Written by Jesse Mallare
One step into Mission: Comics & Art, and visitors are transported into a space that is part-book store, part-art gallery. The vivid artwork from the murals and storefronts of the Mission have seemingly jumped onto colorful pages, posters, and book covers.
In 2009, native San Franciscan Leef Smith founded Mission: Comics & Arts to celebrate local artists, storytellers, and inquisitive minds of all ages. Casual readers and hardcore comics fans alike will appreciate the extensive selection of classics, popular manga, indie picks, and cartoon collectibles.
Supporting the San Francisco community is a central tenant of Mission: Comics & Art. Part of the shop is dedicated to highlighting local artists that are either inspired by comics or have a strong narrative in their art. The store also partners with New Door Ventures to employ local youth and help transition them into the job market.
Despite the popularity of superhero movies from DC and Marvel, Smith asserts that there isn't an increased interest in superhero comics among younger readers. "It's easy to be superhero fans; it's harder to get people to read, especially kids. There are so many other things competing for kids' attention, so many screens, so many games." Smith cites fun, relatable texts, like "Smile" from SF cartoonist Raina Telgemeier, as more resonating with young comic fans.
Smith has witnessed the neighborhood undergo significant change, watching customers grow up right in front of his eyes. Having lived in the Mission for nearly 20 years and grown up in the Excelsior and Outer Mission neighborhood, Smith admitted that it’s been difficult seeing the income disparity and exodus of artists in recent years. Still, he remains hopeful for the Mission:
"I hope the Mission continues to be a diverse neighborhood with diverse ethnically, diverse economically, diverse in all ways that it continues to be a mixing point. One of the things I really like about my store, it is one of those places where all parts of the neighborhood are welcome. Comic fans cross all boundaries. And we need more open spaces in the neighborhood that are open to everyone."
So what's upcoming for Mission: Comics & Art? This Friday, July 7th, the monthly art show continues with a magazine release for local artist Christine Villanueva. Also, Smith will host a pop-up at Alamo Drafthouse for the new Spider-Man: Homecoming film. Follow the latest releases and news from Mission: Comics & Art by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.