There’s the smell of fresh-pressed ink — pushing art and action to leap off the page. And Bethany Beach’s newest comic book shop always has an open door, inviting customers to a thousand new worlds of adventure.
Comics & Gaming opened around Memorial Day and is already making waves.
“People are coming in excited. I think people are going to travel from Rehoboth Beach, Ocean City or Salisbury,” said co-owner Tom Chillemi.
“We’ve gotten a good response. We’ve seen crowds of all ages,” said co-owner Chip Sullivan. “Locals have said ‘Finally! Something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time.’
“It’s nice to walk into a comic book store that’s nice and bright and well-organized,” he added. “We’re very up-front with our new products, trades, pop figurines, games. Nobody has the comic book products that we have.”
There’s something for everyone, from $3 traditional weekly releases (Batman, Superman, Archie & Friends) to tomes of graphic novels (Scott Pilgrim, The Sandman).
And every type of comic buyer, too, including 60-year-olds discussing their own comic collections or finding a gift for a grandchild (My Little Pony, Pokémon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
With new superhero movies creating a buzz, “It’s becoming a lot more popular to read comic books,” Sullivan said.
Once people are introduced to comic characters, Sullivan and Chillemi take it from there.
“Our focus is to open up people’s eyes to this industry and have them be a part of it.”
Personally, Sullivan keeps it classic. He loves the Silver Age comics, such as Spiderman and Captain America.
But he still reads new releases to help people make an informed decision, regardless of genre.
“Down here, I really think we are opening more doors to what people know.”
In the future, Comics & Gaming will have tables for people to play games together, from Uno to Warhammer, free of charge, on quiet nights or rainy days.
“We want to create a community. Anybody can open a business and sell product. … We want to build a community around it,” Sullivan said.
People could learn a new game or buy one, such as Kill Doctor Lucky (kind of the opposite of Clue), Ticket to Ride, HeroClix, Munchkin and Dominion.
“There’s more to tabletop gaming than Apples to Apples, Monopoly and Clue,” Sullivan said. “These are games where you actually have to sit down and talk, and enjoy each other’s company.”
Jokingly calling the town “Mayberry,” Sullivan marveled at how friendly the local businesses have been. That makes it easier for him to recommend other stores if he doesn’t have what people need.
New comics hit the shelf every week. Plus, if it’s not already in Bethany, Comics & Gaming can special order it.
“I think it’s pretty cool here, how they mix comic books with gaming,” said Ryan Gordon, a teenager vacationing from Northern Virginia. “I think they definitely make it an easier experience” for novice or long-time readers, he added.
He was excited to buy a large graphic novel of “The Walking Dead” and was eying the Godzilla products.
“I’m looking at this as a lot of lawns mowed,” quipped his father, Greg.
Before purchasing his first comic shop at 18, co-owner Tom Chillemi had already, in 1994, founded Azure Press, writing and producing such comics as Ninjas vs. Zombies, The Acolyte Chronicles and Storm Rider.
Good entertainment can zap the stress of everyday life, Chillemi said. At home, where the average commute is an hour-plus, maybe that superhero piggybank or Game of Thrones bobblehead is the perfect distraction.
“It’s good conversation, and they leave happy. The comic book I’m selling them is gonna allow them to relax … for every walk of life,” he said.
“You have collectors from all types,” Sullivan said. “If comics has taught me anything, you can’t judge people on what they look like or wear or read.”
The owners do also buy collectibles, often re-selling them at conventions.
This is the fourth location for Comics & Gaming, with the others mostly located in Northern Virginia, where Chillemi and Sullivan live.
Comics and Gaming is open year-round, currently from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The shop is located at 101 Garfield Parkway, and can be reached at (302) 616-2370 on Facebook and, in the future, at their own website.