For the most part, the classic comic-book specialty shop experience of the ’80s is a relic of the past. Nerd culture is now mainstream culture, and you can’t swing an old Catwoman comic without hitting a dad bod-rocking dude in a Deadpool shirt. In stores today, comics themselves are secondary—sometimes tertiary—to trading-card games, Star Wars merchandise and dorm-room posters of hunky actors from the CW network.
Working against the deluge of geek-oriented, plastic knick-knacks is Cosmic Comics, an eastside (Flamingo and Sandhill roads) oasis of vintage fun. Store manager Roland Wellington relishes his task of ensuring Cosmic stands as the last pure, old-school comics shop, and not just in Las Vegas.
“It’s what our store’s founder and co-owner Jim Brocius wants,” confirms Wellington. “When customers come in and they immediately see the long boxes of back issues, it’s intentionally reminiscent of a time when we went into a comics shop just for the comics.”
The layout and products at Cosmic all serve to draw attention to what’s important: vibrant titles from the postwar and Vietnam eras (X-Men, Jonah Hex) and from the present era (The Walking Dead). Sure, to survive you need novelty items in the windows to attract people. But here the bread and butter are the comics themselves.
“People call, asking for something related to TV-show series, items having to do with, say, Supernatural,” says Wellington, offering an example. “The answer is no. We’d rather place a Batman product in that spot, because Batman is a comics character.”
Another unique feature at Cosmic Comics, and a reason for the shop’s 20-year run, is Wellington’s hiring preference: great customer-service skills first and foremost, superhero knowledge a bonus.
“I look for skills and a good personality,” he says. “I can teach anyone comics and anyone can learn comics. Working here, you develop a passion. I’ll give my employees an article to read, like ‘10 Influential Comics of the Decade’ or the ‘Top 10 Bestselling Comics of 2016,’ just to get them up to speed. But if I have to choose between an applicant who’s been reading Amazing Spider-Man since he or she was 10 and an applicant who excels at customer service, I choose the latter.”
The Silver Age (’50s, ’60s and ’70s, basically when Stan Lee wrote for and edited Marvel Comics) back-issue selection is vast, serving as Cosmic’s niche in a competitive, relatively crowded Las Vegas market. But the shop doesn’t wall itself off from pop-culture trends, like the current superhero trend in film and TV.
“They bring first-time buyers,” says Wellington. “Someone will come in and say, ‘I love the show Flash, but what are the comics like?’ So we show them the product, show them how to collect comics, show them the best place to pick up the storyline. Put a great comic in their hands and they come back for more.”
Speaking of more, the top sales event for Cosmic Comics is Black Friday.
“We open before the sun comes up, close late in the evening. What’s better than a comics shop with extended hours and big sales and costume contests in the weeks before Christmas?”
For more information about Cosmic Comics, visit cosmiccomics.vegas
Off the Ranch highlights worthy businesses, events and activities outside of downtown Las Vegas. To submit a suggestion, email Matthew O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org