Portland’s Books With Pictures was named the best comic store in the world

Books With Pictures has just been named the best comic book store in the world.

Yes, that *World*.

We were reporting on the store’s nomination for the Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award and at the time, owner Katie Pryde made her way to San Diego Comic Con to see if the store had won.

And well it did.

“It’s extremely affirmative and a little bit weird,” Pryde said. She said she spends a lot of time dealing with her imposter syndrome. “I feel great in the store. I feel great about the staff. I feel great with our inventory. The big question for me was, ‘Do I count as a comic store for purposes of this award?’ because we are such an unconventional store.”

When Pryde says unconventional, she means her business strives to make space inclusive. Not just a little bit inclusive, but an entire section dedicated to LGBTQIA+ characters and creators in stories, BIPOC-centric displays and an outdoor event space to ensure immunocompromised people feel safe during these pandemic times.

The interior of the Books With Pictures comic book store is located on Division Street.

Pryde believes that comics are for everyone, and having an inclusive inventory and space is part of that mission.

“I believe that comics have something for everyone who is curious about reading comics,” she said. “There’s this kind of old-school perspective from a certain group of, uh, guys, that they really want to get their girlfriends to like comics or convince them to like comics. And I really feel like what’s here speaks for itself. You don’t need much to persuade and cajole. If someone is curious and interested, let them come in and find out what’s exciting for them.”

For many decades, comics were a medium dominated by white males in both the creator and retail realms.

Pryde recognizes that some traditional comic book stores that don’t embrace inclusivity can be an intimidating place to go. She shared a story about her friend who is now an industry professional but used to steal comics.

“The reason she was a comic shoplifter wasn’t because she was broke or had the money, it was because the first time she went to her comic shop to buy a comic, she threw it on the counter and the seller said something mean about her book,” Pryde recalled. “It was just more appealing to imagine the police calling her parents because she was caught stealing than for her tender teenage soul to buy a book and have someone make a scathing comment.”

And Pryde said before she got into the industry, she always worried that the books she brought to the counter said something about herself to the sales clerk. She was concerned that she was making the wrong choice of books.

Katie Pryde from Books With Pictures

Katie Pryde, owner of Books With Pictures.

Books With Pictures and Pryde itself offer people a judgment-free zone to buy books and comics from X-Men to Genderqueer.

Pryde’s latest endorsement is James Spooner’s autobiographical graphic novel, High Desert. But if you’re looking for something to read, the store’s staff will be happy to help, or you can peruse the shelves around the store, which have personalized recommendations from many of the staff.

“Nobody has to be cool here. We’re all crazy.”

–Fate Johnson

Twitter: @hello_destiny

djohnson@oregonian.com

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