By Sara Karlovitch
The comic book industry is changing and Big Planet Comics has been changing right along with it, said assistant manager John Staton.
Before it was Big Planet Comics, the College Park shop was called Closet of Comics, which was founded in 1983. The store initially sold comic books out of the Stamp Student Union, said Staton. In 1993 they moved to the Route 1 store and in 2007 became part of the Big Planet chain. Staton is the currently the only employee left from the Closet of Comics days.
Staton has seen the store, and the comic book industry as a whole, rapidly change since The Closet of Comics opened, especially with the rise of online comics.
“Online is such a big competitor,” Staton said. “We have to diversify our stock… We carry a lot more in the way of knickknacks, action figures, T-shirts.”
T-shirts and action figures are not the only thing changing at Big Planet Comics. Who is on the cover of the comics is changing rapidly as well. Assistant Manager Miranda Roper has been working at Big Planet Comics for about three years and she said more and more women and girls have taken an interest in comics.
“There’s a larger attempt or larger attempts by the publishers I think to try and find material that’s going to click with female readers,” Roper said.
Even though more and more women are taking an interest in comics, Roper said she still experiences sexism on the job.
“While there are more women coming into the store and I love talking to them and getting to know them, there’s always going to be some crusty old dudes that just want to come in here and argue with me or try and nitpick my knowledge and question me to prove that I deserve to be here,” Roper said.
Another thing the store has been doing in order to counteract the effects of online comics has on sales is by hosting weekly Magic The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons sessions.
“Our belief is that if we can get people in the store just by interest alone, the things will sell themselves,” Assistant Manager Daniel Calles said.
Calles, who joined the store in 2014, said the chain uses social media to share products that excite them — not to necessarily sell them.
“We believe in more of showing products in a way that is us being excited about them instead of trying to sell them this product,” Calles said. “The store is a hub for people to come and be themselves and to find things that they didn’t know that they loved and they didn’t know existed.,”
Not everyone has found a place at Big Planet Comics. Matthew Choy, a senior information science major, has never been in the store. However, Chou says he would go in, “if I see something that interests me.”
Zaakira Ahmed, an elementary education major graduating in 2021, tries to go to the store once a semester. Ahmed said she likes to read a comic before seeing the movie in theaters.
“It’s just a very friendly environment,” Ahmed said. “I feel like anyone can go in there like you don’t have to be complete like comic book nerd in order to go in.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Big Planet Comics of College Park’s Facebook page.
Sara Karlovitch is a sophomore journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.