‘Still Open For Business’ Part 1: Great Stories, Movies Keep Comics Alive

Fans Stand Outside Every Wednesday Waiting To Get Newest Books

It was in the early 1930’s that the comic book industry was born. The first American Comic Book, ‘Funnies on Parade’, was distributed for 10 cents and was just a reprinting of comic strips from the newspapers. Then came ‘Superman’, ‘Batman’, ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Captain America’. But still, more than 80 years later, the industry continues to thrive. In Part One of ‘Still Open For Business’, KDLT’s Jill Johnson visits Rainbow Comics to see what keeps people coming through the door.

Rainbow Comics, Cards & Collectibles has been in Sioux Falls since 1984. Many grew up with the store and remember going there when they were little. But it’s more than just childhood memories that keep people reading the books, it’s new stories that never stop disappointing fans.

“We have the day off, so we just come do it,” said Garrett Walz of Sioux Falls.”

Every Wednesday morning, like clockwork, Walz lines up outside Rainbow Comics on South Minnesota Avenue.

Walz said, “There’s new comics every week, right at 10 a.m.”

When the door opens, he knows right where to go; to the back of the store where the 100 or so new comics are displayed each week.

I ask Walz, “Do you kind of have an idea of what you’re looking for? He replies, “Yeah.”

Walz spends at least an hour in the store. He’s been reading, stacking, and comparing for about 16 years.

Walz said, “There’s always new stories. It’s just fun reading something new every week.”

Six-years-ago, Alex Prostrollo says a friend gave him a stack to read.

Prostrollo of Sioux Falls said, “I fell in love. I said, ‘I gotta keep reading these books’.”

He’s been hooked ever since.

“I think it’s the fact that they’re stories that, yeah, we know they’re not real but gosh, how awesome would it be or terrifying, how would it be if these were real stories,” Prostrollo said.

It’s those stories, and Walz and Prostrollo’s passion for them, that keeps Dave McElroy’s business alive.

McElroy said, “Man, we have the best customers. They’re very loyal. As you saw, they’ll be lined up every Wednesday morning. Some of them have been with us since they’ve been little.”

They grew up reading about superheroes, super powers.

“These characters like ‘Spider-Man’ go from this wimpy kid to the best superhero that New York had,” said Prostrollo.

‘Spider-Man’, ‘Superman’, ‘Captain America’ and ‘Flash’; as early as the 1930’s, many became household names.

“I’m a DC guy. I’m a huge ‘Superman’ fan so if there’s a Superman book out, I’ll probably be getting it,” said Walz.

With movies feathering them, many top the American box office today.

“It’s become more of a modern sort of trade,” said Walz. “If you’re a fan of the movies you should be a fan of the comics. A lot of those movies are based off of material from the comics.”

Perhaps it’s those mainstream movies or an increase in books geared towards girls, but McElroy says he’s noticed more females coming in the door.

“Paper Girls is a real popular girl power book. Of course, you’ve got your Wonder Womans, Superwomans,” said McElroy.

Gaining new and holding onto old fans only means distributors can charge more.

“There used to be this campaign ‘drawing the line at $2.99’. It’s kind of gone up from that. You’re standard book will be about $3.99. Any new issue one will be about $5,” Walz said.

But no matter how much, it likely won’t keep these guys away.

“Even if they did do 6, I probably would still buy a crap ton of books,” said Prostrollo.

As long as people have a little imagination, McElroy doesn’t see comics going anywhere either.

“As long as they keep writing good stories and they’re gonna, there will always be comics books,” said McElroy.

McElroy says the cheapest comic book they sell is 50 cents. The most expensive.. ‘Iron Man’ #1. They’re asking $600 for it.

You might have noticed a much bigger line outside Rainbow in the spring. The first Saturday in May is ‘Free Comic Book Day’. Every comic book store in the nation has free comic books, and often times people dress up for the event. Walz and Prostrollo say for the past few years, of course, they have been the first ones in line.

Thursday night on Part Two of ‘Still Open For Business’, we visit the world of sports cards.