PORTLAND, Ore. 03/02/2024 — Image Comics’ first Image Select Retailer Award winner is: Nirvana Comics in Knoxville, Tennessee. The winner was announced yesterday, Friday March 1 to a room full of comic shop retailers at the Emerald City Comic Con Lunar Distribution event.

“This is such a huge honor,” said Grant and Jasmine Mitchell, co-owners of the store. “Thank you Image Comics for all you’ve done to help the comic shop industry. Thank you to all our customers who nominated us. Your support and friendship is why we do this everyday. The best is yet to come!”

The shop was in the top tier of most nominations in sheer volume from happy customers eager to pay it forward to the store they love.

"I’ve been to many comic shops around the country but hardly any compare to the experience at Nirvana Comics,” said Jason Badilla, a regular customer of the store. “This is not a shop where an employee just stands behind a counter. The staff is very knowledgeable and diverse in their love for comics. Any member can give recommendations based on what they know about your reading habits. I will often get these recommendations in my pull box. Some members will even message me if an item comes in that they think I’ll want. The presentation of the store is easy to navigate and is well organized. If I cannot find something, there is a member of the team ready to assist. There are comics and graphic novels from a wide range of publishers. They will go the extra mile to ensure you get what you need. Nirvana actively supports other locally owned businesses and often references these shops on social media. In addition, the shop offers workshops, a free library, and has contributed charitable donations not just locally but across the country. There are many comic shops around the Knoxville area and some are much closer to me but I make an hour drive weekly to Nirvana because of the experience this team offers!”

The Image Select Retailer Award is a new initiative from Image to galvanize recognition of members of the Comic Book Direct Market retail community that are going above and beyond to serve their customers, expand readership, and grow a healthier marketplace.

“The response to this award was phenomenal with thousands of nominations submitted in just a few days,” said Alex Cox, Director of Direct Market Sales at Image Comics. “Reading that many testimonials from people praising their local comic shops was a great reminder of how amazing the comics community can be, and Nirvana Comics stood out as a prime example of a store that truly values their customers, and makes new fans every day."

Comic shops were nominated by fans via a form submission and based on on criteria such as:

  • exemplary customer service
  • thoughtful and exciting hand-selling recommendations
  • efforts fostering a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere
  • easy-to-browse shelving
  • attractive and innovative displays
  • forward-thinking customer marketing and out-of-box consumer outreach
  • community engagement
  • robust inventory of & support for Image Comics and other creator-owned/indie comics

The Image team read and tallied thousands of glowing testimonials about stores in order to select the winner. As the first Image Comics Select Retailer award winner, Nirvana Comics will receive:

  • a commemorative medallion to display with pride
  • a spotlight Q&A to be featured on Image Comics’ social media platforms and Website
  • the store's choice of a gold foil exclusive variant, branded as an Image Select Retailer Award winner, with store logo (limited to 250 copies).

The Local Comic Shop is the sales backbone of the comic book industry, and sadly, the least appreciated when it comes to award recognition. The Image Select Retailer Award is a way to reward and spotlight stores that have done exemplary work expanding the audience, and evangelizing the medium to new readers. Image Comics feels that there is not enough being done to point out stores that are raising the bar, changing the marketplace, and building readership, and this award is meant as a fun way to help repair that oversight.

The next Image Select Retailer Appreciation Award nomination window will be announced soon via the official Image website, social media, and via Lunar Distribution communication, to retailers and the public for those interested in nominating their store.