Comics at Home

Change is not always welcome, but Comics Metropolis is a small business that has truly embraced the inevitable. Since he was 12, Albert Payne has been collecting comic books. Growing up, he frequented comic markets and grew his selection, especially from his time spent in London. Payne’s love of comic books ever growing, he eventually decided to open an online store selling old comics. The online store was successful and he wanted to begin selling new comics there as well, but Diamond Distributer, the only merchant to buy new comics from, requires a brick and mortar store to sell them.

Comics Metropolis Sign

At that point living in the US, Payne started looking for a place to set up a shop and add new comics to his selection. In the little town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, this white house on the corner went on the market. Payne visited and told his mother Laura Asherman Payne, still living in London at the time, that the house had potential. It didn’t take much convincing on Payne’s part to bring his mother on board. She made her first large online purchase to secure the house and get one step closer to making Payne’s dream come true. However, there were plenty of renovations to be done to turn the old house into a comic shop. Besides shelving and displays, they also had to have air conditioning installed.

Despite all the changes to the interior of the building, the exterior remained virtually the same excepting one minor detail. Of course a business must advertise its presence where it stands, otherwise it may as well not be there. Comics Metropolis put up the sign on the front of the building approximately six months before the store opened to the public. It was done by Middle Creek Signs, a little bigger than the one by two feet the township said was acceptable, so Albert and Laura had to fight for the larger size. It reminds me of the Sunwise Turn and its owner, Madge Jenison, who fought about hanging a sign on her shop. She was told the traffic cop on the corner would arrest the man she hired if he hung the sign (Jenison 25). It was unknown whether she ended up winning the battle or not, but the Payne’s and Comics Metropolis were a different case.

Comics on display

Going to the township board, they used a business on 4th street, the Tawsty Flower Bed and Breakfast, to argue in favor of a larger sign for Comics Metropolis because the Tawsty Flower had a sign larger than one by two. It was an easy decision seeing how both Lewisburg businesses reside in an old, two-story, white house.

Jumping forward past the renovations, Comics Metropolis had its grand opening on Labor Day of 2016, the fifth day of September that year. Not long after opening, they found that not many people knew the store was there, regardless of the sign having been up for six months already. So Payne put a couple advertisements out on the radio to boost awareness and gain more potential customers. Later on, the store decided to dip its toe into a vast event called Free Comic Book Day, always hosted on the first Saturday in the month of May. They did this to promote the store, and as they were still young in the business, only offered a few comic books for free. It is a fairly well-known event in the comic book world, so coming back to Free Comic Book Day the next year, Payne decided to go all out and dive headfirst into all the promotion.

On Free Comic Book Day of May 2018, Comics Metropolis had its best day thus far in sales. The record still holds true as of today, the first of March in 2019. However, the store is looking forward to 2019’s Saturday, May the Fourth (be with you) for the next go around. The day is already being promoted by word of mouth, so it is possible this year might produce another great day of sales for the store.

Just a few Graphic Novels

However, Comics Metropolis does not only sell comics. Besides the large variety of comics, old and new, they have over a thousand graphic novels in stock, 150 tabletop games, and twenty paints, although they will soon expand that number to 150. This may sound like a lot of product for a store set in the first floor of an old home, and it is. The shelves are full and L. Payne spoke of their plans to have a custom shelf made for the entrance hallway so they can fit even more of the products their customers are asking for. Living upstairs, she is very proud of all the change and modifications the store has gone through, much like Roger Milton in the tale of his Parnassus on Wheels.

The Parnassus, his traveling bookstore, had an enticing selection, because if “he released a hook somewhere, and raised the whole side of his wagon like a flap. … displaying nothing but books–rows and rows of them. … Shelves stood above shelves, all of them full of books” (Morley 5). The shelves full of graphic novels stand the same way in Comics Metropolis, towering up high and stuffed with such a variety. It is wonderfully pleasing to the eye, as it all wraps up to feel like a home. Aside from just selling books, Roger Mifflin also lived in his Parnassus, which lends to the homey similarity I see between the two with so much passion put into what they sell.

Laura Payne mentioned that customers will come in to ask if they have something fairly often. Another part of the homey experience one might have at Comics Metropolis is the fact that everyone is made to feel welcome and included. Even though the median customer age is 35, so many customers have come in wondering about children’s games that now they have a sizable shelf dedicated to Haba games. The Payne’s really try to expand wherever they see a need their customers have, which sums up all of the changes they have planned for the near future.

Due to the large demand for tabletop games, Comics Metropolis not only stocks

Susquehanna Valley Squadron at play

the very popular Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and Gurps, but they stock the lesser-known as well, not to mention all the figurines plus the soon to be expanding selection of paint. With many of their customers

turning away from their phones to play their favorites of these games, the back rear of the store hosts a separate room with a large table and vending machine solely for the purpose of customers dedicating their time to playing. And the room gets plenty of use.

Each Saturday morning, not long after the store opens, a group of people known as the Susquehanna Valley Squadron will file into the back room to play their choice of tabletop games with each other. This week it was Star Wars X-Wing, and they had two mats set up for gameplay. Members of the Squadron were just as welcoming to us as the Payne’s were and were glad to give us a brief synopsis of how the game is played, the very short version comparing it to Battleship.

Overall the atmosphere of Comics Metropolis couldn’t get any closer to a feeling of home and welcome. There have been plenty of changes with plenty more to come, but everyone who walks into the store is treated like family, and I couldn’t imagine a nicer place to peruse and spend time in.

Photos:
“Susquehanna Valley Squadron at play” courtesy of Chris Naiman
“Comics on display” courtesy of Chris Naiman
All other photos courtesy of Sydney Smith
Texts:
Jenison, Madge. Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling. London; Printed in U.S.A., 1924.
Morley, Christopher Darlington. Parnassus on Wheels. Avon, 1983.