Comic Metropolis: A Journey Across Sea to Success
With over 1000 graphic novels, 150 table-top games, 150 paints and many events, Comic Metropolis has become a local favorite to comic advocates. Comic Metropolis is known for its wide array of comics stretching from Star Wars to Manga and for the many events they hold on a yearly and weekly basis. This store has evolved into a community for many comic book lovers and grew fast in only a three year span! I got the opportunity to talk with him about how his business has grown to now.
When I walked into the store for the first time I was stunned and amazed at all the products that were there and on display. The walls were filled with old comic books in pristine condition and shelfs were stocked with games and figurines. Although the shop design was amazing, what really took my breath away was the amazing color that made the room look alive. This reminded me of Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling by Madge Jenison. The author describes the interior of a bookstore she opened with Mary Mowbray-Clarke. Jenison writes, “We had both been talking and thinking a great deal about color since the big post-impressionist show of 1915; and one theory… was that a room should be built from a full prism- that a full chord of color would make a room more alive and complete and restful than two or three contrasted notes can do” (Jenison 17).
Comic Metropolis stunned me with the color that popped out at me. The walls were a beige color but the comics that lined up on the walls and the figurines made the room pop. A good independent store should have aspects like this which is why Comic Metropolis is a favorite of the locals.
The history of Comic Metropolis is very young but I think the history is also in the comics. Comic Metropolis has a very wide array of comics, some newer and some of the first editions! As I walked around the store and browsed at all the items, one item caught my eye. It was a Spiderman Comic worth $600! I asked the store owner, Albert, why it was priced so high. He responded by saying that it was the first time Electro appeared, one of Spidermans arch-nemesis’. Albert stated, “comics that have the first appearance of a character raises lots of interested to readers and when kept in pristine condition, can be worth a lot one day. This contributes to the history of Comic Metropolis.
Comic Metropolis had its grand opening on September 5, 2016 (Labor Day). It was started by Albert Payne and his mother, Laura Asherman Payne. Before even opening the store, Albert lived in London with his mother and had a huge collection of comic books. He has been collecting comic books ever since he was 12 years old in 7th grade. He would regularly go to comic markets and purchase his comic books. Albert has kept up his collection throughout his life for nearly 29 years.
While living in London, Albert Paynes mother, Laura, worked as a teacher where she supported special needs people. She worked as this even though she had been trained to teach religious studies, had four degrees in English and could have become a qualified teacher, but she did not want to pay the money for it.
As the time passed in London, Albert came up with an idea of trying to sell comic books since he owned a massive amount. At first he had an online store, which is not available anymore, to try and sell his comic books that he had collected. He could not buy new comic books from Diamond Comic Distributor, the only comic book distributor, since they only ship to brick and mortar stores. This was not a huge hit so Albert started to look at brick and mortar stores. With this idea in hand, he began a search on the market for a place and found one in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Located in the heart of Bucknell college town, the location would be great for college comic advocates and local collectors.
According to Albert, the place was “a little run down but had potential”. The place him and his mother bought was going to need total renovation including installing a whole new air conditioning system. They moved to the US to start working on the renovations and after sometime it was completed.
Before the grand opening happening, Albert wanted to put up the Comic Metropolis sign. Albert asked Middle Creek Signs company to make them one and they delivered. Albert had it installed on the store and it was officially up in March of 2016. Then there was a problem brought up by the township that the sign was too large and did abide by the 1ft by 2ft max allowance. Albert and his mom began to fight for the allowance of the sign size and used a bed and breakfast place called Tawsty Flower on 4th street to argue that they had an even bigger sign put up. With that said they finally got permission to keep using the sign and has been up ever since.
Albert promoted the store using word of mouth and through radio advertising. The store did not get much attention though. They were not attracting a lot of customers and therefore not gaining a lot of profit. Albert said that they were worried they couldn’t compete with Purple Platypus and them attracting the younger generation. In order to combat this, they started to sell HABA children games and Manga comics. It was a success and they started to attract the younger children.
Albert had more ideas that he wanted to implement into the store so he could grow the attractiveness of it. He wanted to add something where it would bring people together and have them stay a while rather than only 20 minutes. Albert cleared an area for a game room that he allows anyone to play any board or card game in. He regularly allows Susquehanna Valley Squadron play their competitive board game every Saturday. I got a chance to see a game and it looked intense. Many quick movements and a lot of strategy was implemented while I observed a game.
Albert wanted to create a place where people can interact and enjoy themselves, he wanted to create a community. Albert applies the concept of a didactic bookseller image, such as what is said in Laura J. Miller’s book, Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Miller writes that, “…there is a belief that serving the customer by helping her find the material that best suits her taste is an honorable endeavor. Moreover, when book professionals do describe themselves as taking on an active cultural role, they tend to define cultural leadership as adding to the existing diversity of literary voices.” (Miller 62). I think that Albert Payne wants to create a culture there at Comic Metropolis rather than just leaving the customer to pick comics for themselves and not have them engage in the culture of comics. The people really appreciate this as many of them are young children looking to start reading and need a direction to go.
Albert needed more attraction to his shop and did this by creating a membership program. He developed a program where it costed $40 a year and with that you would get 10% off every year. This turned out to be a big hit at the store and the program now has over 100 members still subscribed. According to Albert the average age of customers in the membership are around 35 years old. Another event Albert created to attract more customers was, Free Comic Book Day! It is held every first Saturday in May. In 2017, they wanted to do a test run of the event and it turned out successful with many respondents. A year later they went full blast on the event and it turned out very successful for them.
Talking with Albert Payne made me realize he isn’t here to just sell comic books but he is here to create an experience and a community of people whether it’d be comic book advocates or new readers. Throughout the history of Comic Metropolis, it has developed into a thriving store and community for people with many events and the membership program that keeps readers interested and intrigued. I will definitely be visiting Comic Metropolis again and I recommend you do to.
Special thanks to Albert and Laura Payne for their hospitality and contribution
Photos provided by Christopher Naiman
Jenison, Madge. Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1923.
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.