By Travis Hefner, Point Park News Service:
Sewickley’s Big Bang Comics and Collectibles enjoys the new normal: Like other area comic shops, it buzzes with people discussing the next big comic movie or TV show.
Hollywood’s zealous creation of comic book-based television series and movies has given boosts to local comic shops with new and different customers.
“It’s the best free advertising,” said Dane Gustafson, a clerk at Big Bang Comics and Collectibles.
Gustafson described how the shop uses the “free advertising” by putting comics that are more popular because of movies in more prominent places in the shop.
“We put ‘Winter Soldier’ right out front,” he said in reference to the comic book that the 2014 movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was based on. The $24.99 collection was placed in the shop window, and it sold numerous times.
Batman also dominated the store, with an entire wall filled with story collections of the legendary Caped Crusader. With the trilogy by Christopher Nolan completed in 2012, and hype for the next movie ramping up, Big Bang Comics and Collectibles is staying in line with a trend that has been true for a long time: Batman sells. With the $3.99 monthly issue regularly being near or at the top of the sales list, the Sewickley shop is giving customers more of what they want.
Gustafson said the store sees in an increase in customers during the weeks after a movie opens in theaters. But these new customers are not always the stereotypical comic-book fan.
Meghan Muye, a customer at Big Bang Comics and Collectibles, detailed the shock in a delivery driver’s voice when there were “so many girls” in the shop to pick up news issues of comic books.
“It’s more socially acceptable,” said Broc Atkinson, of the Cranberry location of New Dimension Comics, when asked about the perceived changing look of comic-book fans. Stereotypes are dying. These fans are “mostly younger people,” across all backgrounds, Atkinson said.
Dave Bishop, owner of Big Bang Comics and Collectibles, echoed that: “A lot more younger kids are coming. In the past, it was mostly 20-somethings.”
Bishop explained that parents bring their kids to the shop after watching the movies to proclaim, “This is where they come from.”
Along with locations in Century III Mall, Pittsburgh Mills, Butler and Ellwood City, Cranberry’s New Dimension Comics shop is similarly open toward new comic-book fans.
“We showcase what’s in the news,” said Atkinson, noting a wall featuring selected issues about Ultron, the villain in the forthcoming Marvel Comics “Avengers” movie.
New Dimension Comics hosts introduction days where people already involved with comics help new fans in terms of things such as how to start collecting a certain character they like and how to take care of comics.
“A movie can make a character,” Atkinson said.
Prior to the movie version of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Atkinson said the comic books featured a group of different characters and barely sold any issues. Now because of the movie, three new titles — “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Legendary Star-Lord” and “Rocket Raccoon” — regularly sell out. The first issue of “Rocket Raccoon” sold more than 300,000 copies nationwide.
“The popularity of the movies impacts the characters used,” said Atkinson, pointing out that the current comic version of “Guardians of the Galaxy” now matches the one from the movie. “That’s the one that brought the most customers.”
Jeff Yandora, of Phantom of the Attic Comics in Oakland, believes there is “increased overall awareness” when it comes to comics because of the flood of new media coming out of Hollywood.
The stairwell walk-up into the loft shop in Oakland shows off just that with posters advertising current television shows based on comics such as “Arrow” and “The Flash” on CW and “The Walking Dead” on AMC.
Mev Howison, a clerk at the store, pointed out collections and displays showing off “The Walking Dead” specifically.
“We have a bunch of people asking for that any time there is a season,” she said.
Eide’s Entertainment, a staple of comics on Penn Avenue in the Strip District, has seen increases in business, but not in the same way.
“Speculators have increased in number, but comic sales are pretty steady,” said Ken Kropf, shop manager .
Eide’s is prepared to handle these new speculators. On its eBay site, “The Walking Dead” once again is pulling in sales.
Tom Duncan, owner of Duncan Comics, Books, & Accessories in Perrysville, said he has seen “some economic help” from fans looking for source material of shows and television. He still believes more could be done.
“The first frame should be the comic store locator,” he said, discussing how movie and television comic creations could give fans the means to find a comic shop near them to find the source material of the show or movie they are about to watch.
Duncan said that some of the people coming to his shop don’t even realize “The Walking Dead” was originally a comic until they see the displays near the front of his store. Once they do see it, however, the comic books sell, he said.