This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on May 31, 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.
Many of the comic stores that have been covered in this series were born of the comics boom of the 1990s or rose from the ashes of its bust. Acme Comics was around before X-Men #1 was supposed to send a generation of kids to college, and it looks like it will last well beyond the final pages of current favorites like Saga. It’s a store that has not learned the lessons of building community and focusing on the actual comics because it has been teaching them for more than 30 years. Today we look at Acme Comics, a shop that’s as close as it comes to an institution in the American comics market.
Acme Comics opened in Greensboro, NC in 1983. For perspective, that was the same year Eastman and Laird founded Mirage Studios, Jason Todd was introduced as the second Robin, and Walt Simonson debuted on The Mighty Thor. It was an exciting time for comics and one in which Acme Comics found itself competing against newsstands and grocery stores. They were an alternative where fans of the medium who wanted specific issues or a staff that understood what an inker was could find just what they were looking for. Before the LCS was an abbreviation, Acme Comics was establishing the concept in North Carolina.
Those original aims from 1983 are still intact. Acme Comics provides collectors and fans a wide variety of choice titles from the golden, silver, and bronze ages. However, their aspirations have expanded along with the years. “Our goal is to be a community partner that epitomizes the small business in Greensboro North Carolina,” says store manager Jermaine Exum. That means two very important additions. First, Acme Comics strives to bring comics creators and professionals into Greensboro in order to interact with fans who cannot travel to conventions. Second, the store is focused on creating a new generation of comics readers within their community; that means lots of comics and outreach for young readers.
A history as long as that of Acme Comics provides too many interesting tidbits to be covered outside of a long afternoon talking with the staff. They are part of a rarefied community of American comics stores older than three decades. Exum knows this history sets his store apart, but he also believes their genuine attitude is distinguishing. “We try our best to build relationships in our community with schools and other local small businesses” says Exum. Acme Comics is part of the landscape of Greensboro and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. That leads to the question: What comes next?
Click ahead to learn what the future holds for Acme Comics, and why the next 34 years look to be just as exciting.
One benefit of a long existence is that it allows Exum and his staff to take a long view of the comics industry. As retailers they’ve been invested in creating new markets for the medium, and have seen that pay off in the past few years. “Kids under twelve are once again interested in reading as part of their entertainment portfolio with comic books and graphic novels. Boys and girls.” says Exum. That’s especially exciting given that for more than a decade the market was dominated primarily by adolescent and adult men. Acme Comics has cultivated a wide-range of comics that suit children’s tastes and that have an aesthetic appeal for parents. It’s a win-win as parents get their kids to read and kids get some great stories.
It’s not just a growing market for young readers either. Exum has observed the number of women creating pull files growing each year. New comics like Saga and reinvigorated classics like X-Men are both attracting an increasingly diverse audience to Acme Comics.
Exum is reluctant to chalk up Acme Comics success and longevity to luck. There’s something special about what he and his co-workers have accomplished, and Exum proposes it’s because they’re a “Third Place” within the community. He describes the idea of a Third Place as a spot between work and home that people want to travel to whenever possible, even though they don’t have to. It’s a special location that adds a boost of energy and positivity to your day; that’s what Acme Comics is to Greensboro. Transforming the store into that Third Place has helped to build a strong community about it. “The reason we have endured is that an incredible community unlike anything I know of anywhere else” says Exum.
When asked about what the future of the store holds, many years of success have not dulled the aspirations for tomorrow. Exum acknowledges the wide variety of roles a comics store can play in a community and thinks all of them hold a significant role in what comes next. In the future Acme Comics will be a “tastemaker”, “support system”, “network”, “reliable business”, and so much more. It will be a place that nurtures young readers and sustains longtime fans.
Exum points out that “Acme” is not just a word from a Tex Avery cartoon. It’s definition in the dictionary is “The point at which something is at its best or most highly developed.” That definition is important and it’s how Exum defines his perspective on the store and community he loves. “Acme will continue to be a work in progress and we never stop trying to be the best we can be for our community and the comics industry” he says.
Click ahead to see full details and photos of Acme Comics.
Name: Acme Comics
Address: 2150 Lawndale Drive
Greensboro, NC 27408
Phone: (336) 574-2263
Website: Acme Comics
Facebook: Acme Comics