Downtown Portland boasts exactly one comic store. But that store, Floating World, is considered one of the best in the nation—a sharply curated balance of art-school and geek culture that mixes Marvel and DC with rare and indie graphic novels, a beautifully drawn book by local artist T. Edward Bak about a naturalist's journey to Kamchatka, and esoterica like artist Killian Eng's Object series of post-Max Ernst drawings. The store was featured in Wired, and routinely makes top 10 lists of geek sites like Flavorwire, one of few bookstores in the country to expand not once but twice over the past decade. On Thursday, Aug. 18, it will celebrate its 10th anniversary—a milestone for any bookstore launched on the eve of the great recession—in part by selling comics for the low , low price of $1 a pound.
"My motivation for opening Floating World was looking at the other shops in town," says owner Jason Leivian. "No one had a good Fantagraphics collection, which to me seemed like a no-brainer."
With a wallet full of interest-free credit cards and a bank loan, Leivian launched in a modest ActivSpace in 2006 under the I-405 freeway. "Right from the beginning, it worked out," says Leivian. After only four months Floating World moved into a bigger space on Northwest 5th Avenue, before expanding yet again to a third, even larger location on the corner of Northwest 4th Avenue and Couch Street.
Floating World has branched out from its storefront by publishing its own books and putting on art shows on First Thursdays. "The first comic I ever got when I was a kid was ROM Space Knight," Leivian says. "And we started doing these tribute art shows, and we donated the proceeds to [disabled ROM writer] Bill Mantlo."
Many longtime customers and even former store employees will be contributing to the 10th anniversary. Cathy Camper will be signing her new Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. Artist Zack Soto is releasing his latest Study Group anthology—this one equipped with an RPG theme and a wacky dungeon master's screen. Artist Eric Mast designed a new T-shirt for the occasion. "The part I'm looking forward to is, we're going to do a sidewalk sale," Leivian says. "We're going to do books by the pound."
Because Floating World neighbor Deadstock Coffee already has the street closed for a coffee smackdown event called TNTNW, Floating World will spill stock right out the front door.
"I've always just wanted it to feel like a bookstore," Leivian says. "but we only carry comics mostly, and art books. Because comics are really cool."
GO: Floating World Comics' 10th anniversary is at 400 NW Couch St., floatingworldcomics.com, on Thursday, Aug. 18. 11 am. Free.