10 January 2014

FWS News Feed: My Childhood Comic Book Store is Closed?! NOOOO!

Thomas Wolfe once wrote: "you can never go home again", and I recently received very sad news from my Mother that only reinforced that statement. After nearly thirty years in business in the greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, my childhood comic book store is closing! Starbase 21 was my introduction for so many science fiction elements and products. I have many happy memories of blowing my allowance on comics, toys, shirts, models, and RPG games since I first went to the store beginning in 1985 with a ROBOTECH convention at their old location on 21st and Mingo (where the store got its name). Since Starbase 21 had such an impact on me and opened my eyes to a wider world of science fiction and military science fiction, I have always intended to craft an FWS blogpost on Starbase 21, and this seems like the best time.
From 1985 to 1992, I visited Starbase 21 at their location 21st and Sheridan, least twice a month when my family would drive to Tulsa from our home in Bartlesville. At Starblase 21, I starting collecting my first series, and exploring the magical world of RPG and sci-fi movies. I would wander around discovering works like Spelljammer, Battletech, and Warhammer 40k. This was one of the hearts of the store, the plastic and paper realities of 1980's geek culture. Starbase 21 had a number of collectibles that you just didn't see anywhere else, and I devoured it. Then there was the familiar, like ROBOTECH, Doctor Who, and the big two: Trek and Wars. Man, I loved going there on Saturday afternoons and never seemed like I had enough money to buy all the cool things I wanted. After we moved to Ponca City in 1992, my hajj to the store became less and less, to the point that years drifted by between trips.
When I did come back to Tulsa to visit my parents, and much to my wife's displeasure, I would always made a stop into the old store. Just the smell along was like a home coming...odd, I know, but there is something about the smell of old comic/book stores. With Starbase 21 being fixture in the community than why is it closing? The founder of Starbase 21, James Harper, is suffering from health issues and needs to retire, and the Tulsa area is well-populated with comic book stores...even when I was a kid, Starbase 21 competed with Time Warp Comics from business. On Saturday, January 11th, Starbase 21 will close its doors, and if I had known that this was it than I would have journeyed up to Tulsa for one last go. Despite its closing, I will always remember Starbase 21 with fondness and relevance in the golden hue of my memory.    


  1. Christopher PhoenixJanuary 11, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    It is sad how so many of the fixtures of our childhoods' fade and disappear eventually... sorry to hear that a place so memorable to you has closed its doors. For me, bookstores were my favorite places to visit as a child. I hope that bookstores/comic stores will continue to exist at physical locations, electronic media notwithstanding- rather than disappearing into a world of internet downloads or a "handful of crystal corn" like in Stanislaw Lem's novel Return from the Stars!!

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  3. Okay, had to remove the last comment...wrong blogpost! Anyway, "Handful of crystal corn"...love it! Babylon 5 did use crystal data systems as well, and recently Hitachi developed that crystal storage device. Ben Curtis of SVIIB once said he liked records because if a solar storm wiped out the electronics of the world, hat record of SVIIB would still be there. Bookstores and comic stores need to survive

  4. Christopher PhoenixJanuary 12, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Yep, the astronaut in Return from the Stars finds that, 100 years from his launch, books are now data on tiny crystals and inserted into "optons" to be read, though most prefer "lectons" that dictate your book to you in any voice you prefer. A few hundred scientific treatises fit in a pocket, easily. There are no shortages of books or question of being "out of print" as each book is kept in a computer memory and imprinted on a crystal for individual use as required. But our lonely astronaut mourns the loss of books- the weight of books, the feel of books, the smell of books- especially after years of reading nothing but microfilm on the starship Prometheus (not that Prometheus of course)!!

    Here's the Technovelgy entry on this technology- it is apparently one of the earlier references to electronic books. Return from the Stars is one of my favorite Lem books- instead of contact with fictional aliens, we instead find an astronaut who has returned after a century-long flight at near light speeds to discover he has become in alien in the vastly changed society of Earth. It is the enforced practice of betrization- which can't be safely performed on adults- that really drives the wedge between the astronauts and the emotionally neutered humans, though, not changes in culture or technology. Honestly, this is one of the most dystopic novels out there- dystopia through utopia!!

    That's true- low-tech will survive disasters more easily than really high tech. A Coronal Mass Ejection or intentional EMP attack could wipe out all our Ipods and computers, but a record would still work fine- as would ordinary books. Education and entertainment in the post-electronic wasteland will mean books and comics. Funny that survivalist types never really talk about that- personally, I would kill for books if we ended up in a post-apoclyptic scenario!!

  5. Wow, I recently discovered your blog and this post brought back a wash of sadness, not because I know or frequented Starbase 21, but because this has happened to me twice now.

    I still live near enough to "home" that the stores of my youth were still available to me. The first to close was the high school haunt where some of my friends even worked after school. I watched that place sprout, grow, wither and die as the market/hobby that spawned it also proved its downfall.

    The second was American Eagles. This was the store of my childhood and a much more special thing. As a child it was that magic place that would always have anything I wanted. Whether it be Heritage miniatures, Dungeons and Dragons or Airfix HO scale models, they were there. The store seemed to go on forever and that was just the public space. It was always known that there was a vast, vault-like basement below, the sort of place that concealed forgotten treasure that would, in later years, surface to bring back memories of type set rules and cardboard counters. American Eagles closed some years back. It too made local news. The original owner had passed on and his son could not keep the business running despite doing everything he could. The hobby had left another great, grand shop behind.


  6. It is very sad when places that meant some much back in our misspent youth are closed down. It is like someone taking away memories, like I'm some sort of Replicant! American Eagles sounds very cool, and have basement below is only the icing on the cake! My hope is that comic book stores, hobby stores, and book stores never go away. We need these places.

  7. Thank you very much to share this information. It is very useful and informative.

  8. It is really interesting post. I never read such kind of post. It impressed me. Thanks for sharing…

  9. John Harper, owner of Starbase 21 and founder of Trek Expo, passed away after a short battle with cancer about late 2010-early 2011. He was not alive when Starbase closed up shop.