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Vault of Midnight puts local creators on the shelves

Vault of Midnight's "small and local press" section gives local artists exposure and a chance to grow.
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“Our biggest event of the year is fast approaching!” says Charley Tucker, Vault of Midnight’s store manager. “Every year, on the first Saturday in May, Vault of Midnight hosts Free Comic Book Day. We give out thousands of free comic books to both kids and adults and host a small sidewalk festival that includes a cosplay contest, local artist signings, as well as games and activities for all ages.” Vault’s Free Comic Book Day event will be hosted on May 5th.

/Sarah Wood

/Sarah Wood

The store’s name conjures images of superhero comics and vintage detective serials, but Vault of Midnight is not a typical comic book store. “There's historically been a mainstream stigma against comic books and the shops that sell them,” says Charley Tucker, the store manager at Vault of Midnight. “Oftentimes images of dingy basement comic shops that only service a non-diverse and non-inclusive customer base are evoked.“ Through community involvement and an emphasis on diverse work and content, Vault hopes to erase this stigma.

“We're extremely lucky to work next to amazing organizations like the UICA, Madcap Coffee, and the GRAM, that really promote a healthy downtown,“ says Tucker.

For local businesses, community involvement is a core tenant of any successful business model. Vault of Midnight engages with the Grand Rapids community often, through events like Grand Rapids Comic-Con, the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival, and Vault of Midnight’s own highly successful Local Creator’s Showcase.

Vault also supports the community from within its own store. The store’s “small and local press” section is teeming with work by local artists: comics, zines, coloring books, enamel pins, and even indie role playing games. Since the store first started accepting work from independent artists in the area in 2015, the section has more than tripled in size.

Frankie Johnson, an illustrator from Grand Rapids, first started working with Vault in early 2017 after being a long-time customer. Their first works to be sold were two zines: Glass Crayon and Time Capsule. Both featured drawings, comics, and sketches curated from Frankie’s sketchbooks.

“I really believe that Vault has had an impact on the local art community,” says Johnson. “[They allow] new or younger artists [to] have a space to sell their things, and [they] host events for various things to give artists a platform. They also do a really good job at introducing new artists and have been really friendly.”

Adam Vass, another local artist, has been working with Vault since 2015. They say that selling their work through Vault has had a huge impact on their work.

“Because the Vault started carrying my work, I was inspired and encouraged to create more and make my work higher quality,” they say. “When once I was putting out one or two new pieces a year, I'm now actively more creative and putting out a handful of zines & games each year.“

A pinboard next to the front registers features some of the pop-culture-themed enamel pins designed by Vass: A Hellboy bust, Pokemon, and a glittering 20-sided die.

While Vass has sold zines and comics through Vault, their current focus is on small press tabletop games and roleplaying games. Babes in the Wood, which is on sale at Vault now, is a 2-5 player roleplaying game about children lost in a mysterious forest on Halloween night.

Rayne Klar says that “Vault is amazing for local artists!” The illustrator and zine-maker has been working with Vault for almost three years and says that Vault has “helped set up many programs for all ages in town,” echoing Johnson’s desire for community programs that welcome younger artists (that is to say, not so many 21+ events that take place in breweries). Klar appreciates that Vault is an ArtPrize venue, and that “they always work with locals for posters [and] selling new work.” Klar adds: “I’ve met people and made new friends just from seeing who else in town has work in the local section.”

What can you expect to find there now? Rayne Klar’s “Romance Bottle Spell Kitcomes with a gorgeous hand-drawn zine and two red candles, offering a romance spell “to do with your romantic partner(s)”. While it’s not on sale yet, Frankie Johnson is currently working on “a VERY large comic….one of my most personal works yet.” Adam Vass’ latest game, Final Judgement, “a sort of satanic tarot, two-player strategy playing card game,” is in its playtesting phase and will be on the shelves later this spring.

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