This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 21, 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.
For the past 6 months on ComicBook.Com I’ve been writing about comic book shops across the United States and beyond on a weekly basis. The process of finding shops worth highlighting to comics readers, creators, and other retailers has been more exciting that I ever would have anticipated. No matter what your opinion of the current comics market, the people selling comics are going out of their way to build new audiences and create exciting shops in their own communities. You can look back at any of the 24 stories so far and see people helping other people, whether it’s by providing a safe space for them to go or a story that might change their lives. The shared thesis of these columns is clear: Comic book stores are special and they matter to the people who find them.
So this week I want to talk about a very special comic book store, the very first comic book store I ever shopped at: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, NE.
Dragon’s Lair is the oldest store in the state of Nebraska and one of the oldest in all of America. It first opened its doors in 1975 and has been an integral part of the city’s geek community ever since. In its 42 years of existence it has opened a new location, moved more than once, and survived a fire (more on that later), but it has recognizably remained Dragon’s Lair every step of the way.
For comics readers who discovered the medium at an early age, walking into either of the current Dragon’s Lairs locations is likely to elicit a familiar shiver down the spine. They are packed with everything a young fan might want to devour. There are quarter boxes stuffed with hidden treasures (like the original Suicide Squad), bookshelves jammed with collections and the new releases of the past month, and miniatures galore. Every inch of the walls and much of the floor is packed with comics and associated fun. Walking in is like diving into a pool, minus the obnoxious exercise and chilly water.
While this may sound like an all too familiar comic book store, for thousands of people it has been a place of discovery and oftentimes a second home.
The key to realizing what makes Dragon’s Lair special can be found by simply spending time in the store. There are events almost every night of the week. They range from role playing group gatherings to organized tournament play of miniatures and card games. Both of the Omaha locations have areas dedicated to hosting groups and they’re regularly full. This is where awkward high schoolers come to gain acceptance and make friends. This is where kids come to discover a form of reading they actively love. This is where parents come to remember their own childhood and provide a great one for their own kids. All of these examples are true in Omaha, where many parents or grandparents have been visiting the shop since the 1970s. In a city filled with restaurants, baseball tournaments, and football fans, this is a place for everyone else. Everyone else makes great use of Dragon’s Lair too.
The original location was opened on the intersection of 83rd and Blondo, near the center of modern Omaha. It doubled its size in 1995 and provided enough income to open a second location in the Millard area of the city. It was a shop as familiar to the face of the city as anything besides the Henry Doorly Zoo or Rosenblatt Stadium. Unfortunately, it came to a sudden and unexpected end in 2014.
On a cold Sunday morning in February, Dragon’s Lair caught fire after neighboring Treasure Mart . Thankfully no one was hurt, the only loss was the hundreds of comics inside. The community of Omaha rallied around the store though with hundreds of fans sharing stories and support, while the many other comics stores in the area did the same. There was a recognition both of the importance of this location and the community it had helped to foster.
The store reopened only one month later about a half mile down the road from its original spot. While the outside may not appear the same, the inside offers the same great pool of geek culture for Omahans to dive into. Owners Bob and Sharon Gellner and store manager Craig Patterson remain fixtures behind the counter, and they brought the spirit of the original shop with them. No matter the weather outside or the current event in comics, Dragon’s Lair still offers a home for everyone in the city seeking to read comics.
That’s the lesson of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games. While many of the stores highlighted in this column provide a special twist, event, or innovation on the local comic book store, the idea of that store is great in and of itself. The LCS is a place where people can celebrate what they are passionate about and find like-minded friends who sometimes even become family. Dragon’s Lair has been providing that place to Omaha for 42 years and based on its quick recovery in 2014, there could be easily be another 42 years in the making.
As long as there are fans and comics, there will be great stores to support them. We should all be grateful for our own personal Dragon’s Lair and the people inside it, wherever we might have been lucky enough to find it and them.
Name: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games
Address: 2227 N 91st Plaza
Omaha, NE 68134
Phone: (402) 399-9141
Website: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games
Facebook: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games