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Local comic store attracts students

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 19:01

comic book reading

Alejandra Hernandez, Staff Photographer

Matthew Howard, a junior history major of Paragould, reads issue #16 of the Batman Comics at Rogue’s Gallery.


            Charles Craig was introduced to the world of “Capes and Cowls” in comic books in 1987 at the age of 6 after watching Richard Donner’s “Superman II.”

            Flash forward 26 years and Craig is the new co-owner of the comic book shop, “The Rogue’s Gallery,” during a time of uncertainty in the comic industry’s future.

The store’s manager, Dave Albert, has restarted the shop four times during an era when print, the form comics have been published in since rising to prominence with the debut of Superman in 1938, has been rivaled by the mail order and digital distribution of comics through websites like comixology.com.

            A former insurance agent, Craig and his co-owner and friend Richard Davidson, are the third set of owners in eight years of the store, formerly known as “Galaxy.” Craig described his business as a luxury.

            Through a brand discount made possible by Diamond Comics, the only middle-man distributor of comics in the United States, Craig, Davidson and Albert are able to impart a 15 percent discount on all products in the store, from comics to playing cards, role playing games and collectible statues.

            So anyone looking to take home a copy of Detective Comics with a $2.99 face value only has to shell out $2.55.

            “Eight years ago, in my knowledge, the internet was blowing up with subscription services,” Albert said. “It was really starting to intrude upon the business. I was like, ‘we've got to give a little bit better discount to keep them here,’ and that's what we ended up doing.”

            However, Albert believes there are multiple benefits to comic readers taking their business to small, local stores like his, the only independent comic shop in Craighead County.

            The store is located at located at 2322 E. Matthews.

.           Among the positives are the personal customer service and a potential reader’s ability to sample a new title of a comic.

            “Online stores, you're looking at pictures. [With] us, you can come in and pick up the issue, decide to try an issue without committing for two months like you would have to for mail order,” Albert said.

            A native of Southern California and self-described “hippie,” Albert has been manager of the store for eight years and a lover of comics since finding a of box of old Marvel comics at a swap meet in the mid-80s.

            Albert is aware of what digital comics could mean for the future of stores like his, but believes a large part of keeping readers coming to his store is making sure they would rather visit his store than wait for a mail shipment.

“Yes, (online services) give better discounts, but the grassroots of it, of keeping the money in the community with people you've gone to for a long time and the fact that the discount is enough to keep them here instead of going online, it's really that simple,” Albert said.

            While he prefers the physical side of the industry, Albert admits there are pros for reading a digital comic, especially to someone who may have to travel for long periods of time or those who simply can’t afford to buy large amounts of comics in a store.

            DC Comics, founded in 1934, has been the company to successfully run with the digital banner. According to a November article from theweek.com, DC’s 2012 digital profits rose 197 percent from 2011. At the same time though, its print format rose 12 percent.

            “Over the next couple of years, I can see a lot of people going to digital; it’s just so easy to pick up your Nook or your iPad, pick up your e-Reader and buy a comic,” Craig said.

            Comic enthusiast Chip Carroll uses both the print and digital media, and only reads “Green Lantern” comics digitally for more artistic reasons. Carroll, an ASU history graduate student, lives in Jonesboro.

            “The digital comics are so pretty. You have these very vibrant colors,” Carroll said. “These colors just pull under that light and it almost gives the comics life.”

            However, Carroll said the print comic book is much easier to share with a friend. Digital subscribers can’t transfer a comic from one device to another.

            While the number of places to purchase comics has dwindled to places such as “Rogue’s Gallery,” “Hastings” and graphic novels at “Barnes and Noble,” Carroll believes reader’s desire to collect comics will keep print around.

“People who are now getting into comics or have been into comics for several years, still want that paper feel,” Carroll said.

While the switch to digital has had a major impact on the book and newspaper industries, its effects have yet to fully reach “Rogue’s Gallery.” Just two customers have left to switch full-time to digital, leaving about 140 readers with files in the store.

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