View From Portland: Art in a Floating World

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Leivian stands in front of art from March’s “Repeat After Me” show of work by Sean Christensen, Catherine Peach and Stefan Saito

THINK OF THE MORE VENERABLE COMICS SHOPS in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, and you’ll likely come up with stores like Excalibur Comics, the local back issue heavyweight, or Things From Another World, Mike Richardson’s chain that spawned Dark Horse. However, the city’s newest generation of shops offers a very different kind of comics experience. Among them is Floating World Comics, focusing on independent comics, original art and being a hub for the Portland comics scene, and the only one with the foresight to open within walking distance of my apartment (a business move that has made it my regular shop). The store is located in Portland’s trendy Pearl District, where it sits amongst the area’s old industrial buildings-turned-art galleries and, through the efforts of proprietor, Jason Leivian, is a part of the district’s thriving art scene.

Every month Floating World participates in First Thursday, an area-wide open house in which galleries put on special shows, receptions and other events. On a given First Thursday, there will be original art by comics artists and––increasingly––other types of art, like paintings and photography, often accompanied by in-store appearances by artists. These events, as well as others like book release parties, attract many from the local comics scene, pros and fans alike. And of course, the rest of the time, Floating World is an attractive, friendly store with a diverse selection of books. (View Tom Lechner’s panoramic photo of the indie comics section of the store, taken at the Friends of the Nib event in February 2008. The main room, featuring mainstream comics, is visible through the window.)

I spoke with Leivian about the store, his thoughts on original art and the Portland comics scene, and some of the shows and publishing ventures he’s getting into on March 19th at the Ash Street Saloon in NW Portland.


Wright Opinion: A lot of the stores I’ve shopped at have broken down into either very much serving the Wednesday crowd and then the more bookstore-oriented things like Comic Relief in Berkeley, but when I describe your store to people, I usually say, “half comic book store, half art gallery.” Is that, you think, a fair description of the store?

Jason Levian: I think of it as three stores in one, and it’s cool that you mention the art gallery––for some reason I don’t even consider that when I describe it. It’s sort of like the record store of comic book stores, if that makes any sense. Most record stores are independently owned––stores that sell vinyl––and each one is going to have its own flavor depending on the owner’s tastes. Record stores usually want to keep out of print stuff available. The idea for the store was originally inspired by my bookshelf at home, in a slight moment of vanity. I’d just moved to a new house and I was setting up my bookshelf, and just admiring the books on the shelf, thinking, “This is a nice selection of books. I have a cool bookshelf.”

And then somehow the idea just spun that that could be expanded to a store. I basically realized that I have the knowledge of what a good bookstore in Portland would be, coupled with the disappointment with the comic stores that were out there, so I wanted to fill that void. So one of the things that’s one of my priorities is that in my mind I have this ideal bookshelf that has all the great stuff that needs to be in stock, and I can’t think of any other stores in town that pay attention to that or try to keep that going quite as much. I notice when [something like] the Paul Pope books go out of print, and then I go out of my way to try to bring that stuff in. And that stuff sells pretty well. Customers notice it. They come in and they’ll get some Dave Cooper book or an Acme Novelty Library, and they say, “Man, no other stores have this!” I found that a total no-brainer.

WO: I’ve found that frustrating. I can’t think of any other entertainment medium where there’s a one or two week window before something’s out of print.

JL: Yeah, and most retail stores I’ve realized only want that new stuff on the shelf. They’re only concerned about those new sales. My goal is that my store is going to continue to be refined until––originally, everything on the shelf, when the store first started and it was really small, I could literally recommend any book on the shelf, and it’d be good. And there was a point when I had to sell out or whatever, and we got our first Spawn book. A customer asks for Spawn, I order it. I wouldn’t have done it on my own, but a customer asked for it, so yeah, you get it in.

WO: It’s hard to be a snob when you have to sell stuff?

Artwork from floatingworldcomics.com

JL: Yeah, that’s how I started, but any customer recommendation, I’ll get it. “You want some Witchblade, of course we’ll get it.” I would never say, “Ugh. Oh, no, we’re gonna carry that.” Those are the things I’m going to eventually filter out through clearance or whatever, and there will be less of it, because in my store, it looks like I have a lot of stuff, but I don’t have everything. I feel like there are other stores that order everything out of the Diamond catalogue.

