Mile High Comics: A Story of Passion
Everyone hopes that one day they can make a living from their passions. Chuck Rozanski, founder and owner of Mile High Comics, made his dream a reality. While the comic book industry doesn’t seem very lucrative, Rozanski shares and spreads his passion for comic books and made his mark in the industry, creating one of the most successful comic book stores in the nation.
Although Mile High Comics is dubbed “America’s Largest and Friendliest Comics Retailer,” Rozanski’s love of comics began early when he was a child living with his family in Germany. His mother used comic books to teach him English. His family moved to the United States in 1960 where his comic book passion and collection really took off.
His childhood love of comics did not stop when he left Germany. Quite the opposite happened, actually. Rozanski
turned his passion for comics into a business and he wasn’t stopping any time soon. The first official branch of Mile High Comics started in Rozanski’s parents’ basement in Colorado Springs in 1969. From here, he sold back issues of comics through mail order ads in comic magazines. As a fourteen year old, Rozanski was selling his comics in the Colorado Springs flea-market circuit.
Despite his various means of sales, this was not enough to satisfy Rozanski’s passions. He founded the Colorado Springs Comics Club in 1971. Rozanski was a teenager on a mission to get the world to love comics and no one could get in his way.
The early years of Mile High Comics did not pull in many profits, but that streak would soon end. Rozanski profited a nice $1,800 when he attended Multicon in Oklahoma City, his first – but certainly not his last – national comic book convention. These profits set the stage for the company to thrive in future years.
At the mere age of nineteen, Rozanski had already opened the first retail store of Mile High Comics in Boulder, Colorado. Within two years, the company had expanded to own three store locations. Rozanski had turned his childhood passion into a viable way to make a living, and at such a young age.
The way Chuck Rozanski started and continues his business fits very well with Archibald MacLeish’s idea of how a bookstore should be run. Although comics are not the typical books, the basis for a comic book store should be the same as any other type of bookstore. MacLeish stresses that booksellers must have “opinions about the content and the value of the books they sold” (13). He also believes that “books are sold by the enthusiasm of people who know and respect them” (13). Rozanski has that enthusiasm, and so do his employees. Rozanski has a true passion for the books he sells, which allows Mile High Comics to thrive.
Money was not always good for Mile High Comics, but that did not allow Rozanski to give up his dreams. In December of 1977, Rozanski found the comic collection of a lifetime. This collection, the Edward Church Collection, held about 16,000 comic books in mint condition that dated between 1937 and 1955, which represented the Golden Age of comic books. This collection included a copy of the first Superman comic. No lack of money could let Rozanski pass up the opportunity to buy such a collection. This collection became known as the Mile High Collection. After acquiring this collection, Rozanski decided that would be his life’s work and dedication to promote “comics as an art form, and do everything in [his] power to help the comics industry to prosper” as he writes on the history page of the store’s website.
While this purchase set the company back financially, it allowed Mile High Comics to expand its business further than before. A mail-order operation was put into place, which soon became more prosperous than the stores themselves. In 1979, Rozanski purchased the mail-order division of Richard Alf Comics, which helped the company to expand greatly. Soon after this acquisition, Mile High Comics began to advertise in Marvel comic books. This double-page ad that listed prices of back issues was the first of its kind and gave Mile High Comics a huge burst in its sales of back issues.
The comic business was at its peak in the 1980s and Mile High Comics was climbing that mountain. By 1987, Mile High was earning $3.5 million in sales per year. Unfortunately, this high would not last. The company needed to find new ways of generating revenue. The mail-order business was just not enough for the company to keep going forward.
Technology brought a new way for Mile High to sell its comics when the mail-order method was losing steam. Rozanski brought the business online and began selling comics through the Internet. This new facet of the company brought great success and allowed the company to stop using print catalogs. The online business is still booming for Mile High Comics today.
Mile High’s collection of comics was growing so rapidly that in 1991 the first mega-store was opened in Denver. Not only was this Mile High’s first mega-store, it was Denver’s first comic book mega-store. With 11,000 square feet filled with comic books, it was any comic-lover’s paradise
In 1998, Rozanski embarked on a huge endeavor to create an online comic book database of every comic book printed in the United States. He planned for this database to contain the cover and first three pages of each of the books. Nothing would stop Rozanski from completely this daunting task. Rozanski has overcome copyright issues and difficulties in finding rare issues.
Mile High Comics’ current warehouse is 65,000 square feet and houses at least five million comic books and 250,000 trade paperbacks including graphic novels, anime, and comic collections. This is the largest collection of comic books held in one place. Rozanski prides himself on this fact, boasting in an interview with the Denver Post that his company has more comic books than Amazon.
Mile High Comics has the right clientele in the comic book industry. So many people share Rozanski’s passion for comic books. Whether they be casual readers or avid collectors, people flock to both the stores and the website, hoping to discover new comics. In an odd way, this is much like the ideas Jack Perry discusses the way Bulgarians approach books in his article “Bookstores, Communist and Capitalist.” The Bulgarians had a “positive hunger for new books” (107) and would wait in very long lines when a new book – any book – was released. Comic book fans and collectors are much like this in that they want to get their hands on any and every comic they possibly can.
Conventions are an important part of any comic book seller’s business model. Mile High Comics makes appearances at various conventions. For forty years, they have been attending San Diego Comic Con – which was founded by the very same Richard Alf whose mail-order division Rozanski purchased in 1979. However, Rozanski announced in July of 2014 that the company would probably refrain from having future appearances at San Diego Comic Con, though they will continue to attend Denver Comic Con as well as other conventions.
Throughout the years, Mile High Comics has had many locations. At one point in time, there were thirteen stores in Colorado as well as a mega-store in Orange County, California. Remaining today are four Colorado locations – all in and around Denver – and the one in Orange County. Orders on the website make up a large part of the company’s sales.
The success of Mile High Comics was set in motion by Chuck Rozanski’s passion for the medium, but it was able to thrive because of the dedication of a community. With a current staff of fifty comic enthusiasts and collectors, Mile High Comics is a leader in the comic sales world. However, no business could be successful without customers, and Mile High sure has those. The company boasts over 500,000 sales in back issues to customers all over the world.