Pow! Bang! Splat!

How the geek culture movement, ex-pat artists, superhero movies, and children weary of video games are propelling local comic shops to new heights.


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Once upon a time, the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel came to Detroit, bringing with them the star power of Hollywood. Their adventures, filmed over the course of 2014 throughout metro Detroit, will come to life on March 26 when DC Comics and Warner Bros. Pictures release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Illustration by Bill Ellison

The film is the highly anticipated sequel to Man of Steel (2013) and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, and Jeremy Irons. In addition to being the first live-action film to feature Batman and Superman together, the movie also draws in Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg.

The cinematic endeavor represents the last major film produced in Michigan, as Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature pulled the plug in 2015 on millions of dollars of annual tax credits that had served to draw A-list actors and film crews to the state.

While the end of sizeable film incentives won’t make or break Michigan’s economy, there was concern that the loss of major productions would negatively affect revenue among small businesses including local studios, restaurants, caterers, equipment providers, and comic book shops. The consternation proved to be well-founded, especially among direct suppliers and movie crews.

But indirect purveyors such as the comic book shops — which have weathered not only the Great Recession and an industrywide slump that upended the market during the 1990s, as well as growing competition from video game creators — are drawing people through their doors like never before. Due to unique marketing campaigns, an explosion of movies that involve superheroes, and a diverse product mix, local comic book shops are seeing a surge of customers and sales.

Comic book sales in North America are up 38 percent compared to five years earlier, generating $475 million, says John Jackson Miller, a New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars novels, comics, and graphic novels.

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