WO: I remember being at Cosmic Monkey Comics for a Stumptown after party, and their shelves are miles long.

JL: Yeah, it’s like they have everything, but I feel like the downside is the good stuff gets lost in that. I think if you come in my store there’s a higher ratio of good stuff, and that’s important, for you to just be constantly looking at good stuff.

But it’s [also] the Wednesday store. Subscription box service is a priority for me, because when I was a customer myself I was disappointed with the subscription box service at other stores.

WO: How so?

JL: They would miss stuff in your box, just little stuff like that. And I worked at Excalibur years ago and I know the problems that occurred. We’d lose customers all the time because we kept messing up their subscription boxes and stuff. So that was a priority, give the customer a good discount, get them what they ordered. It’s very basic and simple.

And so then I had a box at Things [From Another World] after that, and that was disappointing because I’d go in and get my box and I’d want to look around and want to buy some more stuff, but they never had anything I wanted to buy. So then the other aspect of the store is that I really focus on the independent books and the art books as well. When a customer goes in the store, they really want to be exposed to something new. I’d go into some stores and they’d have a good selection, but I had everything already that was on the shelves. I’d go in with money and be like, “I wanna give you some money,” but I couldn’t find anything on the shelves that I wanted.

WO: What would you say your breakdown is on the shelf space between the more mainstream and the more art books?

JL: Well, the main room is totally dedicated to the mainstream stuff, and that’s also, I would say, the bulk of my customers. I really should do a financial analysis, because I could. I could see what’s bringing in the most money. Because on the one hand most of my sales are from the mainstream stuff, but the art books… Some graphic designers from San Francisco visited over the weekend. He bought two art books and that was $99. I’d have to sell over 30 comics to do an invoice that big, so it’d be interesting to see how it breaks down. My guess is the majority of it is the Wednesday crowd, but I know that I please the independent customers, because I see them on a regular basis. But with them I only see them once a month or once every two months. They come in and they get the latest Crickets––Drawn & Quarterly or PictureBox or whatever. So I feel like I’m making them happy, too.

WO: So, to the degree that you do keep track of sales, when I’m in there I notice you at that laptop, you’ll enter something in there when someone buys a book. What are you doing to track sales, what is the software?

JL: The software has all the inventory in it and if I want, like with the subscription box customers, I put their name on the invoice, or if it’s someone I know like you, I put your name on the invoice. That’s helpful because sometimes customers come back later and they’re not sure if they bought something, I can actually look up what they bought last week or the week before and say, “Oh, yeah, you bought this Thunderbolts a month ago.” 

WO: Since I don’t see that a lot of other places, where did you get set up for that or where did you find the software and so forth?

JL: I guess the whole business that I set up, everything I just kind of made up as I went along, and I feel like I make pretty good decisions about knowing what I need. I definitely had a lot of experience from Excalibur, seeing the system that they had. We did tracking on Excel and we did it weekly, where I’d have to go around the whole store and call things out. Slightly inefficient. I figured it was more efficient to track things as they sold. So that’s what I do. On that system, whenever I bring up an invoice, I put every item on there and it takes it out of the inventory. When you came in tonight I was doing a reorder. It’s been six days since my last big reorder, so I did a report of everything that’s sold in the past six days, and that’s on an Excel spreadsheet, cross-referenced with inventory, cross-referenced with a report from Diamond showing what I’ve already ordered, so I don’t duplicate orders, and then I go through that alphabetically and just stock up on the shelves and make sure I’ve got enough trades for next week or whatever. So that’s pretty efficient.

Also, the way I do my subscription box discount is a little different than other stores. A lot of the other stores it depends on how many titles you have. I came up with a system that I think is a little more fair, where I look at how much money you spend in a month, so it’s not only what you sign up for, but also the impulse buys you do, like if you buy a lot of trades. I just keep track and if you spend over $100 a month I bump you up to 15%. So I keep track of everyone’s invoices. It basically rewards them and gives them a little incentive to spend more.

