If you’ve read Ghoul, then you’ve pretty much read about how I grew up — just minus the monsters. As a kid in York County, PA, I had two options for buying comic books.
The first option was the Spring Grove newsstand. I bought my first 3 comics there at the age of five (they were Captain America, The Defenders, and Kamandi).
And I continued to buy them there every week, peddling my bike into town every Saturday, and spending most of my allowance on comic books, and whatever was leftover on a slice of pizza at Genova’s.
My second option was our annual once-a-year trip to Baltimore, when my folks would let me visit Geppi’s (who had a store dedicated just to comic books — something unheard of back then).
Time passed. I discovered girls, music, and mind-altering substances, and thus, I lost my passion for many childhood things. But I never lost my love and appreciation of comic books as a storytelling medium.
Fast forward to 1988. I was fresh out of the Navy, and had returned home to a York County, PA that I no longer recognized. Everything seemed different. Having trouble adjusting, my first week home, I decided to visit some old haunts. My hope was that I’d recapture some old magic and feel settled — or at least comfortable again. One of those haunts I visited was the old Delco Plaza mall, where my friends and I used to go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show together on Friday nights.
While walking through that mall and reminiscing and trying to determine if everything around me had changed or if it was just me who had changed, I came across a slim little store — almost a closet rather than an actual retail space. The store measured 100ft long by 15ft wide, and it was filled with comic books. I stared, gaping, as an angelic choir sang on high from the mall’s rooftop.
It was at that moment that I felt home.
Walking inside the store, I learned that Ned Senft and Bill Wahl, two guys who used to sell comics at an indoor flea market in York City (that would later become the York Emporium) had just opened the store. I chatted for a while, and became subscriber number 19 (a box number that I kept until moving to Buffalo for a short time many years later. When I returned to York, my new number became 219).
That first visit, I gave them money, and in return they gave me comic books. And in the 25 years since then, they’ve given me long-lasting and valued friendship and support and made me laugh and gotten me through some damn hard times, and I’ve done my best to do the same for them.
Bill and Ned and the rest of the counter monkeys have become family. When my oldest son, David, was 4, I took him on his first visit to Comix Connection. Bill sent him home with a Godzilla comic and toy. David is now 22 and still enjoys Godzilla and still shops at Comix Connection. When my youngest son, Turtle, was old enough, I began taking him to Comix Connection, as well. Ned sent him home with an Iron Man comic and toy. Turtle is now 5 and wants to be Iron Man when he grows up. And I’ve no doubt that if, like his Daddy and his older brother, he still enjoys comics as an adult, he’ll buy them at Comix Connection.
They’ve been a pop-culture Mecca for Central, Pennsylvania over the years, hosting signings by everyone from Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Truman, and Duane Swierczynski to locals such as J.F. Gonzalez, Dirk Shearer, Mike Hawthorne, and myself. They give back to the community with regular food drives, toy drives, and various charitable fundraisers.
Comix Connection has gone through location changes and collapsing ceilings and expansions and a lot of growth over the years. And I know that I’m not the only long-term customer who has gone through that growth with them. Things change. To quote Rush, “Children growing up, old friends growing older. Freeze this moment a little bit longer.”
During Comix Connection’s first year in business, I bought the first issue of Hellblazer. This week, 25 years after it launched, Hellblazer ended with issue #300. But Comix Connection is still going strong. And it’s done that without rebooting continuity, jumping from one event to the next, or having non-stop crossovers. Instead, it’s done with a knowledgeable and friendly staff, brightly-lit and welcoming stores, and a genuine desire to make people happy, and share the love of a wonderful medium.
Freeze this moment a little bit longer, indeed…
Happy Anniversary, Comix Connection.
* * *