This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on April 5, 2017.
The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.
This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.
It’s possible for many comics readers to take their local comics store for granted. In midsize cities like Omaha, Nebraska or Newark, New Jersey, one or several stores are a standard in their community. They sit where they always have, filled with longboxes of back issues, shelves of the newest comics, and a thriving community of fans. Whether you’re a young student discovering a hobby or a longtime fan doing what you always have, these stores seem like they’ve always been there. That’s not true, but an institution like Laughing Ogre Comics in Columbus, Ohio, makes it clear how someone could see it that way.
Laughing Ogre Comics sits at the end of a strip mall composed of the literal bricks & mortar that are used to describe beloved small businesses. Its sign is a custom affair featuring both the jovial gremlin in its name and a Superman insignia – just in case someone was wondering what they might sell. In the window are posters of superhero teams and upcoming events alongside the store hours. Looking at the the storefront, it’s easy to imagine this place has always been here.
That’s not the case though. Laughing Ogre Comics opened its doors for the first time in 1994 and its future has not always been assured. Founder and current manager Gib Bickel points out the store has passed through three sets of owners with “a small dip in the middle”. While we may see local comics stores as standard parts of a community on sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory or The Simpsons, they’re often run as much on passion and willpower as economic success. Laughing Ogre’s continued existence is a testament to those elements in its staff.
Gib says, “Our initial goal was to create the shop we wanted to shop at.” Laughing Ogre is a store created by comics fans for comics fans, like many others. It’s that drive that helped to form the greatest asset of the location in Gib’s mind: a staff that is one of the best in the country. When you look around Columbus and at the dedicated patrons of Laughing Ogre Comics, it’s clear that this staff is what has made the shop a landmark in the Ohio comics scene.
Click ahead to see what has changed and Laughing Ogre Comics and how the store plans to continue its history for years to come.
Laughing Ogre Comics may have hit some rough spots in its more than two decades of history, but the store has never been in a stronger place than it is right now. The ownership notes there have been some big changes in readership over the past decade. Gib says, “We probably have the youngest and most diverse reader base we have ever had. The biggest addition is the big influx of female readers.” Those additions to the readership have helped bring new life to the store and provide a readership for a growing range of comics. Each new reader is looking for a book to call their own and the staff at Laughing Ogre is prepared to help them find it.
Looking ahead, the future of Laughing Ogre is founded both on its people and its product. In addition to a wide variety of new faces coming through the door, there are a lot of great comics they’re looking to discover. When asked about what will make the future of Laughing Ogre great, Gib says it’s the combination of people and “the rise in the quality of the books, coupled with popular culture spreading the word.” Movies and TV shows might hook interest, but it’s what’s on the shelves that keep individuals coming back. The Image revolution combined with a diverse set of books from other publishers like Boom! Studios and IDW Publishing makes that possible.
The staff is interested in the history of comics as well as what is fresh and new. There’s no one right answer to selling comics for Laughing Ogre Comics; the answer is in embracing everything about it. “We want everyone that comes in to get a sense of the wonderful material being produced today, and through the art form’s history” Gib says. That can start as far back as early Ignatz strips or classic Pogo comics, and runs through today’s variations of superheroes with Superman being a father or Ms. Marvel being a hero for a new generation of readers. It’s apparent that the history seen on the walls of the store is felt within the products they carry too. There’s no battle between past and presents. It’s all comics and it all matters.
Laughing Ogre Comics is a cornerstone beyond its shopping center; it’s an important locale in Columbus. People from around the city rely on it to get their comics. Some have been coming for decades and others just discovered it after the most recent Marvel Studios film. What all of these people have in common is a fascination with comics and the staff at Laughing Ogre Comics is prepared to support them. This is a store that appreciates all of their interests and offers a place of shared community. That is what made it important in 1994 and what makes it important in 2017. It is a store that reminds us why local comics shops matter.
Thinking about everything that Laughing Ogre Comics has been through so far, Gib says, “I see a very bright future.”
Click ahead to see full details and photos of Laughing Ogre Comics.
Name: Laughing Ogre Comics
Address: 4258 N High Street
Columbus, OH 43214
Phone: (614) 267-6473
Website: Laughing Ogre Comics
Facebook: Laughing Ogre Comics