenix, Mesa, and Glendale. What kind of customer base does this location have?

Mike Banks: The thing I am proudest about with Samurai Comics is how many families shop at our store. Samurai started with my wife and I wanting to share our love of comics, games, toys, etc. As the stores expanded our own family expanded as well as we welcomed our children into the world—son Connor, now 13 and daughter Arya, now 11. Both of them help out at the stores and at outside events such as conventions. They are a couple of great product consultants. Everything we do at the store is aimed at making it a fun comfortable place for families to shop at. We try to have something for everyone regardless of age, gender, etc. And guess what? It works! We are very active with local schools and libraries. We do a ton of community outreach. Marvel Comics is one of our best partners when it comes to these efforts of reaching out to families. Marvel’s all-ages comics help us reach a younger demographic. Titles such as UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL, MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR, and MS. MARVEL help us reach girls, a typically underserved market. And of course, the Marvel brand is so huge right now that licensed merchandise featuring Marvel characters always [flies] off our shelves. What marketing and promotional material do you think best reaches your customers?

Mike Banks: We are in the Social Media Age. That seems to be our best way to reach out to both current customers and potential new customers. I was so excited to see Marvel plans to use GeoTargeting technologies to direct people to our stores. That is such an awesome idea! Internally, we want to do more with targeted Facebook advertising to bring new readers into our shops. Making use of items such as the Marvel Reading Chronologies are great tools to use to introduce these new readers into comic books. Do you plan comic related events in your store?  Signings, parties, launches, online conventions, games etc.

Mike Banks: We love holding events in our stores. We do weekly gaming tournaments, hold the occasional signing, etc. We like to do fun events such as our popular Ladies Geek Night and Locals day where we invite in local comic creators. What are you most excited for in 2017?

Samurai Comics: X-Men! Howard the Duck got me into this industry, but the old [Chris] Claremont and [John] Byrne UNCANNY X-MEN is what got me completely hooked. I am super excited about the new books coming out.

Learn more about Samurai Comics at their official Facebook page!