WO: I find it interesting that you said that you don’t really mention the art gallery side, because there is always something up on the walls and there’s the First Thursday things. Were you doing that pretty much from the beginning? How important was that when you opened up?

JL: Right from the first month. I’m so lucky just because of my location. The first store was at 17th and Raleigh, totally off the beaten path, but doing the First Thursday shows gave me a legitimate excuse to do posters. I was doing posters on the utility poles every month, so every month I had a reason to have a new poster on a utility pole and every month I had a reason to send a press release to the papers. And maybe the papers wouldn’t always write it up, but it’s that thing about having a consistent presence. After awhile they’d notice, “Hey, we’re getting these e-mails from Floating World Comics month after month,” and eventually I did get noticed when I started having some bigger shows.

WO: How have you been using MySpace for that?

JL: MySpace was really big at the beginning for sure. My marketing was simple at the beginning. Because comics fans in Portland, if you hear about a new store and you’re a comics enthusiast, eventually you’re going to go check it out. It might take you a year; when I heard about Guapo, it took me six months, but eventually I made the trek and I went out and checked it out. So all I’ve got to do to let people know about the new store is let them know the name––let them know I exist––and get them the address, just those two pieces of information.

So with MySpace, I just did some searches. I would search for, like, “Neil Gaiman Portland,” or “Neil Gaiman” and a Portland zip code, and I’d go through that list and send them a message. They wouldn’t even have to add me as a friend. Just getting my name and address out was all I needed to do.  I feel like I’ve probably contacted about all the comics fans in Portland, [the ones] on MySpace, anyway. Still a lot of marketing to do. Every day I meet new customers that have never been in the store before.

WO: And who are they? Who are the new customers?

JL: It’s just foot traffic, people walking by. They ask, “How long have you been here? I’ve been downtown for a year and I’ve never seen your store.” 

WO: Do people buy something the first time they come in?

JL: Usually, yeah.

WO: Are you able to generalize about what kind of stuff they buy their first time in?

JL: Usually a superhero trade or a new Vertigo trade, like new DMZ. New Boys trade. Or maybe it’s just a new issue off the racks.

WO: Which of the First Thursday events have been the most successful?

JL: Let’s see… The Al Columbia one was huge. My personal favorite was the ROM Spaceknight one. Those two shows were really special to me for different reasons. The Al Columbia show was great, because he’s just one of my artistic heroes. And to get to meet him and let some of his fans meet him, too, was just awesome. And then the ROM show of course, for similar reasons.

[Received during editing, 4/6: JL: This last week’s show was #1, the Perry Bible Fellowship/Tony Millionaire show.]

WO: Tell me about what got the ROM show rolling.

JL: I think I was at last year’s Stumptown in the Fall, when the brainstorm came to me. I thought, “Okay, December, I don’t have a First Thursday show for December, and December’s when my birthday is,” so I wanted to do something special. And I started telling some friends, “Alright we’re gonna do ROM Spaceknight show in December. Just send me your artwork.” So I started telling some people there, and that’s where it started. Originally, the idea was to do a book. I thought, “I wanna do a zine where I just have my friends draw their rendition of ROM.” That was the original idea. And then, after having the store for a year, I’d really networked with a lot of artists and I’d really become part of the Portland art scene, there was a point a year ago when Brett Warnock asked me if I wanted to edit an anthology for [Top Shelf] featuring local artists, psychedelic artists.

That quickly grew bigger than a zine, into a big book. It’s gonna be a big hardcover book, which we’ll still probably do in a year or two. When I was putting the book together, I was just e-mailing artists at random. I was just saying, “Hi, it’s me, Jason from Floating World Comics, and I’m doing this book with Top Shelf,” and just having the Top Shelf name got a lot of good responses. People wrote back, “Oh, I love Top Shelf, I’d love to be in a book with Top Shelf.” That project is actually moving forward. At Stumptown, I’m going to have a comic debut; it’s going to be called Diamond Comics. It’s going to be a newspaper, like Paper Rodeo, a 16-page comics newspaper featuring all those artists from Colorhumano, the book. I’m going to get to do these cheap newspapers for a year or so. Hopefully that’s going to build some interest, because the book’s going to be expensive. It’s like ten or twenty thousand bucks. But these newspapers I can do much cheaper myself.

