When you visit the new Gotham City Comics & Coffee in Mesa, Batman will greet you at the door.
Okay, not "in the flesh," but in the form of a mannequin dressed as Batman. He's just one of many pieces in a smorgasbord of eye candy created by store owners Josh Krize and Mike Laurendeau. They've also amassed an impressive, colorful collection of original paintings of comic characters like Daredevil, Deadpool, Wolverine, and Joker, all done by local artist Richard Contreras.
The shelves are stocked with framed comic art and panels, T-shirts, and several comic sculptures and figurines (including Superman vs. Muhammad Ali) -- not to mention a comic book selection, posh game room, coffee bar, and Japanese anime DVD selection, which is the largest in Mesa.
Krize already had his own coffee business when Laurendeau, who was working in a call center, suggested they open a comics superstore. "I wanted to create the Seattle grunge cafe kind of vibe," says Laurendeau, who names Captain America as the character that got him into comic books. "So we have a lounge area, and people can come and just hang out."
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Krize's coffee is a draw, too, along with the store's free Wi-Fi. Krize and Laurendeau also host live music and theater troupes in the space. Krize, who names "the big bruisers" like Hulk and Thor as his favorite comic heroes, says they're looking to book more music ("all kinds"), and host more comic artist and author signings.
Also in the works are some anime and karaoke nights. With their comic selection, original art, gaming, and even coffee, Gotham City Comics & Coffee is the next best thing to a bona fide Geek Mall.