Coming soon: The Escapist comic bookstore. Photo: Scott Mace.

Michael Chabon will be happy. A new comic bookstore, whose name was inspired by a character in one of Chabon’s own novels, will open soon just a hop and a skip away from his Berkeley home in the Claremont neighborhood.

Jack Rems, owner of science fiction and fantasy bookstore Dark Carnival says he will open The Escapist at the retail space he owns two doors down from his shop at 3086 Claremont Avenue, and it will be stocked with the inventory he bought from Comic Relief, the venerable Berkeley store that closed down on Valentine’s Day.

As we reported on January 18, Rems had originally wanted to take over the lease at the Comic Relief space at 2026 Shattuck Avenue. But, he says, that proved unworkable.

“I was less than confident I could pay the rent there,” he says, explaining that the landlord, John Gordon, had made concessions to the previous tenants which he was reluctant to do with a new one. Rems also felt unsure about the potential of the location. “There are a lot of boarded-up stores in that block of downtown,” he says. “I like it here better,” he says referring to Claremont Avenue. “There are no parking meters and I can control both stores more easily.”

The name, The Escapist, was inspired by a character in Chabon’s book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Chabon, a serious comics fan, told Berkeleyside last month he was saddened to see the demise of Comic Relief but delighted Rems was resurrecting the store.

He also said he would like to be “customer number one” when the store re-emerged. Rems says he is hoping for a March 16 opening, so we fully expect Chabon to be first in the door.

Update, 03.08.11, 21.33: Berkeleyside was remiss in not contacting the property owners at 2026 Shattuck Avenue, John Gordon and Janis Mitchell, when reporting this story. We have since been in contact with them and understand that Jack Rems was offered the same below-market rent that Comic Relief owner Rory Root and his trust had been charged for the lease at 2026 Shattuck Avenue — although they had fallen behind on their payments many months ago. The owners offered to make some improvements to the property and include the cost of other improvements requested by Jack Rems into his rent. Rems decided not to take the lease.

From the ashes of Comic Relief, a new store is set to rise [02.18.11]
Comic Relief closes [02.15.11]
Comic Relief struggles in wake of founder’s death [12.17.10]
Comic relief: creating a 24-page comic in 24 hours [09.20.10]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...