Nova Scotia

Comic book boom is both good and evil for local business

The movie Avengers: Endgame had its international release last week. The growing popularity of superheroes is bringing more people into Halifax-area comic stores. But those businesses are also now competing against large retailers.

Avengers: Endgame was culmination of 22 movies of beloved high-flying and hulking comic book characters

Darryl Wall, owner of Giant Robot Comics in Dartmouth, said the growing popularity of heroes like Iron Man and Captain America over the last decade has increased interest in comics and other merchandise. (Josh Hoffman/CBC)

Comic book stores in the Halifax area can't deny the superpower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but is it doing good or evil when it comes to business?

The movie Avengers: Endgame had its international release last week, culminating 11 years and 22 movies of beloved high-flying and hulking comic book characters and smashing box office records with a $1.2-billion opening weekend.

Darryl Wall, owner of Giant Robot Comics in Dartmouth, said the growing popularity of heroes like Iron Man and Captain America over the last decade has increased interest in comics and other merchandise. Alongside the success of films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Wall has had a lot of new faces coming through the door.

"We've seen our demographic change quite a bit," he said. When the store opened in 2011, most of the clientele were white men, according to Wall.

"We have a lot more females coming into the store, different races [and] sexual backgrounds. Everyone can find a superhero who can speak to them in some way."

The spotlight Hollywood put on comic books in recent years has made these superheroes household names. (Josh Hoffman/CBC)

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, an annual event dedicated to attracting new customers to local independent comic book stores since 2002. 

Thousands are expected at Monster Comic Lounge in Halifax for the giveaways, according to owner Mike Crossman.

"In the beginning, it was a small event where we had a couple hundred comics," he said. "Now it's more of a cultural phenomenon. We like to call it 'The Great Nerd Holiday.'"

The spotlight Hollywood put on comic books in recent years has made these superheroes household names, Crossman said. But when the first Batman movie hit theatres 30 years ago, Crossman said fan excitement over a comic book movie led them to buy comic books. Today, these characters are so popular there's more options to express fanaticism. 

"It's a little more like you see in sports," he said. "People want to wear their team's colours."

The movie Avengers: Endgame had its international release last week. (Josh Hoffman/CBC)

The Free Comic Book Day crowds are too large for the small Strange Adventures store on Lower Water Street, so it holds the event across the street at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Owner Cal Johnston agreed the current attention given to comic books is positive, but the benefits don't always trickle down to brick-and-mortar shops. With the increased profile of comic book characters comes the increased interest of large retail chains, said Johnston.

"You can't walk anywhere without seeing some superhero T-shirt or ball cap," he said.

When it comes to the comics, Johnston said they run into a lot of showrooming, where people come to the store to find information on a certain book and then go buy it online. 

"We're helping fund our demise in some ways. If you don't support the local book stores and comic shops they're not going to be here."

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