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Lodi’s comic hubs

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Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 8:13 am

Comic Grapevine: A little something for everyone

Nestled in Downtown Lodi on West Pine Street, Comic Grapevine is wall-to-wall superheroes and supervillains.

There is no white space anywhere, and if a shelf is not filled with action figures, it is covered with playing cards from games like “Dungeons and Dragons.”

Walking in, a first-time comic book purchaser could be overwhelmed by the selection of comics — do you turn left, where the Marvel comics or  adaptations sit?

Perhaps you walk to the back, where on the right wall you can find a wide array of manga (Japanese comic book) selections.

No matter your preference, Comic Grapevine has a little bit of everything for everyone.

Started in 1987 by Douglas Blevins, the store was turned over to current owner Alan Chan in October 2006.

Chan, who grew up reading comics to pass the time while he his parents worked at their restaurant in Stockton, said he did not plan on getting into the comic book business.

“I used to take money from my mom and dad to go and buy comics,” he said. “They were something cool to look at or to watch.”

When he was a teenager, Chan got a chance to work at one of the three comic book stores Blevins owned, and from there, he said his love of comics grew.

After dropping out of San Joaquin Delta College, Chan heard Blevins was getting ready to close the store.

Chan leaped at the chance to take a shot at fostering his love for his childhood pastime. He pitched his plan and his passion to Blevins, who handed over the keys.

Five and a half years later, the Comic Grapevine is still going strong. It even still has its steady stream of regulars, Chan said.

“Running a business is not easy,” he said. “I had this delusion that I could do this in my sleep. Not so.”

But Chan seems to have fun no matter how tough it gets. The business is a staple for the comic book culture in Lodi, and on afternoons after school gets out, you can find regulars sitting in the store, scouring for  copies of their favorite comic book stories.

The Launchpad: New kids on the block

The Launchpad is bordered by brick, sitting less than a block from Comic Grapevine.

While the two both offer an array of comic book options, they are far from similar.

The Launchpad is relatively new to Lodi — it opened its doors in September 2007.

Walk into the store and to your left is an endless seam of comic books covered in protective casings. To your right, board games and figurines line the wall.

Even though the store’s competitor is a few yards away, The Launchpad is the stuff of dreams for owners David Phillips, Michael Todd and Jim Mason, men who grew up reading comic books.

Self-described nerds who have been friends for decades, the men used to get their comics at grocery stores or at 7-Elevens, treats their parents would get them, Phillips said.

“I remember reading them when I couldn’t read yet,” Phillips said. “I just remember the images. For me it was The Hulk and Ghost Rider. Those images were just so visually shocking, they stuck with me.”

Phillips compares the draw of the characters over time to their relatability, an aspect he said keeps the characters and their story lines alive.

“When ‘Iron Man’ came out in 2008, that movie changed how kids saw and liked comics, and it had adults coming back saying ‘Wow, I remember how much I loved that.’”

The store features comic books for every type of reader — be it classic comics like Superman and Iron Man to newer releases involving video game characters.

The types of comic book readers varies by generation, Todd said, but the love of “what comes next” does not.

“I remember digging out my first comic — an Iron Man — the cover was ripped off and I read it again,” he said. “And I sat back at looked up and all I wanted to know was ‘What came next?’”

With its rows of comics and its numerous board and card game options, The Launchpad launches any reader into finding out the next chapter of a superhero’s story.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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