When Neil Farris took over San Jose’s Hijinx Comics in 2010, he couldn’t foresee how much comic books would become an essential cornerstone of the pop culture landscape.
“It has been really great seeing comic books evolve from a niche product on the outskirts of the book industry, to a full-fledged mainstream media choice,” he said on Wednesday, the day new comic books are sold and his last behind the counter at Hijinx.
After 12 years as its owner, Farris sold the Lincoln Avenue business to Alan Bahr and Phil Schlaefer, who own Heroes and Champions in Sunnyvale. It’s the end of an era for the Willow Glen business, which Mike Gamble opened in 1982 as Mike’s Coliseum. It became Hijinx Comics in 1982 and is now expected to transform again into Heroes and Champions Willow Glen. The new owners plan to spruce things up in the shop but don’t plan to close during the renovation period.
“I have known Alan and Phil for decades and am more than confident that they will do a great job moving forward,” said Farris, a San Jose native who spent 15 years as a musician before working for Lockheed. When he was laid off in the early 1990s, he went to work for Dick Swann at Big Guy’s Comics in Mountain View. At Hijinx, he relished talking to his customers, and the conversations often drifted to movies, TV, social issues and, of course, comic books.
But after 30 years in the comic book game, Farris decided it was just time to stop running a retail business. The store’s operations were massively disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only delayed comic book publication but forced Farris to limit the number of people allowed in the store and require they wear masks — and not the superhero kind. This year, former owner and longtime employee J.K. McGill died unexpectedly, which cast a further shadow on the business for Farris.
“I’ve been happy to be everyone’s Comic Book Guy,” Farris said. “And I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to be on the other side of the counter.”
A DRINK WITH A VIEW: The swanky Silicon Valley Capital Club is vying for the top spot in a bartending competition being held by Invited, its parent company, with other clubs in Dallas, Long Island, Ohio and Florida. The San Jose entry is the Panorama, named after the fantastic view of San Jose and Silicon Valley you get from the club’s location on the 17th floor of 50 W. San Fernando St.
General Manager Rachael Barclay whipped up the variation on the margarita — a natural fit for San Jose, I think — with Maestro Dobel Diamante tequila, fresh lime juice and black lava salt on the rim of the glass. But the key ingredient is Ancho Reyes Verde, a chile poblano liqueur that gives the drink a nice touch of heat.
Bartender Juan Rios, who made a Panorama for me recently, said the other trick is to use simple syrup in the cocktail instead of agave nectar, which most bartenders would use in a margarita. “The agave would overwhelm the Ancho Reyes,” he said with just the right degree of authority to keep me from arguing.
Capital Club members and their guests — as well as patrons at the other four clubs — are voting with their orders, and Barclay says San Jose is running just behind Dallas’ drink.
PURR-FECT TIMING: The Dancing Cat received a timely extension through Labor Day, Sept. 5, for a challenge grant that was set to expire on Thursday. The feline adoption center on Julian Street in San Jose — where you can go hang out with the cats up for adoption in a relaxed setting — had raised $20,000 of its $30,000 goal by the end of August and hopes a final push can get it closer to the finish line.
Rescue organizations like the Dancing Cat are being called on even more right now to provide treatment for injured cats because of the recent staffing shortages at city animal centers. You can find out more and donate to the campaign at thedancingcat.org.