For the love of comics: The woman behind Black Ice Comics & Books in Houghton

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – Flipping through a comic book can feel like you’re stepping into a whole other universe, from the colorful images and drawings to the out-of-this-world characters.

For many people, especially Black Ice Comics and Books owner Shana Porteen, comic books bring a sense of nostalgia and joy.

“I’ve been involved in comics, well, probably my entire life. I had an older brother, so I was socialized into comics very early on. He is eight years older than me and everything he did I thought was cool. So, I knew all sports teams and comic book characters before I could even read,” said Porteen.

When she was in high school, Porteen’s family opened up a comic bookstore in Oklahoma, where she grew up. After graduating high school, Porteen went off to college and went into a career in higher education. It wasn’t until a life-altering diagnosis that changed it all for her.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and it took the wind out of my sails, and I thought ‘Okay, I need to step back from higher ed, so what am I going to do?’ And I thought, I know comics and I love people! I couldn’t leave people. And so, I decided to kind of to just jump in with both feet and see if I could make a go of it.”

In 2016, Porteen opened her first comic bookstore under what was once the parking deck in Houghton. After surviving the pandemic, the community still wanted more from Black Ice Comics, leading to an expansion that she always dreamed of.

“I was able to move up on Sheldon Avenue and expand the shop the way I have always envisioned and what customers were asking for. And so now I am Black Ice Comics and Books, I have traditional novels, I sell ice cream now, and artisanal lemonades, and I love it. This shop is very sustaining for me.”

Black Ice Comics and Books has a little bit of everything. This includes graphic novels, manga, stickers, back issue and new comics and so much more. Porteen says her shop would not be here today if it wasn’t for the community’s support.

“It’s one of those things that we’re all up in the U.P. so we know the importance of tourism, right? But you’re not going to survive unless you have your community that loves your shop and I feel that love all the time. The reading community, the comic community, the geek community here is so substantial,” said Porteen. “There needs to be a new word for a customer that becomes family because that’s exactly what we are, and we do a lot of things together. I couldn’t do Geek U.P. without the people pulling together. We survived the Father’s Day Flood together, if it wasn’t for the people who loved my shop, I wouldn’t be here today, and I’ve never forgotten that. And so, I’m dedicated to this community, and I feel that they in turn are dedicated to me.”

Porteen is the co-founder of the 5th annual Geek U.P., which takes place Saturday, September 9 at Michigan Technological University’s Rozsa Center. For more information on the event, click here.

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