Welcome to “Sunday at the Shops”, our weekly column that celebrates your local comic shop, no matter where that is. In this instalment, we’re looking at Ssalesfish Comics, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As recently reported in the Winston-Salem Journal, the store has taken a stand against North Carolina’s House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.”
The bill enacts a sweeping law that reverses the steps taken by some cities and counties to extend legal protections and entitlements to those who are gay or transgendered, notably ones enacted in the city of Charlotte. As the Charlotte Observer reports:
North Carolina’s new law sets a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination: race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation – people who are gay – was never explicitly protected under state law and is not now, despite recent court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage.
Transgender people who have not taken surgical and legal steps to change the gender noted on their birth certificates have no legal right under state law to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. Cities and counties no longer can establish a different standard.
In an act of protest against the Bill, Ssalesfish has commissioned an exclusive cover of Alters #1, a series from AfterShock comics by Paul Jenkins and Leila Leiz that features a transgendered character named Chalice. The artwork shows Chalice switching a bathroom sign for a gender neutral one. The exclusive cover, drawn by North Carolina native and “Doom Patrol” legend Richard Case, is already on sale.
But on September 17th, those of you in the area can get a special treat, as writer Paul Jenkins and cover artists Case will be at the store from noon to 3pm to sign copies and meet fans. Attendees will pay $10 for the issue, which also acts as admission to the event. A percentage of proceeds from the book will go to Equality NC, an effort to fight HB2.
Ssalesfish Comics is owned by Bret Parks, and opened its doors in 2006. In an interview with Oak City Comiccon, Parks talked about founding the store:
My store started because of my childhood fascination with comic books, and even when I was a little kid, when I got the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”, I said I wanted to have a comic book store. When I was 5 or 6 years old, I actually walked from my home two blocks downtown, went to an office building of a guy who owned a lot of property downtown and asked him to set up a space that I could rent for a comic book store. He picked up the phone- me being a little kid I just assumed he was ready to make the deal- and called one of my parents to come pick me up. So I put it on hiatus for I guess 27 or so years, but eventually got around to opening up my own comic book store.
As for the unusual name of his store, he had this to say:
When I was in grad school, a group of friends and I started selling things on eBay- comics, collectible toys, really whatever. It was just a good source of extra income. And I ended up being kind of savvy at it in regards to comics and pop-culture collectibles. So one of my buddies Andrew was really upset with me one evening because I had a Star Wars toy that he wanted but that was going for a lot on eBay, so I sold it instead of giving it to him. And I looked at it as “well this is going to pay my electrical bill,” and he just wanted the toy. So he got mad at me and we started arguing and then he started stuttering, and he called me “selfish,” but was stuttering. So to make fun of him I changed my eBay ID to Selfish, but the regular spelling was taken. Then I thought about Andrew’s stuttering and added an extra S, and that was taken. So then I added an A in there and that was accepted. And I just had that eBay ID since 1999, so when I came to open the store in 2006, I just thought I’ll use that.
So, if you’re in the Winston-Salem area, stop by Ssalesfish Comics, especially on the 17th, where you can support a good cause and a shop trying to do their part.
See you next Sunday at the Shops.