Over the past few years, with the rise of popular comic-television series like The Walking Dead and movies like Marvel’s The Avengers, a whole new and youthful crowd is flocking to Calgary’s comics stores – including Phoenix Comics, Another Dimension, and Redd Skull Comics – to get their hands on the latest and most provocative graphic novels. While each store offers their own “brand” of comic nostalgia and product, they all would agree that the digital nature of our current world – our movement towards e-books, fanzines and comic book-based movie trends – has boosted interest in the physical graphic novels themselves.

If anything, the availability of graphic novels online has bolstered business, or so says Mike, owner of the Northwest Phoenix Comics location. “The digital movement hasn’t really hurt us a lot; in fact, it’s brought in a ton of new people. They’ll sample things digitally and then if they really like it, they’ll get a physical one for themselves. There’s more of an emphasis on the deluxe version of things now.”

Events like the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo have served to garner interest from crowds, but have also helped to diversify the demographic; more women are now involved in not only the purchasing of popular graphic novels, but also producing them, vis-à-vis Calgary-based artist Fiona Staples who illustrates the popular series Saga with writer Brian K. Vaughan of Lost fame.

Redd Skull Comics, owned by Kelly Dowd, has become a staple in the comic book scene in Calgary; it has just celebrated 20 years, and Dowd himself was instrumental in organizing the first Calgary Expo. Dowd reiterates that he’s also noticed that a more progressive industry has served to bring in more female customers, a positive movement which he says he also fosters in his store.

“We are seeing a resurgence of female buyers, especially because there are so many new female writers out there in the comic industry; they continue to do good stuff. Of course you’re going to have more and more people come into the store and we try to show them more and more to keep them excited. If it’s a female that has never been into a comic store, I try to steer them into an easy book to read, or something targeted around price point if that’s a concern for them. I try to understand exactly what their tastes are: what do they like to read? What do they like to watch on television? That way I can steer them into a genre that they’ll like.”

With the Calgary Expo fast approaching, and these comic shops gearing up for a hoard of discerning customers, you can be sure that if you visit Phoenix or Redd Skull’s booth at the expo, or if you’re around Kensington and visit Another Dimension, you’ll be able to find a more diverse and new offering of comics to sink your teeth into.

By Therese Schultz

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