By: Lavell Garner
As soon as you step into the Comic Collector on Harlem Avenue, you see a huge display of comic books planted
in the middle of the store, with a cardboard “Spider-Man” hanging above it.
You truly get the feeling you are in a “classic” comic book shop.
That also might be because owner Rich Lukes and his wife are dedicated comic book fans who have been running their store for more than a quarter century.
“We had the store for 26 years. My wife basically runs [it],” said Lukes. “The store used to be where I got comics myself. The former owners wanted to start a family and we decided to buy into it.”
Although Lukes describes himself as a “regular guy” who also plays the cello, he is still a big comic book fan himself.
“I and my wife have been collecting forever; we actually met at the Chicago Comic Con,’ he said. “My favorite comic would be “Doctor Strange.” It’s a fantasy and sorcerer type of thing.”
At the Comic Collector, 3246 S. Harlem Ave, customers can find much more than comic books. They can buy posters, T-shirts, and action figures as well. Business is going well, and comic books still sell briskly.
“Business is good. People still like to read,” Lukes said. “The regular new comics sell well — people still like their “Batman,” “Spider-Man,” and “Superman.”
But Comic Collector also has an inventory of older comic books. Lukes said he tries to set reasonable prices for these classics.
“I got some old 1966 stuff, like “The Avengers,” he said. “I’m only asking for a couple hundred (dollars).”
Lukes also offers a special subscription service for his customers. Customers can subscribe to the Comic Collector and their comics will be put on hold until the customer comes in and purchase them. This is done for customers who don’t want to miss an issue of their favorite comic.
“We have the subscription service where we hold comics for people, so they can come at their own convenience to buy stuff,” he said. “We give a break on the price. The only catch is I ask that the person shows up once a month,” said Lukes.
Pedro Gonzalez is one of those steady, local customers.
“I love this shop. The people are awesome, the selection is great,” Gonzalez said. “They have a subscription service, so you never miss an issue.”
Although Lukes eventually hopes to retire, he wants the store to endure.
“In 10 years I would like to retire, and see (the store) stay as a little fixture that sticks around,” Lukes said. “I don’t want it to be a chain. It’s hard to run one of them, better yet ten of them.”