As some comic book artists and writers gain serious scholarly attention and every other Hollywood blockbuster comes straight from the heroic pantheons of D.C. and Marvel, comic book stores are perhaps more relevant now than ever. Still, it's a bit surprising that Central Arkansas can sustain four comic book stores considering the dearth of independent booksellers locally and beyond. Maybe it's the specificity of comic offerings and the unparalleled devotion of its regulars that have made these stores a going concern for years. Whatever the reason, the following shops continue to offer exhilarating stories for all ages and ranges of superpowers.
In addition to these stores, comics fans should also check out the upcoming River City Comic and Card Show set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. July 30 at 1111 W. Maryland in Sherwood. Go to rivercity.arkgeeks.com for details or call 492-9007.
The Comic Book Store The bread and butter of this store is Marvel and D.C., and all of the familiar heroes cover every corner of this place in the form of posters and figures. Beside one of the many comic book racks, a threatening Wolverine poster reminds shoppers that if "you bend it, you buy it." The actual person behind the counter is quite a bit friendlier. There is a large selection of T-shirts, toys and old sci-fi novels, but few graphic novels. 9307 Treasure Hill Road. 227-9777. www.thewildstars.com/cbs.html. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Collector's Edition This former McDonald's (complete with drive-thru window) is one of Arkansas's oldest comic book stores and offers much the same fare as its sister shop The Comic Book Store. Notable titles on display include "The Librarian" (faster than an impending overdue fee, more thorough than the Dewey Decimal System), "Black Panther" (a beefed up Bobby Seale, perhaps), and "Obamouse" (exactly what it sounds like). There is also a selection of dime store pulp novels from the 1940s and '50s for $5 each. Be sure to check the magazine rack for "New Growing Antlers," a fine homebrewed work by local writer Michael Inscoe and illustrator Phillip Huddleston. 3217 John F. Kennedy Blvd., NLR. 791-4222. www.thewildstars.com/ce.html. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Kapow! Comics The unsightly strip mall exterior betrays little of the wonders waiting inside Kapow! Comics. Most of the comics are filed away neatly in drawers, making this shop feel much more spacious than its counterparts. Kapow! also offers a much-needed selection of graphic novels as well as toys (Heroclix especially), rare comics, and long boxes of comics for $1 each packed tight. The people behind the counter are knowledgeable and welcoming (shout out to Shane!), and they might even offer you a first-time-buyer's discount. Look out for an entire wall devoted to zombie comics. 4047 E. Kiehl Ave., Sherwood. 834-5769. www.kapow-comics.com. Noon-6 p.m. Sun.-Tue., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.
The Bat Cave Located mere yards away from the campus of Hendrix College, this crammed nook almost feels more like a pre-teen boys' hangout spot than a store, complete with refrigerator, couch, flatscreen TV and nonstop matches of the granddaddy of trading card games, Magic: The Gathering. By the door, visitors are reminded that they are entering a "PG" environment where coarse language is frowned upon. The Bat Cave's sign declares its offerings as "comics, movies, and sports memorabilia," but inside all three of those appear to take a backseat to toys and games of several varieties. On the store's notice board, a handwritten note lays out "Possible D&D Names" including, but far from limited to, "Wendy McBurgerKing" and "Loof Oregano." 1155 Front St., Conway. 329-2939. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.