Wizard’s Asylum, a Tulsa comic book store, is celebrating its 25th anniversary Saturday, Jan. 10. Store owner Jimmy Jarman displays classic comics from his inventory. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Wizard’s Asylum and Jimmy Jarman
Jimmy Jarman sits in his comic book shop, Wizard’s Asylum, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary Saturday, Jan. 10. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Wizard’s Asylum wall comics
Comic books are on a wall display at Wizard’s Asylum in Tulsa. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Impulse Creations and Dan Wallace
Impulse Creations was an online comic book and collectibles store before Dan Wallace made it an “actual” store. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Comic Empire of Tulsa
Michael McCormick is surrounded by comics in his store, Comic Empire of Tulsa. Comic Empire of Tulsa, which opened in 1976, is among the oldest comic shops in the nation. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Comic Empire of Tulsa and Michael McCormick
Michael McCormick checks out the new comic rack at his store, Comic Empire of Tulsa. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Comic Empire of Tulsa and Michael McCormick in store
The Comic Empire of Tulsa, which opened in 1976, is among the oldest comic shops in the nation. Michael McCormick purchased the store in 1984. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Dan Wallace checks out his inventory at his comic book store, Impulse Creations. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Neal Adams at Mammoth Comics
Maybe the best moment in Mammoth Comics’ history came when legendary artist Neal Adams staged a signing there in 2014. Adams is shown here posing with Logan Dwyer, 5, at the comic book store. JIMMIE TRAMEL/Tulsa World
World of Comics
World of Comics owner Doug Goodsell meets with customer Stan Dresser in the comic book shop. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 12:00 am
Updated: 12:16 am, Tue Jan 13, 2015.
Tales from Tulsa comic book stores: Fighting crime, mourning Superman and swiping a gun
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Jimmy Jarman said there have been many good days at Wizard’s Asylum, but the most memorable occurrence probably came when he subdued a shoplifter outside the front door.
Some headlines almost write themselves: “Comic book store owner fights crime.”
Did you know comic book stores existed?
Public awareness has increased thanks to “The Big Bang Theory” (some scenes are staged at a comic book store) and the popularity of superhero movies (five of the top 10 highest-grossing films of 2014 were comic book flicks).
Is it applause-worthy when any kind of specialty store survives/thrives in the Internet age? Wizard’s Asylum celebrated its 25th anniversary last weekend.
Wizard’s Asylum is among a handful of Tulsa-area stores whose lifeblood is the sale of new and used comic books. Also in the superhero club: Comic Empire of Tulsa, World of Comics, Mammoth Comics and Impulse Creations. (Other stores, like Gardner’s Used Books and Vintage Stock outlets, count comic books as part of their business.)
It’s only fitting that comic book stores would have stories, right?
3122 S. Mingo Road
Date of birth: 1976
Memorable moment: One day a kid (about 10 years old) said he was looking for Amazing Spider-Man No. 1, which was published in 1963. Store owner Michael McCormick had a low-grade copy in stock and figured he would give the kid a thrill by showing him the historic comic book. The kid said, “I’ll take it.” McCormick’s asking price was $1,000, but the kid didn’t flinch. He left the store and came back with his mom, who, without saying a word, plunked down 10 $100 bills. “There are a lot of crazy stories like that over the years, but that one kind of stuck with me,” McCormick said.
Secret origin: Comic Empire is the oldest surviving comic shop in the state and one of the oldest in the country. McCormick isn’t the original owner, but he was among the original customers. He said he visited the second day it was open, making a bead for the store when he heard a radio advertisement.
McCormick earned two degrees from Oklahoma State University and was working in the corporate world when he learned Comic Empire was going to close its doors unless a new owner could be found. He became the new owner in 1984 and said he hasn’t worn a tie since.
“I told them I was quitting (my old job) because I was going to run a comic book store in Tulsa, and of course they looked at me like I was insane,” he said, adding that he switched careers, even though he was told he was going to be promoted to regional vice president.
“In the three-piece suit world, with the corporate games, you are smiling to the guy above you while you have your foot on the neck of the guy below you. I just am not cut out for that sort of thing. You smile while you are hiding the knife behind your back and stuff. I just can’t play those games. This suits my sensibilities much better, although the money I’m sure is nowhere near what I would be making today.”
