Comic book shops: Remnants of old America

Patrick St. Pierre

I have forever been a fan of the superhero genre. My boyhood was full of action figures, cartoons and comic books. The action figures and cartoons may have been left behind, but comic books have always remained—just as they have remained in an ever-impersonalizing consumerism. Comic book shops are one of the last foot-holds of the American tradition that has been pushed onto its deathbed by the conglomerates that we now live by. Some of us, though, relish the places where we are recognized—where we are considered friends.

I still make my monthly drive down to Massillon, turn onto Lincoln Way East, and pull in to the privately owned “Heroic Adventures” comic and pop culture shop, and before I’m out of my car, I’m welcomed by the familiar posters and stickers coating the door and building. It is a safe place for me—a place of welcoming and of calm. As I step out of my car, I’m greeted by Kurt, my friend and the owner of this quaint geek haven. He asks me how I’ve been and I ask him the same, the personal relationship so important in the quest for solid reading. The comic book shop brings back that old America where the shopkeepers knew exactly what you’d come for before you’d even step foot through the door.

As I take my first step into my Fortress of Solitude, I am hit with the familiar portraits of my longtime heroes: Superman and Batman, Spiderman and Wolverine and Wonder Woman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Curt has my usual stack waiting for me on the table, and I glance over them seeing the new additions to my collection. I become excited to see that my favorite author, Geoff Johns, has finally released that last edition of “Superman: Secret Origins.” This excitement causes me to smile involuntarily, and I suddenly can’t wait to see inside of it—letting the art of Gary Frank fill my imagination with the vivid pictorials of Superman’s first encounter with Lex Luthor.

Once I’m through scanning the pulled items, Curt pulls out a few other titles that have recently been released. This is no idle attempt at salesmanship—like the types you find at Blockbuster or Best Buy—these titles were picked specifically to match my interests. This is what’s missing in American consumerism today. There are very limited relationships between consumer and salesman, and with the sales quota system that many retailers operate in, the customer becomes no more than a number. America has drifted away from personal relationships in consumerism, and this makes us more susceptible to being taken advantage of.

The comic book store is one of the few places I shop where I know that I’m more than a number. I miss that, America, and I know you do too. How great would it be to be able to walk into a grocery store, and see the butcher cutting your meat before you walk up to him or her, to see the baker do the same. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic, and maybe I should accept the fact that America has become a place where local markets are no longer markets but supercenters and mini-malls. The comic book store is a remnant Old America, personal and pure, and it should be kept alive—much like the heroes of our childhoods.

Patrick St. Pierre is a senior English and psychology major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].