Uel Carter: set to open a new comics store in the space of an old one

Another comics store is rising out of the ashes of the defunct Comic Relief.

Just six weeks after Comic Relief abruptly shut its doors, a former employee has plans to open a new store in the exact same location.

Uel Carter, who worked on and off at Comic Relief for a decade, will launch Fantastic Comics at 2026 Shattuck Avenue on May 1.

It will be the second comic store coming from Comic Relief. Jack Rems, the owner of Dark Carnival Books, bought Comic Relief’s inventory and opened a new store, The Escapist, on Claremont Avenue, on March 15th. (Rems even brought over the store’s two cats, Ash and Ember).

“You can say Comic Relief budded off and had two children,” said Carter, who lives in San Leandro. “There is The Escapist on Claremont and Fantastic Comics on Shattuck. One of us basically got the house and one of us got the stock.”

Although Carter is a great admirer of Rory Root, the late owner of Comic Relief, he plans to shape the new store in his own vision.

“I don’t want to suggest I am trying to reopen Comic Relief, even though I am in the same storefront, because I have my own ideas,” said Carter.

Carter said the property owner, John Gordon, gave him such a good deal on rent that he felt compelled to move into the space, even though it meant opening a bigger store than he initially envisioned.

Erik Larsen, a comic book creator and a founder of Image Comics, is one of Carter’s partners. Although Comic Relief struggled financially after Root died, it had long been a successful comics store, said Larsen. He thinks Fantastic Comics, which is named after one of Larsen’s publications, has a good chance of thriving.

“Comic Relief was a destination in Berkeley and that’s what we hope for Fantastic Comics — for it to be more than simply a comic book store — but a reason for visiting the East Bay,” said Larsen. “I think Fantastic Comics will be a great shop — very much in the tradition of what Comic Relief was.”

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...