Comics Metropolis in History
It’s been almost four years since I was last in the quiet town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The streets are spacious and the buildings stand tall and colorful in a variety of historical styles. It’s layout hasn’t changed much, but the subtle addition of Comics Metropolis a short block off of Main Street is an interesting one. Looking straight at it, the only sign that the old white two-story house isn’t purely a residential home is just that – the sign. Though it has a much more modern face, this
identifying feature doesn’t catch my eye until I’m right under it, a huge contrast to the multitude of brightly colored buildings nearby. Even being as nondescript as it is, we watch a couple on the younger side stroll up to the front door and comfortably head in. I imagine it must feel as homey on the inside as it looks on the outside.
Moving away from Comics Metropolis, we find the next closest building is Graham C. Showalter, Attorney at Law. This business is very similar in appearance and I would wager it also used to be someones private residence, just like so many other economic features of this town. As far as government
establishments go, there aren’t many, but the Post Office is a short diagonal across the street and the courthouse sits less than two blocks away. In addition to that, there are three banks within two blocks of Comics Metropolis, and that same proximity also holds four churches of three different denominations. Based on these surroundings, this part of Lewisburg seems to be historically minded, even more so than the rest of town, and while that isn’t at all a negative thing, it is curious how a comic book store ended up smack-dab in the middle of such a proper area.
The permanence of the historical buildings is not unusual, though the lack of national commerce is a phenomenon rarely seen anymore. Aside from the two banks and the Barnes and Noble brand campus bookstore belonging to Bucknell, all of the businesses are local, not located outside of Lewisburg. This kind of occurence can be called “militant particularism,” and as defined by David Harvey is a use of the specifics of a place to resist becoming like the vast majority and allowing global capitalism to flourish (Cresswell 61). Holding on to the past shows what John Agnew classifies as a sense of place and pride where the locals have an emotional attachment to how their town looks and operates (Cresswell 7). The past is not gone for Lewisburg residents. It lives on in the buildings and the memorials.
Across the street from Comics Metropolis squats a block of bricks, the remains of a cornerstone from a building that has been gone longer than it was standing. The Lewisburg Opera House has been gone so long that no living person would have memory of it while in its prime, but the cornerstone still remains a solid part of the culture, keeping the historical tradition alive. It also proves that literature of every kind has been in this town for as long as the people have.
Literature is not hard to find in Lewisburg, and the genre of comic books is no exception. Not only is this town home to a college with a large and public campus bookstore on Main Street, Mondragon Books is only a couple blocks in the other direction. The most interesting thing is the participation of the church in Lewisburg’s love of literature.
Right down the street from Comics Metropolis towers the First Baptist Church. On either side of its front entrance stand two small house-like structures on posts. Through the glass door, the inside is stuffed with books. Anyone who wants can walk up, pull it open, pick out a book and take it home to read and bring back at their own leisure.
Looking at the demographics of Lewisburg on DataUSA, it is apparent why this small free library looks so popular. 27.9% of the town population is living in poverty, and the median household income is only $43,214. While this is a wonderful aspect of the town, it is apparent that a good portion of the population still buys books and evidently is engaged in the niche of comic books as well, with around half of the college town population at the prime age for comic book consumption. This first visit to Lewisburg has left me yearning to delve into the details of Comics Metropolis, subtly thriving in the historical town of Lewisburg.
All images courtesy of Sydney Smith
“Lewisburg, PA.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/lewisburg-pa/.
Cresswell, Tim. Place: a Short Introduction. Blackwell Pub., 2009.