By Crystal Harrell
Ever since its opening on December 17th of last year, Interstellar Comic Books & Collectibles has already amassed a following in the Coachella Valley--attracting the likes of many comic fans and nerd enthusiasts alike. The owner and founder, Adrian Cuevas, sat down with Palm Springs Comic Con to talk more about the formation of his business, reading recommendations, and the future of Interstellar.
1. How did Interstellar Comic Books & Collectibles come to be?
In college I was working as an "administrative assistant" in a small sole proprietorship business. I would work every day with the the owner handling and helping with any and all paperwork. I learned quickly what it was like to run and own your own business. I worked there for about two years, but left after some discussion with my girlfriend, Florisse Batoon, because we didn't see myself advancing there and she always encouraged me to move on to better things. I quickly got a new job in Downtown Palm Springs at Mr. G's Toys & Expressions. I worked there for another two years and quickly learned how to work in and run a retail store with employees. In those two years I began to day dream about running my own shop. On multiple occasions tourists in Mr. G's would ask if there was a comic book store in Downtown. I would do my best to explain to them where Desert Oasis Comics was in Palm Desert, but it was difficult to explain to people not from the area. Then after that my daydreams of opening a store turned into a comic book store. It became something I would ramble about to my girlfriend and she began to motivate me to work towards that. So I lightly began to research how to open up a business. I talked about it to my parents casually more and more frequently. One day my mother, Victoria, asked me how much I thought it would cost to start up. She said that if I could do all of the research and paperwork, that her and my father, Amador, would support me. The very next morning I was at the Riverside County Clerks Office in Palm Desert to register a fictitious business name: "Interstellar Comic Books & Collectibles."
2. How did you decide on the name of the shop?
I already know what you're thinking, and no, I have never seen the movie Interstellar. At this point I kind of don't want to watch it in spite! Anyway, coming up with a name I combined a couple of things. I wanted a space/sci-fi theme; I really didn't want to come up with a generic or plain name, it had to be original. Then the shop was going to be in Palm Springs, also known as the "Playground to the Stars" or "Hollywood's Playground." Hollywood/Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world. So I thought, "Well, if Hollywood is the center of the universe, then Palm Springs is in the outskirts. Interstellar."
3. What was the process like actually opening Interstellar?
So after filing the fictitious business name, I had to have it published in the newspaper four times in a row. Get a Palm Springs Business License. Get a resale certificate. Bank account, Point of Sale System. Open account with Diamond to get some actual comics. Then finally, the longest and most excruciating part: finding an actual place for the store to be and lease it. Ideally, I wanted to be on Palm Canyon, as close to Mr. G's Toys as possible, because how cool would that have been? But on Tahquitz just off of Palm Canyon, we found some other available spaces. So my family and I all agreed to the spot and it took about a month to deal with paperwork until we finally got the keys to the unit. I left Mr. G's Toys and the next month was all about cleaning, painting the floor and walls, arranging fixtures, ordering products, my dad and a friend of his built the custom racks for the comics themselves, and preparing the shop.
4. How did you design the logo?
A good friend of mine, Christian Robert Ramirez, designed a logo for the shop. Funny story about the the red/blue theme of the shop. The outside frame of the shop was already painted red by the previous business there, Desert Soles. Then I decided on the dark blue for the walls to contrast with that red and to darken the shop. Then Christian had sent me a pencil sketch of the logo, inspired by the logo of the video game Fallout: New Vegas, so I knew what it would look like, but I had no idea what colors he would use and I didn't tell him what colors the shop was going to be either. In the middle of the painting the walls, I frantically texted Christian and asked him what colors he was going to be using for the logo. He sent me a rough draft of the colored logo, matching red and blue! So the logo and the store's color theme was all a huge coincidence! Few days later the shop was ready to go and Christian sent me the final logos which were promptly printed and hung.
5. What is your background history with comic books and geek culture?
I've always loved superheroes since I was a little kid. I remember Spider-Man being my favorite when I was younger. Spider-Man 2 was my favorite movie for the longest time. But I enjoyed multiple heroes--the Justice League, Batman, X-Men and Wolverine, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Hulk. I was infatuated with superheroes. But as for actual comic books, I had minimal. I was too young to remember when UC Comics was in Cathedral City, and I had no idea when they were in Palm Desert. Most I knew about superheroes came from TV Shows, movies, video games, and reading about the character on the Internet. It all escalated when I was 14 and I saw Iron Man for the first time. Something about Iron Man just blew me away, likely because he is the most normal human superhero. Captain America was a science experiment. Hulk is a science experiment gone wrong. Spider-Man was bit by a radioactive spider. Don't get me wrong, Spider-Man is still as amazing as he ever was, but Tony Stark is just a guy that built his own powers. I've been obsessed with Iron Man and The Avengers since. Later on in 2012 I remember finding out about Sid's shop, Desert Oasis, and buying a couple of issues here and there, but I never really had the money to support that hobby much, but I still loved his shop. I did my best to at least keep up with the main overall story arcs.
