Don Myers had amassed a comic book collection of 30,000 issues when his college-age kids began encouraging him to do something more with his hobby, specifically, to open a comic book store.
Myers opened The Comic Signal, at 1600, 4318 Plainfield Ave NE, two years ago with the help of his family and the shop is celebrating its two-year anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 24. The celebration will include visits with local comic book creators and a Detroit comic book publisher as well as sales of merchandise throughout the day. Myers also plans to pull out 500 comics from his collection.
“I’m bringing over 500 books from my personal collection for the first time, Marvel from 1963 to 1968, some key issues. The first appearance of somebody, some big titles from “Amazing Spiderman,” “Avengers,” “X-Men,” there will be some big names. People will be surprised.”
Myers said he began collecting comics at age nine when his parents let him purchase his very first comic book, Batman issue 254.
“By the time I was 18, I probably had between 1500 to 2000 (comics),” Myers said.
His interest in comics began with the television shows of his childhood, which included the Batman TV show and other Saturday morning cartoons. He said while he’s branched out over the years into other genres, his favorites are still what he calls the “ground level” characters: Batman, Daredevil and Spiderman.
Myers said superhero comics are definitely still the mainstays, but there is so much more variety to comics including, sci-fi, horror, and even westerns. And today, as comics are experiencing another heyday with television shows and Hollywood blockbusters feeding into the interest in comic books, comics are expanding even further as the juggernauts Marvel and DC as well as lesser-known creators add greater diversity to their universes and expand the genres and storytelling.
“Right now is one of the best times for comics because it has the biggest amount of variety,” he said.
He also said there is a lot of synergies right now between television shows and films and comic books.
“The comic books are feeding the movies and the movies are feeding the comic books. There’s been a really good synergistic combination between the two, so it’s a good, strong, viable business,” he said. “People, once they see the movies, they want to know the history, because you can’t get that in a two-hour movie, so they are going back to the books.”
There is also a growing interest in Comic-Cons and cosplay. Grand Rapids hosted its first Comic-Con six years ago and attendance continues to increase.
“Having a Comic-Con in Grand Rapids influences it a lot,” Myers said. “It’s a place where people who like the medium can be together, and that’s what we try to do at the store. We want to be a place where people can come together and talk about comic books or a movie or whatever is on their mind that day.”
Myers said creating community is the most satisfying aspect of running a comic book shop. “I love the medium. I love it when people come in here and the number of friends I’ve made, that’s been the most amazing part of the job.”
He also said he particularly enjoys introducing young readers to the vast comic book universes.
“We have a very nice kids section because the comic world will not keep going if we don’t have the kids involved,” he explained. “When I was a kid you could find comics at every gas station and every Meijer, now you can only find comics, generally, at the specialty shop.”
For younger readers, Myers recommends comics like “Scooby Doo” and “Stephen Universe.” He said for middle school-aged kids, a fun comic that’s come out is “Lumber Janes.”
“There are still a few kids style “Batman” and “Avengers” out there as well and I still have Donald Ducks. One other one that sells quite a bit “My Little Pony.” Those are going out well. Again, a good, broad selection.”
Myers said while his personal collection includes some sought-after titles, including “Giant Size X-Men” number one, coveted because it includes the first appearances of several X-Men characters and was the starting point for the future assembled X-Men team, his favorite comic is still his Batman 254.
“I’ve read it to death, but from a memory standpoint, I wouldn’t give that one up,” he said.
The Comic Signal also sells apparel, a large selection of board games and other collectibles.