Krazzy Comics hopes to serve ‘all-inclusive’ customer base
In September 2016, comics super-fan Allen Harrington checked one item off his bucket list: seeing Stan Lee live. Lee, the Marvel Universe co-creator, was speaking at the Cincinnati Comic Expo, so Allen and his then-fiancee, Nia, purchased the VIP package.
The event started off predictable enough. “The fans are talking to each other, trying to out-nerd each other,” Allen recalled. “And someone was like, ‘Hey, you know Stan's a licensed minister?' I'm like, ‘Oh, is he now?'”
At the close of the Q&A session, Allen addressed Lee. “I was like, ‘I have two questions. One, are you a licensed minister? And two, if you are, will you marry me and my fiancee?'” Allen said. “And he said yes.”
As captured on YouTube, the comics icon proceeded to marry the couple. Following a cosplay wedding shower — Allen and Nia dressed as Max and Roxanne from “A Goofy Movie” — the two had a proper ceremony in September 2017. Now, more than a year later, they've embarked on another venture: The pair opened Krazzy Comics store in Gahanna on Oct. 17.
“There's already a semi-market here,” Allen said. “There's already people who've been waiting for a comics store, and they don't want to have to travel.”
According to Allen, the other comic stores in town are not threatened by customers who might want to travel to the new shop. “You would think it'd be highly competitive, but it's not,” he said.
Tucked in a plaza at 5544 N. Hamilton Rd., Krazzy Comics exudes fun with its purple and green walls, arcade machines and a giant Marvel Infinity Gauntlet that was front and center during Alive's recent visit. The starter inventory is impressive; patrons will find introductory titles in a Kids Corner, a selection of DC and Marvel comics, a special interest section, a $15-and-under rack and figurines, including a wall of Funko Pop! characters.
A second room contains a row of long storage boxes of comic books (mostly $1). A Media Room, with a striking comic-book floor pattern and a superhero cutout for selfies, will host events as well as Allen's podcast, “Uncanny Nerdverse.”
Allen was introduced to comics in kindergarten when a D.A.R.E. officer visited with copies of Spider-Man, Storm and Power Man. Allen didn't think much of it until he was around 10 years old, when his father took him to a comic store in the now-closed Scarborough Mall.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is where these characters came from,'” he said. “And then shortly after that, the X-Men cartoon came out in the '90s.”
Allen also began reading character bios on the back of action figure boxes. “I was piecing things together from the cartoons, from toys [and] looking at the pictures in the books,” he said.
A foray into music took Allen's attention away from comics for a while. But several years ago, he began seeking out YouTube videos to catch up on what he missed. And he started frequenting comics shops again.
“My start was with DC [Comics],” Nia said. “And then, of course, dating him, I couldn't get away from morning cartoons, comics.”
“But I love it,” she continued. “He gets me everything Harley Quinn, so I appreciate that.”
Having a comics store owned by people of color contributes to a growing diversity in the local comics scene, home to SOL-CON: The Brown and Black Comix Expo, and the Black Nerd Problems website.
“It's bubbling here,” Allen said. “There's a lot of black nerds here who just need that outlet. Some people don't feel comfortable going to every comics store because there's a stigma that everybody is the Comic Book Guy from ‘The Simpsons,' like we're all stuck up and elitist and not willing to share knowledge. That's not us.”
By contrast, the Harringtons have future plans to offer a free class on the history of comics. They will also display local art in their back hallway, Artist Alley.
“We really want to be involved with the community and support other local businesses,” Nia said.
Through the process of opening the store, the couple learned working as a husband-wife team has its pros and cons.
“[With] every team, sometimes you have friction,” Allen said. “Like sometimes there's breakdowns in communication, but it's a little different when it's your spouse. You have to be a little bit more tactful about things, but overall I actually think that it made things a little bit easier because we already have that connection and that rapport with each other.”
And their collective passion for comics can only help them foster a love for the medium in their customers.
“There's a book up on that wall for everybody,” Allen said. “The goal is to make it all-inclusive.”