By: Dani Kessel
I am a huge comic book fan, and I try to engage with my local shops. Back in 2017, at the end of university, I wrote an article on spec about Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles and owner Jonthan Garnett. I spent a good amount of time at this comic book store around that time. It is still one of my favorite comic book stores. Since no publications picked up the article, very few people outside of my Magazine Writing class ever got to read it. I have decided to change that. Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles deserves the spotlight.
This article is a homage to the life and hard work of Jonthan Garnett as well as the amazing environment he’s created in Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles.
Note: Because it was written in 2017, some information may be outdated. Ages of individuals reflect those from the time of the interview. Also, Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles has moved to a bigger space, so the description matches that of the old store. The current location is set up very similarly though. And, obviously, interactions have changed some due to the pandemic.
. . .
Jonthan Garnett is a scruffy, warm-smiled, glasses-wearing, thirty-five-year-old man, often adorned with casual graphic t-shirts of his favorite pop culture references.
On a typical day, Jon zig-zags smoothly around the back of his store, Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles, pointing out different heroes, antiheroes, and villains to the customers that came in to fill holes in a collection. Separating the room into sections, huge rows of boxes sit on top of shelves stacked 2 to 3 layers high. On each end are a variety of action figures. There are even a few boxes of Exploding Kittens for the board game enthusiasts. A few customers linger along the vibrant walls, gazing at the newest Hawkman and Spider Gwen in the lines of wire bins. Above, posters for DC You, Chrononauts, and many other stories hang on the unfinished section of the space. He gets new promotional posters all the time. After directing the person to the right section, he comes back around to the front, where a regular flips through comics placed in a manila storage box sporting a small, green sticker with cracks of white where the color has flaked off. He makes conversation. The busy buzz of the store creates a satisfying calm.
The day that Jon and I first talked, the shop was completely empty. “Thursdays are my slow days. You miss the rush of new-comics-day but haven’t reached the weekend yet,” Jon said. Rather than sitting, he chose to lean his arms on the glass counter. In an attempt to break the ice, he partook in a game of rapid fire. He chose Superman over Batman, the Incredible Hulk over the Thing, Nightwing over Robin, Magneto over Professor X, and Justice League over the Avengers.
“Well, that was easy,” he said with a chuckle of relief.
We talked for a short while about pop culture interests—favorite shows, preferred renditions of popular superheroes. During every spare moment, he admired the wall across from him. Pop figures and at least a dozen action figures of Aquaman sat on a white shelf above nine different framed art pieces, equally spaced apart from each other and differing in visual interpretations and art mediums. He calls it his Aquaman Shrine. A warm smile stretched from ear to ear, and his chest puffed out when he started talking about his favorite characters—The Swamp Thing, Hellboy, and, of course, Aquaman.
“You’ve got one superhero, and two others that are kind of horror/superhero characters. I’ve always liked the B-Squad DC characters,” Jon said.
Jon’s obsession with pop culture extends far beyond his comic book shop and his fixation with outcast superheroes. When he isn’t working, he helps run a pop culture podcast with his friends, Juan and Gabe. Then, he goes home to his wife, Carissa, his three-year-old child, Finn, and his nine-month-old, Oliver, who all immerse themselves in nerdiness to varying degrees.
Carissa Garnett is a co-owner of the business and avidly enjoys Flash and Green Arrow as well as all the Marvel movies; she only peruses the comic books though. Finn is just old enough to start dipping his toes in the multitude of pop culture mediums and plotlines. He doesn’t read comics because of his age, but his favorite show is Star Wars.
While Jon’s family indulges in some of his interests, he and his wife take caution when it comes to his children’s prolonged involvement in the comic business. If they are at the store, it is usually only for a half-hour or less. “One of my biggest fears with the kids is that they are going to grow up around the store and grow to hate all of this,” he said with elbows still glued to the counter but swishing his hulking hands in small circles as if to indicate everything surrounding us, “We are trying not to push it on them. We are letting them find it organically.”
This tactic is paying off. Less than a week ago, Carissa brought Finn and Oliver home from the library. Finn clasped his small hand around the corner of the checked-out DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures DVD from 1967 with the Justice League sprinting into action on the front. The whole family settled in.
“Daddy, watch!” Finn said, pointing at the terrible-quality 60s animation, “Watch! Look what the Atom is going to do.”
Jon watched his son’s enthusiasm as he said, “I bet he’s going to shrink.”
“Yeah. He’s going to shrink!” Finn exclaimed, eyes growing bigger at his dad’s future telling abilities.
Jon describes it as the best feeling to be able to see comics through Finn’s eyes. He hopes to be able to share his passion for comics with his kids when they get older. In the meantime, he tries to separate his nerdy-work-life with his nerdy-home-life. In reality, his growing concerns about the constant exposure may be for naught. Jon’s already rubbed off on his son. Finn happily expressed to me that he thinks his daddy is the coolest. And Superman—him too.
Not only is Jon good with his own children, he has a soft spot for the kids who come into his shop. Aspen is a four-year-old girl who loves superhero shows but only just emerging in the world of comics. The first day at the comic book shop, she peered around with her jaw clenched.
“We have this over here specifically for kids,” Jon said gesturing to the spinning metal rack a few feet away. “The rest are in the main room.”