5623 E. 41st St.
Date of birth: 1986
Memorable moment: The week Superman “died” in 1992. Store owner Doug Goodsell said he was interviewed on radio station KRMG early in the week. The store’s phone rang non-stop because people wanted to know how they could get their hands on a “death” issue. “The day that it came out was the only time I ever had a line of people outside the store before I even opened up,” he said.
Secret origin: Goodsell started accumulating comic books when he was 5 years old, purchasing DC Comics featuring the likes of Superman and Batman from grocery store and drug store “spinner racks” before the emergence of comic book stores.
Grown-up Goodsell didn’t have a job in 1986, but he had a surplus of comic books and the use of store space in Collinsville. To make a go of it, he needed a bigger customer base, so he moved the store to Tulsa and had a test run at the Fontana Shopping Center before moving to Highland Plaza in 1987.
Now a Fin Fang Foom statuette looks at customers near the cash register, and Goodsell is looking forward to the release of a hot book — the new Marvel “Star Wars” comic — this week.
7165 S. Mingo Road
Date of birth: 1989
Memorable moment: Jarman went “uh oh” after battling a shoplifter who took the first swing. Should Jarman have gone all Frank Castle on the guy? Jarman detained the shoplifter until the police arrived. “I was so worried that I was going to get in trouble about it,” he said. “But they thought it was great.”
Secret origin: Jarman started a 100-square-foot store in Muskogee with $150 seed money.
“The 150 bucks wasn’t even really mine,” he said. “I borrowed my mom’s boyfriend’s gun and pawned it and got the $150 to work with and got it back out of pawn before he even knew it was gone.”
Good risk? Jarman outgrew his first store. He moved to a different location in Muskogee and set up shop in Broken Arrow before moving to his current location in Tulsa, where the store has stood for more than 23 years.
“It was rough in the beginning,” he said. “We were living on nothing for a while, and I was working non-stop.”
Jarman opened additional stores around Tulsa but scaled back to one location and sold the contents of one store to a former customer who opened a Wizard’s Asylum in Norman.
Jarman got his initial stock because he collected comics while growing up in Kansas. A friend and high school football teammate got him “more” hooked on comics, specifically the X-Men. Said Jarman: “I said something to him at school one day, and he was like, ‘Shhhh! Don’t talk about comics at school.’ Luckily it’s a lot more mainstream now.”
4614 E. 11th St.
Date of birth: 2001
Memorable moment: Legendary comic book creator Neal Adams, regarded as the best artist ever to draw Batman, agreed to do a signing at Mammoth Comics the night before a Wizard World Tulsa pop culture convention last year. After the signing, store owner Shawn Mears took Adams and his wife out to dinner.
Secret origin: Mears used to ride his bike to Comic Empire of Tulsa when he was a kid. He said the original owner of the store gave him a copy of Adventures Into Fear No. 10, which featured an early appearance of Man-Thing (Marvel’s equivalent of DC’s Swamp Thing).
Fast forward to college years and Mears talked with a buddy opening a comic book store. He didn’t take the plunge until it was time to launch career No. 2. He said he was a consultant in Houston before opening Mammoth Comics, where visitors can see the second issue of Superman, published in 1939.
“It was worth a try,” Mears said of his comic book venture. “I had some savings. I thought I would see where it took me.”
8228 E. 61st St., Suite 121
Date of birth: 1998
Memorable moment: It happened recently, according to store owner Dan Wallace. “We had one kid come in. He was probably 6 or 7 years old or something like that. He came in, and he wasn’t with his parents or anything. I’m sure his parents were nearby. But he came in on his own and walked around for about 30 seconds, and the first words out of his mouth were ‘Wow, this is just like Comic-Con, only smaller. I just loved the ‘only smaller’ part of it.”
Secret origin: Impulse Creations came into existence opposite the norm. It usually works like this: Open a store, expand to online sales. Impulse Creations was an online comics and collectibles store before becoming a “real” store a few years ago. The store moved to its current location in October.
Wallace said he started reading comics when he was 5 or 6 years old and he accumulated a collection. “I had a lot of duplicate issues and stuff and I was like ‘I’ll pop these up online and see if I can sell a few of them.’ I could re-invest them and buy some more stuff.
“And it just kind of took off from there.”
Impulse Creations is giving away first issues (while supplies last) of the new Marvel “Star Wars” comic to anyone who dresses as a favorite “Star Wars” character Wednesday, Jan. 14.
Jimmie Tramel 918 581-8389
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015 12:00 am.
Updated: 12:16 am.