Local Comic Book More Than Meets the Eye
February 24, 2016 • 3,576 views
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DING DING DING! The bell rings and the students of Tascosa high school begin to trickle out and venture for something to do in the hour before having to return to class. It’s the early 90’s and a certain group of students make their way toward Western Plaza to a new store known as Big Apple Comics.
Flash forward to 2016, and after a change of location in 1999, Big Apple Comics now stands in a little warehousetype building on Western Street in Amarillo, Texas. What started as a comic book store has become somewhat of an icon among nerds, gamers, geeks, and many types of people with a fancy for fictional worlds and stories.
As you enter the store you’ll most likely be greeted by owner Edd McCommon, who sits behind a counter filled with cards, dice, comics, and all sorts of nerdy knick knacks. If you ask Edd why he started Big Apple Comics, he’ll tell you that it just kind of happened by accident.
“I originally wanted to start a used book store. I had always wanted to and started with about 15,000 books.” Says McCommon. “It turned out, that it wasn’t what I thought it was. A little later some guys said I should really get into comics and I told my wife that I was going to try it. I told her to give me one year.”
What started as a comic book store that carried baseball cards changed dramatically with the the rise of a card game known as Magic the Gathering. Magic is a card game that puts you in the shoes of what is known as a Planeswalker, which is a spell caster that travels between dimensions collecting spells and monsters. The game is a hypothetical battle between two Planeswalkers.
McCommon says that his store was somewhat dragged into selling Magic The Gathering. “There was a game store in town called Games Plus that started carrying Magic so I left it to them and continued selling comics. Well it just so happened that one day they called me and said ‘You gotta get some Magic! We buy from Dallas the first time through but we never buy reorders. Now that we’re all out, we need somewhere to send people!’ I ordered a couple boxes of starters, and the day we started we sold all of them. Since that moment I’ve been the only store in town who’s had Magic on the shelves for 20 years. Whether it was hot or not hot, not in or not out, we’ve always had Magic on the shelf.”
With the new card game people needed a place to play as well, so when Big Apple Comics moved in 1999 they made sure to include a game room in their new facility. What was once a place that only attracted comic lovers, suddenly became an attraction for gamers as well.
That game room has changed several times over the years, but the atmosphere is still the same. As you enter the store’s game room you’ll see a variety of games being played. The most popular card game is Magic the Gathering, but the game room is also a safe haven for Pokemon, YuGiOh, and players of all sorts of card games. One such player is 14-year-old Payton Channing.
Payton has been playing Magic for a little over two years now. As he sits down across from his opponent, both of them shake hands, and both roll a 20sided dice to see who goes first. “I’ll place one Mana and spend it to play this,” He said. Payton places a monster on the table. The game continues back and forth as each player plays and discards various cards. The monsters grow stronger and the players begin to play in silence as their concentration grows. Payton draws a card, smiles, then looks at his at opponent and says “I’m so sorry.” He then begins turning several cards on the table and places the card he just drew onto the table. His opponent shakes his head, he knows that his fate has been sealed. Payton frantically places cards from his hand onto the table and wins the game with a lucky, and unbeatable, combination of cards. As the players begin gathering up their cards, Payton asks “Wanna play again?”
Another common face around Big Apple Comics is 28-year-old Logan Harmon. Logan however, doesn’t play card games, he plays a game called Warhammer 40k. It’s a scifi army game with hundreds of little plastic figurines that clash in a simulated warlike game that involves dice, handmade terrain, and tape measures to measure distance. These types of games are known as “tabletop games” and often require about three hours to play.
“One thing that I really like about this place is that there’s something for everybody. I can come here and if I make some friends who play another game, I can just go buy the stuff I need right here,” says Logan.
That isn’t by accident either, Big Apple Comics has always tried to stay on top of trends throughout the years of geek culture according to Edd McCommon. “Back in Western Plaza, I sold some 56,00 Beanie Babies and over 87,000 Pogs. I’ve gone along with almost every fad as it comes up, and now we’re pretty much set in our ways. We do the Magic, the Pokemon, and the 40k, but the core of our business has always been the comics.”
Even if you don’t like comics or games, there are cool knives, anime, manga, books on worldbuilding, Dungeons & Dragons, and a little bit of everything from geek culture as you pace around the aisles of the store. But more important than that, there is a a community.
“There’s a certain comradery between these gamers in sports you don’t see each other until the next season, but gamers will play for years,” says McCommon. “When you find yourself in a gamer group it’s a lifelong partnership. Even if you haven’t seen each other for years you can just pick it back up or even start a new game. My son has been with his D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) group for 22 years.”
“The one story I always tell is an argument that broke out between two physicists about whether the Starship Enterprise could do a flip. They started yelling at each other and came to ask me for scratch paper. I watched these two grown men work out math and argue over a hypothetical ship in a hypothetical place at a hypothetical speed.”
For many of these customers, this geek culture is a way of life. They invest their money in these games for a brief moment away from the real world and enter a new world of hypotheticals and and adventures. And like many struggles in life, people are dealt different hands to overcome their obstacles. What these kids understand more than most is that a bad hand can change with the draw of one more card.