End of an era.

§ February 14th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 10 Comments

From the “About Us” page on the old Ralph’s Comic Corner website:

“In the late 1970s, Ralph Holt joined forces with a friend of his and began selling comic books and baseball cards at the Santa Barbara swap meet and conventions all over California. Eventually they opened up the Andromeda Bookshop, a store specializing in science fiction books and comic books, in Santa Barbara, CA. After a couple of years, Ralph decided to head out on his own. He made his way about 40 miles down the coast to Ventura, CA, and, in May of 1980, opened up the very first incarnation of Ralph’s Comic Corner. Originally located in the back of a thrift store (where it literally was just a corner), he carried only new and used comics. Ralph moved to a larger location, with his very own storefront, down the road in 1984. In 1990 Ralph moved the shop across the street to an even larger store. In 1997, the store doubled in size again, having moved next door to its current location of 2379 E. Main Street, becoming the Cultural Hub of Ventura County. Along the way, the store added trading cards (both sport and non-sport), role-playing games, science fiction paperbacks, card games, trade paperbacks, T-shirts, posters, board games, Japanese animation and manga, Pogs, and everything else you might expect to find at a Giant Pop Art Emporium.”

Not mentioned in that history I wrote for that site way back when:

1. My hiring in 1988 to replace departing employee Ray.

2. Seth, who’d been working at a comic shop north of us, coming down and buying out the gaming half of the store in the mid-ish 2000s, thus launching his own store “Seth’s Games and Anime.” Which means, yes, there were two stores operating side by side in the same location. Even, for a while, with different hours, which took some doing, let me tell you.

3. A number of years later, Seth would take over pretty much the entire shop save for Ralph’s own back issues. And eventually Ralph would stop being an active participant in the shop, meaning the entire store became Seth’s Games and Anime. (Ralph would continue to have an office there, and sell comics independently of the shop…does this all sound complicated? It is. At one point between Points 2 and 3 I was getting two paychecks, one from Ralph, one from Seth, which meant I have to keep track of what hours I worked for whom.)

So anyway, as of Point 3 “Ralph’s Comic Corner” pretty much stopped being its own storefront, and while there was a continuity of existence between Ralph’s store and Seth’s, the Comic Corner as we knew it was over.

Which takes me to the current sad news: Seth’s Games and Anime will be closing its doors for good at the end of this month.

As anyone who’s been following my social media probably knows, I’ve had some feelings about this. Now I’m at my own shop, a few towns over, and have been for years. This closing doesn’t directly impact me. But nonetheless, it’s left me somewhat discombobulated since I’d heard the news.

Part of it is that continuity of existence I mentioned before. Yes, it’s no longer Ralph’s Comic Corner, nor has it been in a while, but it’s still where I worked for many years, learning the trade and creating relationships, several of which I still maintain at my current shop. I moved the contents of this store twice, I built shelves and arranged stock, created displays and tried hard to make it a friendly, accessible place. Working for Ralph’s and later Seth’s represents well over a quarter century of my life.

As pal Andrew put it on Twitter:

“It was the apprenticeship and booster rocket that helped get you where you are now.”

Ralph’s Comic Corner, and the shop it became later, loom large in my history and development. And I guess I always sort of took for granted that they’d always be there. But as I was there the other night, picking up some stock for my own store at Seth’s urging, I knew this would be the last time I’d be seeing the inside of this building. It definitely wasn’t the comic shop I remember, but I could look around and see where it had been, beneath the new arrangement of fixtures and varieties of stock that existed there now. When I come back and the building’s been rented out to, I don’t know, the Screen Doors for Submarines store, even that connection to my past will be gone.

So, it’s been a pretty sad day for a lot of us, whether we were old-timey Ralph’s customers or folks who just started popping into Seth’s recently. I of course wish everyone there the best.

Ralph will still be around…I’m still doing business with him, and I’m sure he’ll turn up filling in for me at the shop once in a while.

