Geek Chic on the Rise in Wichita Falls With Opening of New Comic Books/Gaming Store [INTERVIEW]
The nerds have finally taken their revenge.
Hollywood blockbusters. Primetime television shows. An empire of toys, collectables and memorabilia. Superhero culture has permeated nearly every facet of contemporary society.
In 2012, two comic book based movies -- Marvel's The Avengers and DC's The Dark Knight Rises -- each handily made more than a billion dollars at the box office. One year later, a new Superman reboot pulled in a respectable $660 million, with hopes of spawning an even bigger cinematic franchise. This fall, ABC debuted its primetime Avengers spinoff, while The CW follows up with a second season of its relative hit, Arrow. Neither show features A-list superheroes, yet millions are still expected to tune in each week. Several other networks are rumored to have more of the same genre currently in development.
The verdict is in. Geek chic = big bucks.
And yet, with these modern-day fairy tales now so socially acceptable, are outcast terms like "geek" or "nerd" even applicable any more? Saturday, I spoke with 32-year old Bryan Lyons, less than a week away from the grand opening of his new store in Wichita Falls, Geekopolis. A self-proclaimed geek, Bryan shared his thoughts on the new business venture and whether geek culture is now the mainstream.
Q: You can be honest. It makes you mad, doesn't it, that all the stuff people used to take crap for liking is now worth the gross national product of a small country to Hollywood execs.
A: (smiling) There's a tiny bit of bitterness, yeah. You know, when you've been called a geek your whole life. When you've been told that what you like isn't "cool". And then all of a sudden it is. But no, you can't be mad. It's cool to see comic books, trading card and board games grow from being fringe type things into something more mainstream.
Q: Especially for a new retailer like yourself. So is this going to be a comic book store that features gaming, or a gaming store with room for comics?
A: I think it's going to be a great balance of both. Obviously our customers are going to tell us what they want. The hardcore people are going to come in here knowing what they want to read. They're going to know what they want to play. And that will help influence our inventory. It'll take a little bit, but I think our product selection will reflect their interests well.
Q: For newbies to this world, walking into a comic book store can be super intimidating. There's the impression they're going to come face to face with the Simpson's comic book guy and get laughed out of the place. Is that fair?
A: In some places, yeah, that's what you're going to find. And because of that, that is what everyone expects walking in. But not here. That's exactly the stereotype we are definitely going to stay away from. Even if somebody walks in not knowing exactly what they want. The store is going to be set up at the front in what we call a "muggle-friendly" way. That's where all the mainstream stuff will be, and as you go deeper you'll find a lot of really great titles and games people may not know much about.
Q: There are already a few other options in town for comic books and gaming. What do you think will set Geekopolis apart?
A: Our store hours are going to be a little later than most places here. And because of that, every night we're going to host gaming events. Every night is going to be something different. It used to be if you wanted to play Magic (the Gathering) you could probably find a game in town at one of the stores. But if you wanted to play something like Warhammer, you'd be out of luck unless you went to someone's house. We're going to try to showcase a lot of different role-playing, trading card and board games. We'll even demo the more popular ones on Sundays.
Q: Sounds like a lot going in. Might get crowded?
A: That's why we're going to have a section at the back of the store totally dedicated to gaming. That way somebody shopping for comics won't feel like they're bothering someone at a table. And the gamers won't have to worry about someone trying to scrunch by them to try and look through a longbox.
Q: Speaking of longboxes, what's the comic book selection going to be like?
A: We'll have a wall of all the new stuff every Wednesday. Obviously we'll carry the DC and Marvel titles. We'll have the Dark Horse and IDW stuff. The Walking Dead, of course. Trade paperbacks and hardcovers. It'll take a bit before we get a good back issue selection going. And we'll also carry some manga titles, sci-fi and fantasy novels.
Q: Along with the gaming merchandise and collectables, it sounds like you're going to have one heck of a nerd cave. True?
A: (laughing) I threw around the name Nerdvana for the store early on, because I thought it was like a nerd's paradise. We just want people to come in and have a good time. Both the casual readers and the hardcore geeks.
Q: There's that word again. Do you think there's enough hardcore and casual geeks in the Wichita Falls area to make this thing a success?
A: I really didn't know what to expect at first, but the support for this store has been overwhelming. We've got over 400 likes on Facebook in such a short time. I've got a couple of employees so far, and by the looks of things I'll probably be looking to bring in a few more. It's cool to see so many new people getting into this culture. Hopefully that'll lead to us having good attendance in the store and at our gaming events.
Geekopolis, 3909 Wayne Ave., is set to open its doors Friday. Operating hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.