“I think companies like DC and Marvel, they say the comic business does well because their orders go up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the sales in the shop are up,” Chapel Hill Comics owner Ryan Kulikowski said, referring to comics sold directly from the DC Comics or Marvel websites.
Kulikowski said his sales fluctuate more based on the season than the latest superhero movie.
“Winter is slow,” he said. “Summer’s been awesome.”
He attributes the summer sales peak to kids coming into town with their parents to visit UNC and exploring Franklin Street for the first time.
“Any time you’re on a trip, you’re definitely loose with the cash,” he said.
In 2011, the national economic slump caught up with Chapel Hill Comics.
In 2013, Mellow Mushroom moved in next door. That helped the store stay open later because there was a reason to — a new batch of customers coming by after dinnertime, takeout boxes in hand.
But comic-based movies and television do seem to trigger some increased interest in print comics.
Kulikowski said the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Daredevil” has had people coming to West Franklin Street looking for the original version — the Stan Lee comic book series first published in 1964. The new Marvel Star Wars comic books, which Kulikowski said are well done and do justice to the original characters, have been selling well also.
“I like when they write good stuff,” he said. “A good story keeps them on for the long haul.”
But the local store isn’t dependent on Netflix or Hollywood for good business. Many customers, Kulikowski said, are consistent and want to support local business.
“A lot of my customers are people who work at other local businesses or work at the school,” he said. “It’s that community: we all want to support each other. I think there’s a lot of people who want their downtown to thrive.”
Chapel Hill Comics isn’t the only local go-to spot for superhero stories and other nostalgic entertainment.
Graphic novels, non-periodical books made up of comic-style art, are available at The Bookshop of Chapel Hill.
“They move very well; it’s pretty steady,” said Lee Johnson, who helps run The Bookshop.
And with a bar top done entirely in comic books and nearly 50 original arcade games from the past few decades, the Baxter Bar and Arcade aims to create a nostalgic atmosphere as well as a nightlife hot spot.
“I think that geek is chic right now, and I honestly think that it’s OK to like comic books and to love video games,” co-owner Nick Stroud said. “I think that it’s in, but I think that it’s always been in to some degree.”