Speaking of Ralph, pal (and also former Ralph’s employee) Cully sent me a scan of a panel that appeared in Gilbert Hernandez’s Luba #6 (2002)…warning, dirty words, don’t look kids:

In case you didn’t know, Ralph’s Comic Corner was the first comic shop anywhere that carried Love and Rockets, the original black and white covered one they self-published. Ralph often said “I told them to send it to Fantagraphics, that was the kind of thing they’d publish!” (Also, Jaime noted that Ralph’s was the first comic shop he and his brothers had ever been to.)

Ralph did make an appearance in an early Love and Rockets…#4 (1983), to be exact, in a story by Mario:

Mario would sneak Ralph into the mag again in issue #50.

Here’s one of Ralph’s appearances in Groo the Wanderer #28 (1987) by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones…Sergio was just over the hill from us in Ojai, and would pop in on a regular basis:

And here’s Ralph in Tom Foxmarnick’s story for Taboo #2 (1989)…Tom’s an old friend of Ralph, and in fact drew Ralph’s business cards and various flyers and even that logo at the beginning of this post (a very pixelated GIF from the website…I’m sure I’ve got a good black and white scan of the original art somewhere):

By the way, the photo references Tom took of Ralph for this story are pretty great, but I haven’t seen them in 30 years. Hopefully Ralph can turn them up again.

Ralph’s shown up in other places here and there as well…both Ralph and I have a “thank you” in Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics, as well as the recent Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures omnibus collecting Evan Dorkin’s work on the title. And at one point whoever was putting together the “Death of Gwen Stacy” paperback for Marvel inexplicably didn’t have a good scan of Amazing Spider-Man #122’s cover, and called us for one in exchange for a credit in the book. Sure enough, when said book was released there was a “thanks to Ralph’s Comic Corner” inside…at least for the first printing. For all I know Marvel’s still using our scan for things.

It’s fun stuff like this that I’ll try to hang onto, the memories and occasionally weird experiences I had in my 2 1/2 decades of working for Ralph’s and Seth’s. The stores may no longer be with us, but everything I learned there is still with me now, and informs how I approach this business. As the cliché goes, so long as someone remembers, they’ll never really be gone.

10 Responses to “End of an era.”

  • A lovely set of memories, Mike. I’m sorry I’ve never gotten to Ralph’s/Seth’s, but you always made it feel like a place that I’d love to go.

  • A lovely set of memories, Mike. I’m sorry I’ve never gotten to Ralph’s/Seth’s, but you always made it feel like a place that I’d love to go.

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    Sterling Silver Comica and Ralph’s Comic Corner. Acorn and mighty oak. You’ve done Ralph proud.

  • Thom H. says:

    It’s always sad when a beloved institution like Ralph’s closes. So cool how many comic creators loved it, too.

  • Rob S. says:

    I’m on the wrong coast to have ever gotten a chance to visit, but man, those are some wonderful memories and tributes!

  • Christopher Armstrong says:


    Thanks for the memory. Ralph’s/Seth’s was an institution and will be fondly remembered. I met some good friends through Ralph’s bulletin board that used to be near the front door of the shop. A gentleman posted a “player wanted” note with his name and phone number. Through him I met several more like-minded individuals who are still my close friends 30 years later.

  • […] I was processing a stack of Tick comics acquired from my previous place of employment — stack pictured […]

  • Roel Torres says:

    It’s wonderful how big an impact a comic book shop can leave on our lives.

  • Joe says:

    I fall into the “old-timey” customer category of ralphs comic Corner, and I say that with pride. I discovered the shop way back in ’94, right around the time of when “death” of superman was all the rage. Ralphs comic Corner was my first real comics shop, it was amazing to me. Until then the way I’d acquire comics was from the local liquor store and the pharmacy, oh and those plastic sealed three pack o’ comics from the grocery store ( admit it, you felt the nostalgia just now) .
    So I’m at Ralphs comic Corner and I hear a voice, which at first I thought was some talk radio station, “NPR?” I thought. Turns out it was Mike. I’m sure anyone who’s known Mike for as long as I have has had that same thought “get this dude a radio gig”.
    So yes it is the end of an era but the good folks at sterling silver comics (aka Mike) has started hia own era

  • […] was mentioned before, my former boss Ralph had moved from the back room of a thrift store in downtown Ventura, CA, to a […]