ROM by Corey Rey Lewis

So, anyway, I have this huge network of artists I’ve met through that book, and that’s all just via e-mail, I’m connecting with people all over the world, Brazil, Japan, Europe. I hit up those same people for the ROM thing, just e-mailed them, “Hey the book’s still coming along. Here’s another project I’m doing. You don’t even have to come to Portland; we can do it all electronically. Just send me a hi-res file.” So, it’s what one paper called cyber-curating, where I bring in the art––it’s just a hi-res file––I give them the dimensions and then I get those 11”x17” posters printed up. It’s a combination of the Top Shelf project and it also happened because I was already doing 11”x17” posters for all my First Thursday shows, and I found a good place to get them printed up pretty cheaply, so I just combined those two things. I e-mailed all the Colorhumano people, maybe 25% of them got back to me and some of their submissions were some of the best in the show. And then I literally went through the Previews catalogue and e-mailed everybody in Previews pretty much, Marvel DC, Image.

WO: And you got such a diverse group of responses. Very mainstream people, very arty people, very out-there people, people that I don’t imagine being terribly familiar with ROM, but responding to the visual really well. 

So, as far as the fund-raising aspect of that, for Bill Mantlo, how did that end up doing?

ROM by Renee French

JL: Super successful. The opening night was a little disappointing. My mistake was that I didn’t really know how to do the auctions for the original art. I thought it would be good to limit it to just that night, and there were no bids at all. Pieces were going for the minimum $25. Guy Davis and Jeffrey Brown original artwork for $25. I added it up and it was pretty disappointing. My goal was to try and raise enough to cover the printing cost for the tribute book… So I talked to all the people who bid and had to admit that I had made a mistake and I had to ask their permission if we could extend the auction until the end of the month. And I sort of had to lose face. That’s bad, y’know, doing this auction and then, “Oh, can I change the rules? Do you mind?”

WO: Did anybody have a problem with that?

JL: One person did. Everyone else, 100% said, “Do it, man. Raise the money, it’s for a good cause.” One guy complained, he said, “It’s bad business.” I said, “Yeah, I know. But we’re doing it for a good cause.” So we put them onto eBay and the final tally was much better.

WO: Nice.

JL: We did the right thing, yeah.

WO: What did you think of David Yurkovich’s Mantlo book?

Mantlo: A Life in Comics

JL: Really cool, man. Those articles are amazing. Mike Mantlo, Bill’s brother, had a bunch and sent me his because he was having trouble selling them, so we’ve got those at the store, which we keep selling. And I think Yurkovich has now––because most of the books are actually almost sold out––you can download a PDF off his website now, and you donate $7 via PayPal and it all goes to Mantlo. He was helpful. I e-mailed him a bunch at the beginning. Who else was really helpful? Brian Vaughan was a big supporter. He posted it on his message board, and that spread the word to tons of people, so that was really good. By the time we got to the eBay auctions, it was already on all sorts of blogs, Newsarama, CBR, a lot of blogs around the country, so that was pretty awesome. 

WO: One of the things that happens when you have these in-store events is it necessarily puts a lot more focus on original art than generally happens in comics, because normally you experience comics as a reproduced thing. What do you think is added to that when people are able to see the original art?

JL: Well, you often learn about the process of creating it. The first thing people notice is that it’s usually done at a larger size; a lot of people don’t know about that. We had a good show with Periscope Studios and I think it was Karl Kesel who put up some inked pages and also some blue pencil pages, with some little notes about the inking process. And back before computers and Photoshop, inkers were known as “erasers” almost, because they always had to be erasing the pencils. But now you can do blue-line pencils, scan that in, ink over the scans and just delete the blue color with Photoshop really easily.

