It was announced officially this morning that Atomic Comics, one of America’s best known comic book stores, has closed up shop for all four of its Arizona-based stores. The abrupt shut-down came as surprise to employees, fans, and the comic industry in general. Word started leaking out yesterday but the worst fears were confirmed this morning in a newsletter from Atomic Comics owner Michael Malve.

In the newsletter, titled “My Final Report”, Malve blames the decision on the economy, stating, “I had hoped to be the superhero and triumph over the recession, but sadly the economic downturn of the past 5 years has proven to be unsustainable.” He goes on to pinpoint one event as the beginning of the downturn. In 2006, the Mesa Atomic Comics shop lost over a million dollars in inventory when a car crashed into the store’s main window, bursting a water main the process. The store was closed for several months for repairs and, when it reopened, many of the shop’s regular customers did not return.

When word broke about the closing, Twitter lit up with kind words and condolences from the comic sector. Comic creators Jim Lee, Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Dan Slott, Kevin Smith, and Warren Ellis had nothing but nice things to say about the shop and its owner. They called the shop “the best retailer ever” and said that Malve was “pure comics”.

A more dire reaction from others in the comic industry was the cry that the closing was a sign of the death of print comics. While it’s true that digital comics are becoming more and more common with DC Comics even announcing that all of their books will be coming out day-and-date in both print and digital formats beginning with this September’s ‘New 52’, I have no doubt that print comics will continue. The closing of a single shop, especially one that’s been suffering financially, isn’t the end of the industry. Atomic Comics did not close down overnight. What I’d be more concerned about is that Atomic Comics was allegedly one of the biggest customers of Diamond Comic Distributors and what that will mean for the distribution powerhouse since it distributes comics to pretty much every comic shop in America.

What do you think? Is the closing of Atomic Comics a sign of a coming comic book apocalypse or merely a sign of bad economic times in general? Do you read comics in digital and, if you do, are you finding yourself reading fewer print comics these days?

Leave your thoughts on the closing, the state of the comic industry, and whatever else you want below.