Batman lives in Gotham, Buffy Summers in Sunnydale and Clark Kent in Metropolis. But one store in downtown Ithaca has provided a home for all of these characters for the past three decades.
Comics for Collectors is a shop in downtown Ithaca that features an extensive selection of comic books, graphic novels, manga and other collectible toys and games. The store, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, specializes in comics from independent and small press publishers but also carries more popular comics from mainstream publishers, like Marvel and DC Comics.
Sophomore David Sperling said he likes how the store appeals to people of all ages.
“It’s a very nice, homey store,” he said. “This is a place any comic fan can go to to pick up the books he or she needs.”
Founded by Tim Gray and Bill Turner, Comics for Collectors was established on the second floor of 148 East State St. in 1981. From there, the store grew, and in 1994 moved to its current location on North Aurora Street, near Collegetown Bagels.
Gray and Turner also opened two other Comics for Collectors stores, one in Elmira and one in Corning. Both were open for 10-year periods — the Elmira store from 1983 to 1993 and the Corning store from 1991 to 2001. Turner sold his share of the company in 2000, and Gray took over. Comics for Collectors now has a full website and online store.
While the store is small compared to larger comic store chains, it has a dedicated customer base that has helped the store last throughout the years. Owner Tim Gray said he hopes the recent resurgence of comic characters in the media helps people find a newfound appreciation for the niche market.
“We have been hoping that people would appreciate this pop culture,” Gray said. “Especially since the successes of all these movies like ‘Captain America’ that give precedence to the appreciation.”
The store has been celebrating with special sales and Batman-inspired snacks. Special promotions include a signed art print by Joe Simon, the co-creator of Captain America, and a limited edition copy of the Elektra graphic novel, autographed by co-creator Frank Miller.
In addition to founding Comics for Collectors, Gray also founded the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, the nation’s longest-running comic book club, in 1974.
Comics for Collectors supports local business by offering a storewide 10 percent discount to GreenStar Natural Foods Market members and to members of the Comic Book Club of Ithaca. Student groups such as the Cornell Japanese Animation Society and the Anime Society of Ithaca College also receive the 10 percent discount.
Junior Kathy Zink, the student fundraising coordinator for the Anime Society of Ithaca College, said she appreciates how Comics for Collectors reaches out to the community.
“It’s good to have a comic store so close by,” Zink said.
Gray, who is also a member of the Ithaca Commons Advisory Board, said he knows how important it is to help the City of Ithaca.
“We make a lot of donations to different organizations,” he said. “Nobody ever hears about those things, so you’re kind of like the unsung hero.”
Gray remains active in the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, which meets twice a month in the Tompkins County Public Library and hosts its own comic convention, Ithacon, every April and September.
The convention features dealers who sell collectible items like back issue and rare comics, along with artist prints, comic book writers and artists. Last Ithacon, held in September in the Women’s Community Building on Seneca and Cayuga Street, showcased “The Simpsons” artist Ken Wheaton, “Captain America” writer Roger Stern and animator Warren Greenwood, known for his work on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Gray said he is happy with where the comic business has gone in the last 30 years.
“It’s not just the business part of it, it’s about liking what you do.” Gray said. “Younger buyers tend to buy compilations and graphic novels are really popular. It’s a service and product line a lot of people care about.”