You mentioned the store as bookstore, but also gallery, but I guess the reason I don’t think of it as a gallery is because I haven’t seen the success of art sales yet. I feel that I’ve made a gallery in my store with what space is available, but honestly it’s kind of makeshift. I’ve only got that one display spot and when we display stuff on the other walls, I’m really sad that it’s up so high, but I’m fitting in what I can with the space that I have available.

WO: What is your relationship to original art? Do you own original art?

JL: Yeah, I’ve started collecting, but only since having the store, really. Before then, I loved checking out Last Thursday. I was never an art investor myself, so I guess I see where the customers are coming from.

WO: I wonder if the fact that we are so used to something that there is 100,000 copies of, that’s been through a computer and printed back out, that we just don’t really think of the original art so much.

JL: I don’t think it’s that. I just think that we’re not cultured in that way of art collecting. I don’t know, I think my home is decorated fairly nicely, but I imagine a lot of homes have just posters, mass produced stuff, but then there is a point after college when I’m sure people start to pay more attention to the design of their home.

WO: The other thing about the events is––we’re used to experiencing comics in a solitary way––the events really promote the community, which is really vibrant and really huge. What do you think is the importance of the community, both as a fan and as a retailer?

JL: Well, I think it must be cool for me to have art shows with local artists one month, like one month we’ve got Al Columbia, the next month we had an all women artist show, all local artists from Portland, and that’s the cool thing about comics. You’re always just a degree of separation away from the so-called super-stars or the professionals. You could have your zine in my store for sale right next to professionally published stuff from Fantagraphics, so that kind of exposure I think is awesome. And, as you know, you’re this far from meeting one of your heroes, talking directly with them. So, I think that’s a good opportunity for the local artists, to share the same wallspace with established artists, because I’d say it’s harder to do that in music or something. You could be a really talented musician, record an amazing album, and there’s good chance that no one’s ever going to hear it, no one’s ever going to buy it, because there’s just so much out there. But in comics, if you’re talented and you finish a book, it’s going to get noticed. 

WO: So, as far as––you said you’ve been open about a year––in the last year, what is the place that you think Floating World has established in the local comics art community?

JL: It’s something I noticed last year, and it felt really good to realize that I was sort of a part of the Portland art scene. There was a point when I would start going out to either comics events, or even just going to bars and shows around town, or parties, and everywhere I’d go I’d be recognizing my customers and seeing people that I knew. So I knew that I was successful in meeting a lot of my target audience, 20-somethings and 30-somethings that are into comics. That’s one thing I’m proud of. I feel like I’ve become just part of Portland, part of the city. I’ve had a couple meetings at City Hall, in [Portland City Commissioner] Sam Adams’ office, and that’s just a weird experience, to be there coordinating art shows and to put on film festivals at the Baghdad. And when I do these things, people recognize me, and I think they start to recognize me as the guy from Floating World. So that feels good to be established like that. 

WO: So, you definitely feel like, within the local comics community, you’ve become sort of a known quantity?

JL: Yeah, I’ve succeeded in those goals. There was probably a lot of short-term goals I had when I first opened my business, a lot of question marks, like “is this going to work out?” and I’ve hit all those goals, and now we’re moving onto bigger goals, doing more things.

WO: After a year of retailing, has anything been different than you expected or is there anything that you’ve learned, or feel like you’ve gotten better at over the year?

There’ve been a lot of little changes that have been done in the store, little things that I’ve tightened up and fixed up. It’s kind of mundane details, but I do observe what’s working in the store and what’s not, and right now I’ve got a checklist of things in my head that I need to fix up, things that need to be improved, like the storefront is not very good. That’s why people say they’ve walked around downtown and they’ve never seen my store, because the building just kind of looks dead now that the Portland Art Center’s not there. The window… we painted it just to get some color up there, but I need to redo the window, and I need to get a sign that’s projecting off the building, stuff like that.

One big change I just made is––Wednesday is new comics day––UPS was always late. In general I’d get my books around noon or 1:00, but it was never reliable. Sometimes it’d be 3:00 or 4:00, and then one night it was 6:30, and that was when I realized something had to change. I was losing money. Customers would come in and I’d say, “Sorry, books aren’t here,” and they’d leave. Maybe they’d go to a different store, maybe they’d come back Thursday, maybe they’d get sick of it and not want to come back anymore. So what I do now is got to UPS and pick up the books at 9:00 in the morning, and we have them ready at about 11:30 in the morning, so I’m happy about that change.

