He named his son Oliver Quinn after the Green Arrow. Now CHS is exploring the comic book side of East Olive Way’s Artful Dodger with owner Lucky Barnard to hear about his plans for expansion into a full-force ink and comic shop. First, a tattoo.
It was perfectly timed. Entering the tattoo parlor and meeting Barnard, CHS witnessed the beginnings of a tattoo sleeve laden with comic book heroes. Draped in tattoos himself with a full beard, spectacles, and a newsboy cap, Barnard tells CHS about the tattoo in progress; lighting up while describing the Marvel characters about to be inked on the man. Barnard said his tattoo shop already has a close relationship to comics.
“When people come in here because they haven’t (before) or they discover it; it’s like their hidden treasure, ya know? They come in and go, ‘oh you have all this stuff, this is amazing’ so they come in and get really excited about that,” Barnard said. His origins in the sequential arts — fancy for comics — were influenced by Star Wars, seen in the Boba Fett portrait over his work station next to a dangling Millennium Falcon, and the Green Arrow — Barnard says he is the underdog of superheroes.
“When I first opened up this shop I had envisioned collectively putting all my interests together,” Barnard said. He planned to call it ‘The Sanctuary.’ It was to include a tattoo parlor, comic book shop, movies, music apparel, a venue in the middle with a stage, 24 hour diner off to the side and living quarters above. “It was a very expensive dream.”
Barnard hoped to hire homeless kids from rehabilitation centers and give them jobs in the diner and shop – helping integrate them into society so they can “pay their bills, get jobs, get their GED’s…”
“Obviously that’s something that I would love to do in the far future but the reality of it is – this is where it starts.” Though the Sanctuary hasn’t yet panned out, the Artful Dodger has made in-roads in the local tattoo and comic book communities.
The purveyors of ink have secured an exclusive spot at the Emerald City Comicon after their work was noticed at smaller comic conferences. During this year’s comicon they “had five artists going full blast for three days,” said Barnard, who “goes heads into it” when it comes to comic tattoos and calls it an “honor.” He says they will be providing tattoos again at Comicon 2014.
Outside the Artful Dodger is the changing landscape of East Olive Way and the redevelopment of the former B&O Espresso block. Above the shop, the empty space that housed The Social nightclub before the venture imploded sits waiting for one of the many rumored new projects to fill it.
Barnard doesn’t think change on the street has been bad for his own business. “I would say if anything it has benefitted us. I don’t think that any of the renovations have hindered us, it’s just brought more visibility to us… Good or bad when there is something going on right in the neighborhood it brings attention to the businesses.” The Artful Dodger is expected to expand its comic book offerings in November when a shipment of comics and toys arrives as well providing pull boxes.
Another business up the Hill on Broadway bringing visibility to comic culture in the area, Phoenix Comics, opened their doors last year, but Barnard doesn’t see the new shop as competition.
“We’re really grateful for them,” Barnard said, adding the two comic book shops have teamed up. “They send people down here because they don’t really carry a lot of back issues… We carry a lot of back issues.” And with this union Barnard feels the force of the Hill getting stronger, “It’s really cool to have a comic book community on Capitol Hill now where there wasn’t one before and it’s really needed.”