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

Books With Pictures was just named the best comic shop in the world.

Yes, the *world*.

We reported on the store being nominated for the Eisner Spirit of Retailing award and at that time, owner Katie Pryde was heading off to San Diego Comic Con to see if the shop had won.

And well, it did.

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

When Pryde says non-traditional, she means that her store strives to make the space inclusive. Not just a little inclusive but a whole section dedicated to LGBTQIA+ characters and creators in stories, BIPOC-centered displays and an outdoor event space to make sure immunocompromised people feel safe to attend during these pandemic times.

Books With Pictures

The interior of comic book shop Books With Pictures located on Division Street.

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

“I come from the perspective that there is something in comics for anybody who is curious about reading comics,” she said. “There is this sort of old school perspective from a certain set of, uh, dudes, that they really want to make their girlfriends like comics or they wanna convince them to like comics. And I really feel like what is here speaks for itself. You don’t need to do a lot of convincing and cajoling. If somebody’s curious about it and interested in it, let them come in and let them find what’s exciting to them.”

Comic books for many decades were a medium dominated by white men in both the creator and retailer space.

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

“The reason she was a shoplifter of comics was not because she was broke, she had the money, but because the first time she went to her comic shop to buy a comic, she put it on the counter and the clerk said something mean about her book,” Pryde recalled. “It just was more appealing to imagine the police calling her parents because she was caught stealing, than it was for her delicate teenage soul to go and buy a book and have someone make a snarky comment.”

And Pryde said before she was an industry professional she always worried that the books she brought to the counter said something to the clerk about herself. She was worried she was making the wrong choice in books.

Katie Pryde of Books With Pictures

Katie Pryde, owner of Books With Pictures.

Books With Pictures, and Pryde herself, offer a judgment-free zone for people to buy books and comics from “X-Men” to “Genderqueer.”

Pryde’s latest recommendation is James Spooner’s autobiographical graphic novel “High Desert.” But if you’re looking for something to read, the shop’s employees are happy to help or you can visit the shelves around the store that hold personalized recommendations from many of the staff members.

“Nobody needs to be cool here. We’re all weirdos.”

–Destiny Johnson

Twitter: @hello_destiny

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