LIMA — Gone are the days of comic book stores being the haven of boys looking for that latest “Captain America” issue or nerds who can describe, in detail, the plot line of “The Uncanny X-Men” issue 101. For Marc Bowker of Lima’s Alter Ego Comics, mainstream customers are becoming more interested in the world of comic books and graphic novels.
Because of that, he has worked to make Alter Ego Comics, now in its ninth year, a place for everyone.
“I had the e-commerce website for two years before opening the physical store,” he said. “I didn’t have to open the store. I could have worked out of my home or out of office space. But I wanted to have a presence in the community and show everyone that comics are for everybody. I wanted to try to get the younger generation involved in comics, the ones who are going to the movies based on Marvel Comics and who are playing video games with these characters. I wanted to show the parents that there is stuff that is appropriate for kids, but there is also stuff that is great for adults.”
That effort has paid off for Bowker and his staff, with sales continuing to increase to the point where Alter Ego Comics was recognized by the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.
“It was a big year for us locally, winning the Small Business of the Year award in May,” Bowker said. “Then we had the largest Free Comic Book Day ever in May, with over 1,300 people coming out. It was a big year. Free Comic Book Day happened just a week before the award was given, so I don’t think I’ll have a better May than that one.”
Bowker is happy to see the success of his business mirrored in the development of Lima’s downtown area.
“What I had hoped to happen in downtown Lima is happening slowly but surely,” he said. “It’s kicking into a high gear now, with Old City Prime opening and new businesses coming in every six to 12 months. We now have people who want to come downtown. These are not just consumers, but retailers and restaurants, as well. I’m glad to be a property owner in downtown Lima and be a business presence down here.”
As for this year, Bowker is looking to continue to build on his business’s success.
“We’re going to focus on doing more in-store events this year,” he said. “We want do to some things aimed at kids during the weekends. We had a very successful ladies night back in September, so we’re going to do another one of those. We’ll still do our Free Comic Book Saturday the first Saturday in May.”
The success of Alter Ego has brought up questions of expansion, but Bowker is happy to stay the course for now.
“We’ve had questions about opening up locations in other places, like Findlay or someplace south,” he said. “But I think for right now, I’m going to stay focused on what we’ve got going here and try to stay active in the downtown community.”