Comics attract young and old in city

Man bought store in after rediscovery of childhood pastime

May 8, 2009 

Randy Martin has kept his business diverse through the years.

There are lunch boxes, action figures, trading cards, games and various other items scattered throughout the store. There is so much merchandise that just a handful of customers can make it challenging to comfortably maneuver along the aisles.

Although offering a wide variety of products has thus far ensured the business' survival, Martin has not forgotten why he bought the shop -- for the comic books.

Martin, 49, like many children of his generation, spent his younger years getting lost in the tales of good versus evil, super heroes versus super villians and artwork that seemingly leapt off the pages at readers. As an adult Martin found himself returning to his childhood pastime and Comics Plus in Los Baños was his supplier.

Sixteen years ago when the owner of the business decided to sell, Martin was the buyer.

Despite the advent of the Internet, video games and ever-increasingly shortened attention spans, comics have maintained a moderate level of popularity according to Martin.

"There's a lot of well known artists and writers out there, a lot of writers that write regular novels and scripts for like TV shows and movies," Martin said. "They're actually doing comics now. There's a lot of good stories now, and that's pretty much what keeps people into the comics."

Also many people love a good cliff hanger, and Marvel Comics gave readers a big one in 2007. Captain America was killed.

"I sold out of that the day that it came out. I even had a few people calling from L.A. wanting to know if I had any copies," Martin said. "Marvel kept it a big secret. Nobody knew that was going to happen."

Martin's customers are mostly adults, but children manage to find their way into the shop too.

Saturday at Comics Plus Martin and his staff were giving away three comic books per person as part of National Free Comic Book Day. It's a promotion the store has participated in since 2001, when comic publishers and retail stores throughout the country came up with the idea. Martin said it helps introduce children to comic books.

Blockbuster summer movies like the Spiderman, Batman and X-Men series are also driving recent interest in comic books. Martin said he knows some people do not like that film directors often deviate from the background storylines in the comic books, but personally he doesn't care.

"I haven't really seen too many movies that were made after comics that I didn't care for," he said.

Martin said nowadays he finds himself reading comic books with more adult storylines like Y: The Last Man. If he had to choose among his favorites from days gone by, however, Martin said his preference would be Batman.

There are rumors that comics, like some newspapers, may be found exclusively online in the future. Martin does not believe it'll happen.

"There's a lot of talk that a lot of comics are going to go right to the Internet where you don't have to buy them like a hard copy," he said. "But I still think there are going to be a lot of people who are going to want an actual copy to have and hold it."

Comics Plus, located next to a tattoo parlor on Center Avenue near Fourth Street, has had six locations in the past 16 years. Martin has repeatedly needed more space for all of his merchandise. But, he said, if Los Bañosans keep supporting the business he'll remain open somewhere.

"As long as there's still people in town that want to buy it I'll be here. I love doing it," Martin said.

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

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