Art News

The Origin Story of Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles

Jonthan Garnett and Randy Salazar: "Yay, Comics"
Jonthan Garnett and Randy Salazar: "Yay, Comics" Teague Bohlen
Every good comic book tale has a great origin story. And the new and improved Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles in Parker is no exception.

Owner Jonathan Garnett’s roots, like those of any mild-mannered secret identity, are humble. “I started collecting comics as a kid down in Pueblo,” says Garnett. “And then, you know, everyone sort of gets out of it for a while — high school, cars, sports and all that stuff.” But by the time Garnett was in college up in Greeley, he was working at a fish store with a friend named Brad who was a “huge nerd” and a super-fan of the hero Green Lantern. “They’d just brought Hal [Jordan, the test pilot who turns into Green Lantern because of his alien power ring] back from the dead. My friend said he had to go to Fort Collins because there was no comic store in Greeley, to pick up a copy of Rebirth. I told him I’d go with him — I hadn’t been to a comic book shop in ten or fifteen years. So that was the start of the slippery slope back into the comic habit. It’s all Brad’s fault.”

It’s not an uncommon story; Gen-X and Millennial comic book fans often did stray from the medium for a while, but many returned during the ’90s comic book speculation boom. Maybe it was the massively popular release of Jim Lee’s new X-Men book, or fan-favorite artist Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man debut. It could have been Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, the hugely influential Watchmen limited series, or the Death of Superman in 1993, an event just now celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.

But not all comic book fans who return to the four-color fold go on to start their own comics shop, as Garnett did with Hall of Justice.

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The good stuff stays behind glass.
Teague Bohlen
The store began as an online shop that was itself something of a chance encounter. “I happened on this amazing collection of books that had been the inventory of a long-closed comic shop from the 1960s and ’70s," remembers Garnett. "Maybe forty or fifty long boxes, no bags, no boards, but kept safe, still in great condition. We bought that collection and started selling on eBay a piece at a time. That led to our first website, and the retail side of things just kept growing. We did a lot of the little cons around the area, and then graduated to Denver Comic Con [now FAN EXPO Denver] in its third year, before we’d even opened the store.”

Hall of Justice opened in 2015 as a brick-and-mortar retail store just five minutes down the street from its current location in Parker. “It was a thousand square feet,” Garnett recalls. “Stupid cheap, so if it failed, we could just be like, ‘Okay, back to the online stuff.’ But it just grew and grew. Three years later, we moved to this address one door down, and now we’ve moved next door into a much bigger and better space.”

The new Hall of Justice is triple what the former space was, coming in at around 6,600 square feet, complete with a second floor for offices and storage and even a kitchen.

Of course, with greater space comes greater responsibility. Garnett’s schedule at Hall of Justice is pretty full; with changing distribution models and shipping challenges and the necessary time spent on social media to bring new stuff to the attention of the shop's customers, gone are the days when running a comic store meant a flurry of activity on Wednesday when the single shipment would arrive. These days, the to-do list is a constant cycle of receiving product, bagging and boarding it, getting the books on the walls and in hold slots for the regulars, and on top of all that, prepping for a weekly stream sale, which happens at 5 p.m. every Thursday.

Those stream sales have been both a major blessing and a minor curse for Hall of Justice. “It’s a pain in the ass,” Garnett laughs, “but it’s totally worth it. It’s just another way comic books are changing.” Garnett says that the hard-core fans still want to dig through the boxes and see what back-issue treasures they can find. “But the newer fans, not so much. Unless you put it in their face, they don’t want it. The stream sales are perfect for that. It’s like QVC for comics.”
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From pantyhose to panel pages, this is Impulse Island.
Teague Bohlen
Garnett and Hall of Justice's second-in-command, Randy Salazar, will also be pushing product through a larger floor display space available from the move. “We found these old pantyhose racks from a Macy’s down in Colorado Springs,” Garnett says, gesturing to several double-sided racks that showcase a scattering of comics ranging widely in both genre and era. A 1960s Archie sits next to a 1970s issue of Ghosts, next to an ’80s Iron Man issue, a '90s mulleted Superman, and a post-2000s issue of Spider-Man. “The idea was to fill the things up with books," Garnett says. "No order to it, no organization, nothing. We call it Impulse Island.” It’s the concept of the old random quarter-bin comics in the days of yore: a bunch of awesome, random stuff.

The stream sales might be great for community, but they began and remain important to the store as commerce. “During the pandemic, it was all we had,” Salazar recalls. “We did them twice a week then, and it was how the doors stayed open. We worked three or four times as hard for half the money.”

“But it was also how we stayed in touch with people,” Garnett adds. “We all needed escapism more than anything, and we wanted to provide that. And yeah, we wanted to survive, too. We’ve had nights where we make more in two hours of the stream sale than we made at the store open all day. There are a lot of reasons not to give up on that.”

Hall of Justice is planning a Grand Reopening celebration on Saturday, November 19, to make things official and celebrate the new digs. Details are still being worked out, but Garnett plans to invite local creators, throw a big party, come up with some store exclusives, and also host the relaunch of fan favorite I Hate Fairyland #1, returning after a four-year hiatus.

“It’ll be a good time,” says Garnett. “But it’s really just more of what we do. Invite people in to see all the stuff that makes us and people like us happy.”

Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles is open seven days a week at 10136 Parkglenn Way, #109, in Parker. To keep up with stream sales and any upcoming events, check out the store website or its Facebook page.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen