Saturday, June 22, 2024

Small shops provide students nostalgic niche

For comic book fans, the first Saturday in May is a date some mark days in advance. What’s so special about the day? Well, it’s Free Comic Book Day. Yes, you read that right, free!

Started in 2002, FCBD is a promotional effort by the comic book industry to bring in new readers into independent comic book stores, celebrated May 2. For this promotional event, retailers give away specially printed copies of comic books. Depending on the store, FCBD can also extend to special sales and merchandise giveaways.

While the comic books are free for patrons, this is not the case for the retailers, who pay between $12-15 for the copies they give away.

Plattsburgh is home to two comic book stores, Medusa Comics & Cards, which opened its doors November of last year, and Fantastic Planet, which has served as the community’s premier comic book store since 1987.

Fantastic Planet shares a special place in my Plattsburgh memories as graduation looms. When going off to college, I wanted to go to a college that was located near a comic book store, since at the time this was a hobby I was really into. I still am now, but not to the same degree. Though, of course, Plattsburgh having a comic book store wasn’t my sole reasoning for coming here. It was just a nice bonus.

It was my second or third day in Plattsburgh and I knew no one, and I was going crazy from being cooped up in my dorm room. I knew there was a comic book store here but had no idea how to get there, so I called them up and was on my way.

On my way there, I thought I was lost, which in hindsight, was pretty silly — the directions were pretty simple. I got to soak in my new environment, and it made me realize how different Plattsburgh was from home.

I get there, am greeted and asked if I need help with anything. This experience was quite new and welcoming. I had gone to comic book stores before, but that experience wasn’t quite as friendly. Plus, everything was alphabetized, which was a perk. I picked up “Flashpoint No. 5” and was on my way. This issue of the “Flashpoint” mini-series signaled the “end” of the universe and all the DC Comics. They’d still feature Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and many others, but they wouldn’t be the same ones. They’d all have new histories starting from scratch. Much like me, here I was starting college. I was still me, but at the same time, I was inevitably going to change and develop a new history.

Other events during my stay in Plattsburgh are closely connected with Fantastic Planet. I’ve gone there with new friends, gone on a first date there and got to meet and interview comic book artist Andy MacDonald, who attended Plattsburgh State, frequented Fantastic Planet and has drawn for Marvel and DC. While I’m not an artist, I have daydreamed many times, like most comic fans, about getting to work for one of the “Big Two,” whether it be drawing or writing.

Each time I visit the store, it’s kind of like a mini-event for me. I invite as many friends as I can, and we spend a while looking around. We all usually end up leaving with something, whether we planned on getting it or not. The staff is a friendly husband-and-wife team who are happy to help you find comics to read. However, it’s not just comics. There are toys, games, novels and all of those “nerdy” novelties.

Fantastic Planet is a great local business, and I’m glad it exists. Events like FCBD are great for these types of businesses because it helps attract customers lured in by the word “free.” You might not like superheroes, which is fine, but not all comics are superhero comics. It’s kind of like saying you don’t like movies or TV shows.

Comics are the medium. The content and genres vary just like any other art form. You have nothing to lose on FCBD. Maybe something in the free selection will appeal to you, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be hooked for life.

Email Luis Reyes at

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