Jon looked down at Aspen and smiled. She inched away from him, her brows furrowing together. Automatically, he took a few steps back and motioned to follow him. He walked over to the closest box on the right-most row. Searching for her favorite superhero, he began skimming the old comic books in that area. “The Supergirl comics should be over here in the Adventure Comics section. Wait just a second!” He said as he dropped his hands and hustled to the other side of the room. He came back carrying a step-stool. “This is so you can see the books and pick yours out all by yourself,” he said to Aspen, setting it down on the floor. Jon offered a hand up, and Aspen hesitantly took it. She stepped up onto the stool, her curly brown hair bouncing with the movement. Her small arms stretched as far as they could, barely reaching the middle of the box. Her fingers pinched one of the plastic sleeves and she pulled up to see Supergirl flying through the air. A toothy grin was etched into her face, one which would not fade until long after she left the store.
Jon’s compassion for young fans in his store is likely a product of his dad ushering him to the comic book store as a child. Whenever he started talking about his childhood, Jon relaxed and allowed a nostalgic air to envelope him. Asked about his origin story, he said, “So, my childhood was awesome.”
Born in Grand Junction, Jon was adopted as a young baby, so he does not recollect his birth parents. Still, he postulates that this played into his ability to connect with comic characters since many come from troubled backgrounds. He grew up in Pueblo. His adoptive parents were eclectic individuals, always working on harvesting honey, making soap, or throwing themselves into different crafts to sell at festivals. They enlisted the help of their children, so Jon took part in a variety of family activities. In his spare time, he became involved with his first love—science.
“I was enamored with science and science books,” He said, “We were always running around outside catching bugs and building stuff, wood working, and shooting rockets off. It was awesome. I loved it.”
This led him to a Biology degree and his prior job at SeaChem Laboratories, manufacturing aquarium chemicals. He calls it his other passion. Growing up with aquariums in the house and working in a fish store through college, he maintained this path up until about five years ago. He enjoyed what he was doing, yet it didn’t seem like the perfect fit.
“I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum, for lack of better terminology,” He said. “I don’t like working for other people. I definitely like to have my own schedule.”
The prospect of opening Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles was daunting though. He and Carissa discussed in great lengths the path it would take to get to the brick and mortar shop. They drew up business plans, gradually transitioned into selling the comics, and finally they took the jump into entrepreneurship. “We were both terrified, and we still are. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘Oh my god, what if the store’s on fire,’” he said, mimicking his panic with a drop of his jaw and shooting his eyes open. He let out a laugh at his own joke, then returned to his rosy disposition. he continued, “Or ‘if the store’s on fire and the sprinklers kick in, this is all paper product.’ I’m screwed either way. It’s stressful. It’s very stressful. But, it’s also extremely rewarding.”
A great outlet for this stress is Jon’s involvement in Thinking Outside the Long Box. Juan, the creator of the podcast, met Jon back when they were running an aquarium store out of college. They became great friends, and eventually Jon’s love of comics fused into Juan’s life. Juan was editing the Quantum Leap podcast when he came up with the idea to create a comic book podcast. He and Gabe, a man he met at the Nerd Store in Greeley, started it up. They invited Jon in to do what they call “old man segments” where he talks about old comic books he read when he was younger. Initially, Jon’s involvement was scarce, but they became dedicated to all three of them appearing in the shows together.
“From listening to lots of podcasts myself, there’s usually a better dynamic when you’ve got three people talking about something instead of two,” Jon said.
When they started recording in the shop once a month, they opened it up to customers and general fans. One time, they had a larger turnout than ever expected. Juan and Gabe drove all the way down from north of Greeley, pulling into the tiny parking lot in front of the store. The closer it got to recording time, the more cars started filling in the gaps.
Soon, there was nothing left of the twelve parking spots outside the building; cars started occupying the neighboring lots with people walking the distance to get inside. Everybody filtered through the front room, cramming into each open crevasse. The room grew muggier and muggier as the crowd increased. You couldn’t move without elbowing somebody else. Yet, excited chatter buzzed from person to person about what they wanted to discuss. Eventually, the room was opplete with about thirty people hoping to get their say. In the middle, Jon, Juan, and Gabe huddled with two microphones and shared in their goofball ways.
“It’s fun—us getting to nerd out about [TV shows] and movies and comic books and all the pop culture stuff,” Jon said, smiling back at the memory.
One thing is certain, he does not intend on leaving the podcast any time soon. “I think I’m required to do 100 episodes according to Juan and Gabe. There’s no contract, but that’s what they tell me. And then, we are supposed to get tattoos which is dumb. But, I love it. Those guys are fun.”
Eventually Jon’s day must come to a close. After a hectic day of chatting with customers, running the business, making podcasts, and coming home to the family, Jon’s evening slows to a calming lull. Finn and Oliver are in the bed and crib. The comic book stock has been replenished hours ago. It’s the end of another great day. He can rest knowing that he has done what everybody ever hopes for. With a lot of passion and a plethora of drive, he lives a life that he can be proud of as a father, a husband, an entrepreneur, a friend, and, most of all, a nerd.
. . .
I’m grateful I was able to spotlight Jonthan’s amazing entrepreneurship and business. If you live in or near Parker, Colorado, consider going by Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles. If you live elsewhere or you don’t feel comfortable going in person, you can still support the business through their website and social media accounts (linked below).
I hope you enjoyed this article. I think it’s extremely important to shop local and support small businesses whenever possible. If you want to promote a small business you enjoy, drop their link in the comments below and tell us what makes you love them. Don’t forget to subscribe to Girl On the Go for more great content every week.
(This post was not sponsored.)