In 2020, comic book sales hit an all-time high of $1.28 billion.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — They’ve been around for decades, and most people today associate them with a bygone era. But against all odds, in an age of electronic gadgets with endless movies and TV shows at your fingertips, comic books press on.
“This store has been open since 1979,” says Gavin Willard, describing Tardy’s Collector’s Corner in Grand Rapids.
Willard and his wife own Tardy’s, taking it over after many years of visiting.
“We were always just avid customers,” says Willard. “It’s such a part of my life that it’s like breathing. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
And business has been booming.
So much so, that for the first time in the more than 40-year history of the store, they’re opening a new location, this time in Allegan County.
“The dominoes just kept falling in place, so it just worked out perfectly,” says Willard. “And you don’t ignore that many signs where you’re like, oh my gosh, this is going to work out excellent.”
Tardy’s Collector’s Corner
The comic book industry as a whole has been booming as well. Publishers Weekly reported that in 2020, comic book sales hit an all time high of $1.28 billion.
And in 2021, a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold for $3.6 million.
Its original cost, 12 cents back in 1962.
So what’s the draw these days? Willard says the industry has expanded to new horizons.
“There’s so much more to it now than just the big costumes and the spandex,” he says.
Don Myers, owner of The Comic Signal in Grand Rapids, agrees.
“It’s not for one age group,” says Myers, who has been collecting comics since 1973. “It’s not for just one genre, not just superheroes. Horror, sci-fi, you know, westerns.”
Myers also believes the everlasting popularity of superheroes in other mediums, whether it’s through video games, television shows or at the movies, keeps people coming back to these characters’ original format.
“I kind of call it a symbiotic relationship,” says Myers. “I think people are seeing these movies and saying, that’s a good story. I didn’t realize comics had that good of stories.”
The Comic Signal offers an expansive children’s section as well. Myers strongly believes in the power of getting kids involved at a young age.
“They’ve had so many studies that show that any reading, and reading comics, is good for your vocabulary,” says Myers. “It engages a lot more visual because you have the visuals there in front of you, which really kind of sparks your imagination to go on.”
For Willard, the joy comes from an older crowd.
“My favorite reaction, and we get it almost almost every day, is they walk in and they look like they’ve walked through a time machine,” says Willard.
Sharing his passion with people rediscovering a forgotten part of their childhood.
“And they just fall in love because they’re like, I feel like I’m back in the 80s and I’m at the comic book shop that I went to when I was a kid,” he says.
And knowing they’ll make it a part of the next generation as well.
“It’s such a cool art form,” says Willard. “And it’s such an impressive thing that is still going and I think it’s going to go for, I mean, it feels like at this point, forever.”
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