6. What is the most rewarding part of having your own shop in Palm Springs?
I love seeing the influx of newer readers that are looking to begin reading. And I love seeing the the customers that want to begin reading again after missing out for the last few years of their life. Generally I just love when a customer is happy with their experience of the shop. My favorite part of any day has to be whenever a regular comes in and we chat for a while about whatever is going on in the new releases of the week.
7. What sort of gatherings/events do you host at Interstellar?
We've had a few events in the shop, all of which have gone very well! We hosted a Midnight Release for Civil War II #3, where the midnight release variant cover reveals who dies in the issue. Another was PSCC's meet-up in Interstellar for The Killing Joke, where we met up in the shop and raffled away a copy of The Killing Joke graphic novel and a few more prizes. Afterwards, we all walked to the Regal 9 Theater down the street and watched The Killing Joke animated film. The first Pokémon GO meet-up that we had was another fun one, with multiple people in the shop that all competed to win a few prizes.
8. What have been some of your favorites so far?
My absolute favorite event had to be Free Comic Book Day. It was the first one that we have done here and it was an amazingly fun time! I was afraid that it would only be busy in the morning. Or only in the evening. Or no one would come. Or that so many would come what I didn't order enough! Or did I order too much!? I honestly had no idea how that day would've gone. In actuality, I ordered just enough to make everyone happy with the FCBD issues running out around 4 p.m., but people kept coming in to check out the shop.
9. Which comic books are you currently reading?
I'm currently reading Invincible Iron Man, Captain America: Steve Rogers, Deadpool, Darth Vader, Daredevil, Agents of Shield, Moon Knight and Batman. Mainly. I also read Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Empress, and dab into a few noteworthy issues; for example Uncanny Inhumans #11, Amazing Spider-Man #15, and Totally Awesome Hulk #7-9. I can't read everything, so if some customers are raving about a certain issue, I'll pick it up and read it as soon as possible.
10. Any recommendations for our readers?
I would recommend Captain America: Steve Rogers. Every single one of the first three issues so far have been a crazy ride of twists. I would recommend reading the Avengers: Standoff! crossover event beforehand, though, if you haven't already. I'd also recommend Moon Knight. He's a new character to me and it's a great introduction to a character that many might not be too familiar with. It's also another series that is both exciting and leaves you with questions at the end of every issue to anticipate. Also, if you're interested in the two new Iron Men, Riri Williams and Dr. Doom, catch up on Invincible Iron Man. Riri wasn't as big of a shock to me as it was to everyone else, because Riri has already first appeared in Invincible Iron Man #7. Too be honest, Dr. Doom was the surprising one. If you need to know what's going on before their runs start, pick it up!
11. What do you think of the increased interest in comic book and pop culture in the Coachella Valley?
I actually had that discussion with a friend not too long ago. I asked him for some perspective. I asked, "I don't know if it's just me because I run a comic book shop all day everyday, but are comic books and superheros more popular this year than usual?" And he agreed. I don't know what it could be, or rather I don't have one singular answer for it. It could be the movies, now that DC has their cinematic universe running with a good slate of movies rolling out. Marvel just got Spider-Man to hang out with The Avengers. Deadpool's success was an incredible surprise. TV Shows on CW and Netflix. Even AMC has The Walking Dead and Preacher, both based on graphic novels. And there always seems to be many more conventions everywhere you look. Even my sister, Eliana, whom until I told her I was opening up the shop admitted she didn't even know that comics were still printed in 2015, became invested when she saw Power Rangers: Pink, and was interested when Riri Williams was going to become the new Iron Man. Honestly, it doesn't matter why; I'm just happy about the greater acceptance of comic books, superheroes, and geek culture in the mainstream media. All of it just makes for a great way to escape for a few hours and have a fun time.
12. Do you have any future goals for Interstellar?
My main overall goal is to become a staple of the community. Both as part of the local pop culture community of the valley, and a staple of Palm Springs, CA. It took a month and a half between getting the keys to opening the door to the public. Obviously the shop wasn't done, and the shop was pretty empty. It's been seven months now and we've settled in and I'm told weekly by my regulars who've been there since the beginning that the shop is much better-looking every time they stop by. But I still don't think the shop is finished--my family and I are constantly looking to improve and add more to the shop. Recently, we have finished painting the walls blue in the back of the shop, and we're looking to expand the shop to nearly double its size soon with more room for tables to host bigger and better casual table top game nights and Friday Night Magic events. Another goal is to increase the selection of action figures/toys and to begin offering board games as well. No idea when that will truly happen, but I'm doing my best to get there. Also, we would like to use up as much of the available floor space and open it up all the way to the backdoor and allow entrance from the rear parking of the building! I'm just doing the best that I can do to make Interstellar the best shop that I can. I'm not going to stop working towards that.
Frequently partnered with Palm Springs Comic Con, Interstellar Comic Books & Collectibles hosts various events such as Pokémon GO meet-ups, Friday Night Magic, movie meet-ups, midnight releases, and Free Comic Book Day. You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook to keep up-to-date on events as well as any other news.