Mostly it’s just been good surprises. Things are working out good, I’m really happy with my job. I’m excited about next year. I have no idea what new things are going to have happened a year from now, because a year ago I never could have predicted I’d have met Al Columbia and that I would have been involved in putting on film festivals. There just would have been no way of predicting it. And this year I’m going to have some publications coming out, hopefully we’ll get the online store going. I know that that’s going to boost sales.

WO: What’s the plan with the online store?

JL: I have a website now, but there’s hardly any content. I have a blog, but most of the features don’t work. So we’re going to get a shopping cart, a security certificate, so people can just do PayPal sales. I don’t focus on the back issues as much. One reason is I don’t have the space. If I had a lot of space, I probably would set up some more back issues. So my philosophy on that is just, “Clearance.” 

WO: Do you have a lot more inventory that’s just not out there?

JL: Yeah, just in the back room. A lot of back issues that aren’t out. There’s one of everything out on the floor, one of every trade, but there’s a lot of overstock back there. So you see now I’ve got more 50% boxes and more dollar boxes. When back issues are more than four or five months old, or once it’s been collected in a trade, I just want to get those issues out of the store. The way stores used to do it, and still do it, is they’d go into the back issue boxes, and usually with a markup, so a three dollar book becomes three-fifty or four bucks.

WO: For a book that didn’t sell originally

JL: Yeah, and all of a sudden they’re more now. And that’s a way for stores to cut some of their losses, and it’s funny because what back issues are for the most part is retailer mistakes, it’s you ordered too many of something and that’s why you’ve got back issues. And of course stores buy collections from people and that fills out the back issue selection, and not to knock back issues, because that’s an awesome part of any comics store, that’s what Excalibur is best at. They have the best back issue collection. 

WO: And every time you go in they have something they didn’t have last time you were there.

JL: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about, and I totally understand that thrill. And traveling to comics stores in other states, you’re totally like, “Oh my God, look at this, and it’s in the 50% off box!”

But for right now I just want to get all the back issues out. Having the web store, or the online store will help me do more clearance, because I can focus on things that I’ve got too many off, and I can roll them out that way. Because online sales are just really time consuming; I don’t have the time. I’ve got all these variant covers that I could be putting up on eBay, I just don’t have the time to do it, the time to pack it all up and do all the shipping. Probably a year from now I’ll be able to afford some more employees, so it won’t just be me.

WO: I’m curious about your take on that recent ComicsPRO position paper voicing some retailers’ objections to early sales of books at conventions, before they’re available at stores.

New X-Men vol. 1

JL: Most bookstores seem to follow this “new release” model, sell what’s hot, then let the books disappear after 3 months––doesn’t matter, clear the shelves for more new releases. I sell books that will sell forever. Meaning Watchmen, Blankets, Bone, Transmet, Sandman. My complaint is when a publisher decides to let [Grant Morrison’s] New X-Men vol. 1: e is for extinction go out of print. Then they’re truly depriving me of an essential part of my being. Some publishers have to pay attention to that new release mentality, too. They have to weigh what sells faster. But some of these out-of-print things are infuriating. That’s my major peeve, not being mad that publishers are selling books that they published.

There’s obviously some action when a book is first released, but if a book is only good enough that it only sells as a new release, and no one cares a month later, then it wasn’t that good. Only buy comics that you’ll read more than once is what I tell customers. Then you get your money’s worth. If you’re only gonna read it once, read it at the store then put it back. There’s enough good books out there to support this method for me. It’s a pleasure to sell lots and lots of Fables, Y: The Last Man, Walking Dead, Eigthball, Black Hole, Kramers Ergot, Promethea, Planetary, Fell, Preacher, Sandman, over and over day after day.

