Welcome to the Comic House
Comics Metropolis opened on Labor Day, 2016 in Lewisburg, PA. They have had the same location for two years, they being the owners Albert Payne and Laura Asherman Payne. Mother and son, they opened the shop together with the hopes of providing a “place” for those who loved comics and related fantastical endeavors as much as Albert. Tim Cresswell perfectly portrays the image that Albert and Laura want for their shop, “Place is how we make the world meaningful and the way we experience the world. Place, at a basic level, is a space invested with meaning in the context of power”. They want their shop to be the hidden gem of Lewisburg.
For an overview of the shop upon walking in, there is a game and paraphernalia area to your left, and the comic shelves to you right, and the game room all the way in the back. Laura lives upstairs, and Albert lives less than a mile away in Lewisburg, essentially the shop is not only their livelihood but their home. Albert and Laura regularly have games in the back four rooms. When we went on a Saturday morning, the gaming club: Susquehanna Valley Squadron was playing a game of Star Wars X-Wing. They play at Comics Metropolis every Saturday morning. There were adults there playing, but also two young children. The boy looked about ten and the young girl about 8. According to Laura, tabletop games are becoming increasingly popular, so they always make sure to keep their game room in prime condition.
The four rooms of their comic shop house over 1,000 graphic novels and 2,000 onward comics. They often host pre-release events for comics, but she was unable to give me a set date. My first thought was, well if they’re having a pre-release party they ought to have quite a network/customer basis. It turns out that they actually do. They have a membership program with over 100 members, where they pay $40 a year for 10% off everything in the shop. The discount also can be stacked with other promotions. Not a bad deal, huh. Comics Metropolis is also a venue for contests and competitions through Games Workshop. Another gaming club, Wizards of the Coast does “Magic the Gathering” legally, says Laura. I don’t know what the game “Magic the Gathering” entails, but clearly there’s ways of making it illegal. In the back lefthand corner of the store, there’s paints and kits for sale to appease customers shopping for Comic-Cons or other gamer-type conventions. Laura plans on buying more of these dress-up type things aside from literature because in order to make a profit and keep her business going, she needs to appease to the customer’s needs. This reminds me of Miller in Reluctant Capatalists, any type of consumer behavior is inevitably political, with consequences for communities as well as commercial institutions. In buying products from her, consumers are supporting small business, which is good. Why buy paints on Amazon, when she can instead stock them and sell them to you. Amazon makes better profits from other markets, Comics Metropolis is a niche store.
How Comics Metropolis came into the works is very interesting. Albert started collecting comics when he was twelve-years-old, 7th grade, and kept it up his entire life thus far (he’s nearly forty-years-old). He had the knowledge and initial interest, and later convinced his mother to jump on board. According to Laura, in London she had many Indian students who loved comics and she would often teach with them because it’s actually very similar to the way teachings are displayed in traditional Hindu religion. Many Hindu stories are taught in picture-style to better resonate with children. When she moved to the states, it actually started as an online store with a different name, by Albert. In order to sell the newest comics and really make a name in the market, he had to open a brick and border store. Diamond Comics is the only comic retailer period. It is the highest up on the sale chain for comics and every sale inevitably stems from them. It’s essentially a monopoly. So after Albert decided to open up his own shop, he has his mom come and help him open shop. She was a special needs para at a school in London, England for most of her adult life, but wanted to come back to the United States. Her son needing her help with opening Comics Metropolis was the perfect excuse to pack up shop and and leave her current country. The store became a cultural place, not just a space to buy comics and related items. The building in Lewisburg she bought was easily the “biggest online purchase they ever made”. Because of Lewisburg’s old, residential, Victorian style housing, the building they bought needed to be completely renovated. There was no air conditioning, and if you know anything about comic books, they need to be stored at a crisp cool temperature as to not ruin or deteriorate the coloring or text. Albert and Laura take comic book condition very seriously, they have an entire wall devoted to their highest rating comics. 9.2 to 9.8 out of a perfect 10. These pristine condition comics as you can imagine have pristine condition price tags, with the largest price tag being $600 for a Spider-Man comic.
Susquehanna Valley Squadron playing in the back gameroom
Their median age consumer is around thirty-five years old, however there’s a niche of younger children’s books and toys that they wanted to get involved in to steal Purple Platypus’s (Purple Platypus is a neighboring children’s bookstore in the Lewisburg area along the strip) customers as their own and make the store more money so they could focus more expenses on their comics, aka what they’re known for. They even added manga and anime items to broaden their stock.
In Tim Cresswell’s Place: A Short Introduction, he says “all over the world people are engaged in place-making activities. Susquehanna Valley Squadron playing this table-top game of Star Wars X-Wing is no exception. People want to make this space more personal. In my opinion, Comics Metropolis is a personal bookstore, after all it is a home.
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2006. Print.