Comic culture in Yellow Springs

By Josher Lumpkin

The village of Yellow Springs is a quaint college town that manages to meld the old and the new into anachronistic bliss.  As you jaunt through downtown Yellow Springs, you might have a difficult time figuring out what decade it is, and that’s the appeal.

And what is more timeless than comic books?  These paneled, cartoon storybooks, once featuring only spandexed heroes so swole you’d think they’re suffering from an adrenal dysfunction, have grown to be as bipolar as Yellow Springs itself.

“I would say the Yellow Springs crowd is probably more intelligent readers,” Frank Marcozzi, comic book manager at Yellow Springs Dark Star Books, speculates. “And I don’t mean that they’re smarter people, but instead of going for your standard X-Men/Batman superhero type stuff, they’re looking for the more esoteric, the more literary – critical literary reviewed stuff. Like they would rather read something like ‘Maus’ [a graphic novel about anthropomorphized Jewish mice surviving the Holocaust] than, say, Superman.  I think that comes with the type of town Yellow Springs is.”

Jared Whittaker, manager at neighboring Super-Fly Comics and Games, describes his store’s clientele:  “It’s pretty much exactly how the town is. It’s a lot more laid back, and we’ve definitely got a community going on in the store,” Whittaker says. “We know a lot of people who come in and out, so I feel like we’re a little bit better equipped to get more in depth with the paying customer base. As far as more specialized I guess, instead of just ‘Here’s XYZ books,’ we can kinda go, ‘Hey we noticed things you’ve been buying and talking about… you might like this, that and the other.’”

Both Dark Star, founded in 1982, and Super-Fly, established 2007, coexist peacefully (is there any other way in this town?) in part by satisfying separate niches.

“Dark Star is in kind of unique position as far as selling comics goes, because we do not have an account with Diamond Comic Distributors, which is the only way that you can get new products every month. So we only get back issues,” Marcozzi explains.

Super-Fly hones in on the new stuff. “We’ve been selling a lot of a book called ‘Saga,’ Image Comics puts it out,” Whittaker says.  “It’s, in my opinion, the best book that’s happening right now. There’s a book called ‘Sex Criminals.’ It’s really funny. Last year we were selling a lot of ‘Afterlife with Archie.’ It’s a horror book that’s based in Riverdale when the zombie apocalypse breaks out.”

Marcozzi, who has worked for Dark Star since 1986, has seen a lot of things over his three decades at the store.

“I think the biggest special event we ever had was back in about 1994 or ’95, when Mr. T and the T-Force No. 1 came out – that was a comic book. And we had Mr. T in here the day that book came out to do a book signing. So I am very amazed to say that I spent one day as Mr. T’s bodyguard.”

Whittaker wants to assuage the fears of would-be readers who are intimidated by the prolificacy of the source material out there.

“Everyone has this thing where it feels like there’s this big barrier, like it takes a lot to get into comics. And it really doesn’t,” Whittaker assures. “Like, ‘Oh man, do I have to read 600 issues of Batman to understand what’s going on?’ And the short answer is, you don’t have to, you’ve never had to. That’s the kind of mental hurdle that kept a lot of people out. Marvel, DC and other publishers have made a concerted effort to make it easier for entry-level people or people who need that help into the pool.”

Both Marcozzi and Whittaker offered warm invitations into their respective stores and into comic culture by-and-large.

“Comics are mainstream now. And it’s not just for clammy-handed guys with horn-rimmed glasses –” I feel a twinge as Whittaker basically describes me.  “Anything you’re interested in probably has a comic about it. And there’s a place for you in the culture no matter what level you think you’re on. We’ll gladly bring you in and guide you through it if you want to,” he says.

“Dark Star has a really good back issue comic book selection,” Marcozzi says.  “A lot of people don’t think of us as a comic book store, per se, but we have our own comic book specialist—that’s me, I buy and sell collections and I am the sole person responsible for maintaining our back issue stock. We’ve got well over 40,000 high-grade back issues here. And I run a different sale every month. If people are looking for comics, come talk to me because I will help them find what they’re looking for.”

And then Marcozzi has to get off the phone.  He’s hosting an adult coloring party at the Dark Star.  For $2, attendees get a postcard to color, cookies and a cup of herbal tea. Sounds like Yellow Springs to me.

Dark Star Books is located at 237 Xenia Ave., and Super-Fly Comics and Games is located at 132 Dayton St. in Yellow Springs. For more information on Dark Star Books, please visit darkstarbookstore.com. For more information on Super-Fly Comics and Games, please visit superflycomics.com.
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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