By W James
In the comics industry, the late 1930’s to late 50’s is called The Golden Age of comic books. That time is called that because it was the first-time comic books, with its superheroes, had grown in popularity and were stories people from all facets of life could enjoy. Comics were a way to build community in the towns those stores were located in. Comics at that time too were also a social commentary of what was happening at the time. Over time that community and reader interest was lost. However, Uncanny Heroes, Lakeland’s new comic shop, is bringing community back and ushering in a new Golden Age of comics.
Uncanny Heroes is located at 935 Florida Ave. right next to the Subs and Such. They have a wide variety of single issues and collections of everyone’s favorite characters and publishers. DC, Marvel Image, Valiant and more are well represented in the store. The store has plenty of back issues for collectors as well as plenty of statues and figurines for collectors and novices alike. Also, there are discounts on collected editions and reader subscriptions.
“We try to keep a good selection of trade paperbacks and hardcovers in the store. We have to compete with Amazon. It’s not about competing with other stores and cutting prices.” Mike Savage, co-owner of Uncanny Heroes, said. “I buy books on Amazon because it’s cheaper. When you have a business model that is cheaper for customers and can have their product shipped to them you have to have something so you can compete in the market. One of our mottos is “We’re Not a Museum.””
Savage and his wife have been planted in the city of Lakeland for years however, the shop has only been open for a short amount of time. Places like Concord Coffee and the defunct Fat Maggie’s had a very old school feel and he always thought it would be cool to own a comic shop in Lakeland however in his time here there hadn’t been many places practical enough to facilitate one. Four months ago, that all changed when their current space became available. That led Savage and his business partner, Clark Leslie, to open the store.
While the store has been thriving under great leadership, a wonderful team running, support from the city of Lakeland and events like local field trips that have stopped by to talk about the history and mythology of comics, there has also been a fair share of downsides in relation to the small business aspect.
“This is almost a 100-year-old building so things we put together keep falling apart a little bit. In truth, the city is supportive in many ways of small businesses but sometimes it’s very hard for a small business to do all the things the city and the historic district requires to get started,” Savage said.
Even though there may have been some hiccups, business is still doing well and the publishers and distributors are treating Uncanny Heroes right. Savage described the store as the first line of defense between publishers and consumers. If consumers have complaints or don’t like anything it’s the retailers like Uncanny Heroes that tell the publishers how the customers are feeling. By being the liaison between publishers and consumers, Savage treats the store as such, a retail store. That’s why the store so clean and organized when you walk in. They are trying to break the stereotypical comic shop that’s damp, dark and has a pile of pizza boxes in the corner.
“To bring customers that are new and aren’t fans and turn them into fans you have to feel like another retail store and you can’t feel like a classic comic store,” Savage said. “God, I love those classic comic stores, I try to hunt them down when I travel. There is a part that pains me if we are going to be respected as an industry we have to do better.
According to Savage, comics in Europe are black and white with very little color. They are also printed on nice paper and in doing so comics there are worth $6-$8 because of the care that goes into them. Artists and writers are also treated like rock stars at comic conventions because the culture in Europe, toward comic books, is significantly different.
“In the U.S. we are still funny books and to shift that perception we have to take the business more seriously,” Savage said.
While that perception of being “funny books” may not be leaving anytime soon, Mike Savage and his team are still as passionate as ever to becoming that community the comic industry had back in the Golden Age.
Savage explained that his mom gave him his first comic book when he was nine years old. It was Secret Wars in 1984-1985 when Spiderman got his black costume. He struggled from dyslexia and said that reading comics helped him battle this.
“ It’s frustrating. I always did well in school, straight A’s, but it was hard and took a long time for me to read. Something about how the words and the pictures worked together tricked my brain to read properly because there was an image it wasn’t just words. Reading comic books fixed my dyslexia, now I read a book a week. Just having a cool business means a lot too. My wife and I can live anywhere in the world based on the work we do. Having a business in the community means a lot to us too,” Savage said.
The Golden Age is back and it starts with the people at Uncanny Heroes.