Phoenix Comicon 2011 – Spotlight on Jesse James Comics
By Libbi Rich

I think if anyone bothered to do a study of the number of comic book retailers, per square mile, in the Phoenix metro area they would probably find that there are more comic book stores in the Valley of the Stunned than in any other major metropolitan region.  On Free Comic Book day I tried to hit 8 stores in the Valley … out of the 10 I know of.  That’s  a lot of comic books in a tight economic market.   But Jesse James Comics is unique:


Owned and operated by Jesse James Criscione, the shop carries a huge range of classic to current comics; a special room houses Blast From Your Past Collectibles, where toys, figurines, and other comic memorabilia can be found to suit any collector’s fancy.  Nearly every month, the store holds a Member Appreciation Day/Creator Appreciation Day (MAD/CAD … There’s one today, Saturday June 25, 2011), where fans can meet and mingle with comic pros, watch them make art, and have an awesome time.


And there’s ice cream.  Named after comic book artists and writers.


On top of all this, for PCC 2011, Criscione took on the daunting position of Comics Programming manager.  Panels ranged from The Artists’ Side of the Page to the Writer’s Side of the Page; Women in Comics; How to Print Your Own Comic; and more … the soup to nuts of comic arts and sciences.



Is it these things that make this little Glendale, Arizona comic book shop so different?  Would ice cream drive artists and publishers to create special, limited edition, Phoenix Comicon variant covers (see gallery following this article) of their comics just for this one little hole in the wall comic shop?  The answers lie in how the community perceives six shooter Jesse James, himself. Comics are clearly Criscione’s passion, but rather than rhapsodize about Jesse’s lifelong love of comic books and his devotion to up and coming creators and the rest of the comic community, I’ll let them do the talking:


Jean Arrow, Artist – Creator of The Extraordinary Tales of Lazer Woman and Strong Girl

Almost single handedly, Jesse James has changed the Arizona comic buyers’ perspective on “indy comics” and has used his indomitable spirit to inspire local creators to dream bigger. As long as you show passion for your creations, he will support you and give without asking for anything in return. He is my Robin Hood!



Eric Schock, Artist – Founder of Evil Robo Productions

Jesse is one of those guys that helps keep indy comics alive, with all he does for our small comic community (that grows every year). I am honored to know him,and be part of his Comic Creator Family. With a friend like him, it has only benefited the world that I’ve walked into. He is one of the supporting pillar that keep us on our feet, and keeps all of us creating, doing what we love to do….Comics. One of Jesse’s Favorite Characters is Hawkeye from the Avengers. Hawkeye never misses his mark. With us doing Evil Robo Presents for The Phoenix Comic Con we wanted to honor him, and make sure that we also didn’t miss the mark. We want to thank him in spades for all he’s done for us.



Eric Basaldua, Artist – Zenescope

I’ve seen pics all over the web of his store and the awesome talent  that is there greeting the fans…and every time I came across a picture I always got this vibe inside me…wasn’t always sure what it was…and when I first set foot to join the crew…I realized that I was in the presence of family….Jesse James Comics keeps the family spirit alive and strong in comics..and I have traveled all over the world and can’t recall coming across that feeling in comics before…and I will always continue to support him in any way I can…makes me wish I lived in Arizona.



Raven Gregory, Writer – Zenescope

He’s the best there is at what he does and what he does makes you realize that beyond being an awesome retailer, supporting indie comics, and taking care of customers, fans and friends that at the end of the day the man is just an all around good guy and I couldn’t be prouder to call him my friend.  Nuff said.



Mickey Chaney, Artist – No Man’s Land

I am brand new to the comic realm. Not just the local scene, but the ENTIRE scene. Yet, Jesse took me and threw me right into the ring allowing me to meet some  the best people I’ve ever met. Because of his confidence in my abilities I have been able to start up my own book and attend such events as the Phoenix Con. So I think that is the best thing about Jesse. The fact that you don’t have to be friends with him for years before he starts treating you like one of his closest friends. I feel honoured to have had the chance to meet Jesse so early on in my comic career and I hoped I have many years of being around him.


Eric Mengel, Artist/Writer – OCHO

Jesse has definitely changed the way local shops support small press and local creators. Before Jesse, my store appearances were few and far between. Now I’m getting requests to appear at a number of stores, every month! I know Jesse is responsible for that. He has awoken a sleeping giant!!!
On a personal level- as great as a retailer as he is, he’s an even better friend.



Mary Babybird, Manager & Muse – Mike DeBalfo, Artist – Zenescope

Jesse has a way of making every single person in his store and in his presence feel welcome and special.  He’s the kind of guy that everyone knows AND is friends with; not an easy feat.  He cares equally for the fans, the artists, the writers, and the kids of all above.  Special thanks to Jesse for always having a listening ear, a kind word, and an inviting smile.




Tom Hutchinson, Publisher/Writer – Big Dog Ink

Jesse James is one of the good guys. No one in this industry has jumped onto Big Dog Ink and helped push us more than Jesse. He instantly recognized what it is we were doing and saw our potential. He brings a new way of thinking to the industry that allows for the little guys to be presented in the same light as the big guys, and in some cases even ahead of them. Jesse promotes our product tirelessly and has become not just a BDI vendor, but a valued member of our family.
The comic book industry could learn a lot from the way Jesse does things. His outside the box approaches to this business have garnered him well earned success and a fan base that is excited about what he is doing on a near daily basis. I very much wish I lived closer to this unique man so that I could better learn from someone who has such a different way of doing things combined with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for our little product called comic books.



Brieanna Brock, Spokesmodel

“Six Shooter” Jesse James is so much more than a local retailer in the community.  I can’t ever thank him enough for helping introduce me to all of my new friends and associates in the comic industry.  He is an associate, friend, and mentor.  When I am in need of direction, advice, someone to lean on, or an extra hand…he is who I turn too.  Jesse is the father that doesn’t hide behind a box and have you say 10 Hail Mary prayers.  He is straight forward with a friendly, honest, and helpful answer.  Whether it be something personal or to do with your career, you can count on him.  He’s the most honest person I know and I appreciate his help and friendship more than words can say.  He’s truly helped me a great deal and I’m confident that I’ll reach certain goals I’ve set because I know that he is always there to help in some way.


Phoenix Comicon 2011, Jesse James Comics Limited Edition Variant Cover Issues

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Libbi Rich (40 Posts)

Middle-aged punk princess; pop culture hound; geekgirl; liberal activist and general shit-stirrer; reader of nanopunk/cyberpunk/comics/ anything-I-can-get-my-hands-on; wife and mom.