Essex County vol. 2: slow sales opening week. Maybe this is because everyone already got it from Top Shelf at cons, but sales have been consistently building as more good reviews spread around. Also, publishers when they sell wholesale get maybe a third or half of the cover price at most. Give them an opportunity at a convention to recoup those printing costs by selling a box-full at full retail price. That’s a luxury they don’t get often.

WO: So, those were most of my longer questions. You mentioned that the Wednesday crowd is big sales, the superhero stuff. What are some of your other big sellers? What are some of the other things that do well for you?

Rosebud No. 6: Ideal

JL: Definitely the graphic design books and magazines, and that’s either really successful with tourists coming in from California, or graphic design people I think tell their friends to come check out the store. So those sales can rack up really fast, because those books are at least twenty, forty, fifty bucks apiece. There have been a lot of people coming in from Nike, from the colleges and stuff. And just graphic novel sales. I’m surprised how much people spend on comics sometimes. It’s people dropping eighty bucks on graphic novels. It’s very cool, because that’s what keeps up going.

WO: What are some of the books that you recommend when people come in, maybe the first time or just if they’re looking for something different?

Scott Pilgrim vol. 4

JL: In general, I can always recommend Scott Pilgrim. Two of the best books that came out last year were The Killer and Criminal. I usually recommend those in the same breath. All Star Superman is the best mainstream superhero comic coming out. I usually ask, “What’s the last thing you read?” or “Have you read any comics? What’s the last thing you really, really enjoyed?”

Generally I’ll recommend people to my favorite writers, like Alan Moore. I explain to them that I collect by writer, which I’m sure a lot of people do, but a lot of new comics readers may not realize that’s a way to do it. Find a writer that you like and just get whatever they’re writing. I like Grant Morrison, so I was buying New X-Men when he was doing it, but then I stopped when he stopped writing it.

WO: What’s some of the stuff you’re reading right now?

JL: Let’s see… My two favorite new Vertigo books are Army@Love by Rick Veitch, which is consistently great. I’m really excited about Young Liars, David Lapham, because I’m a huge Stray Bullets fan. Probably not going to see any Stray Bullets for awhile, but he’s doing Young Liars, which is awesome. Grant Morrison Batman, I’m reading All Star Batman by Frank Miller, which I know is loathed by people, but I think it’s totally entertaining.

Doktor Sleepless #1

WO: Aw, that book’s a lot of fun.

JL: Yeah, exactly, it’s so much fun. And All Star Superman, of course. What else? All the Warren Ellis stuff, Fell, Doktor Sleepless, Black Summer. It’s funny that Avatar is finally putting out some good stuff, when before it was the C-list material, but now I think that Warren Ellis stuff is better than what he’s doing for Marvel for the most part. 

WO: Is there anything older that you’re rereading or just now discovering?

JL: One of my customers gave me those Adam Warlock reprints, the Jim Starlin stuff. Pretty awesome, pretty amazing. I’m a huge Steve Ditko fan, so any Steve Ditko stuff. Yeah, I’m always into discovering any old Golden Age artists. What other older stuff? I love Tezuka, older manga. DC’s really good with their reprints. Anytime they reprint the Jack Kirby stuff, like those Countdown Specials.

WO: Thanks so much for talking with me. 


  

Interview conducted, transcribed and edited for length and clarity by Brendan Wright, proofread by participants. Revised 4/30/08

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3 Responses to “View From Portland: Art in a Floating World”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Apr. 11, 2008: I have heard the new statistics and the stomping on the ground Says:

    […] Brendan Wright talks to Jason Leivian, owner of Portland, OR’s Floating World […]

  2. Blog@Newsarama » Retailer Q&A: Jason Leivian of Floating World Comics Says:

    […] Q&A: Jason Leivian of Floating World Comics Friday April 11, 2008, 1:48 pm Brendan Wright chats with Portland, Ore. retailer Jason Leivian about his shop, Floating World Comics: Wright Opinion: A lot of the stores I’ve shopped at have […]

  3. Ben Leivian Says:

    Greetings from Arizona. I’m Ben, Jason’s brother. This interview has really shown the passion my brother has for the store. Jason has done an amazing job in the last year and he should be very proud of his hard work. I have yet to step foot in floating world comics, but I know the time will come.

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