Storming into the Dark Tower

By Hunter Clauss | Monday, April 12, 2010

Dark Tower Comics owner Mark Beatty helps a customer. Photo by Hunter Clauss.

Fanboys and fangirls will be herding into McCormick Place this weekend for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, also known as C2E2. This new comic book convention has roped in an extensive guest list that includes comic artist Alex Ross, graphic designer Chip Kidd, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth author Chris Ware, Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, zombie expert Max Brooks, Carrie Fisher, and Amy Allen, who?s better known as that ?hot chick? from the Star Wars prequels.

To mark the occasion, The Center Square Journal is spotlighting local comic book shops that will be participating in C2E2. Last week we talked to Matt Sardo, owner of the Comic Vault. This week we stopped by Dark Tower Comics and met with owner Mark Beatty, who has owned the Lincoln Square-based store since December 2006. Beatty told The Center Square Journal about what comics he read as a kid, what impact the iPad will have on the comics industry, and what he thinks of C2E2.

Center Square Journal: What got you into comics?

Mark Beatty: My older brother. We used to go to a news stand that my father would get his newspaper at, and the guy had comic books. Because I was a little kid?probably between 8 and 10?I?d get Richie Rich and that kind of stuff. Richie Rich was the guy. My brother bought superhero comics, and his theory was ?more heroes for the money,? so he?d buy books like the Avengers, the Defenders, and the Justice League, which had more heroes in the book. When I was done with my books, I?d read his, and after awhile I?d start buying extra stuff.

CSJ: The way people read comics is about to change thanks to the iPad. How do you think it will affect the industry?

MB: I find it interesting. They seem to think everyone?s going to jump up and grab an iPad and stop buying comic books. But there?s a physicality to comic books: being able to pick up a book and know that you own something. Digital files don?t really have a value. You pretty much negate any condition of any sort because it?ll always be a digital file. It doesn?t change. You can make a hundred copies and it?ll be the same freaking thing.

Dark Tower carries a wide selection of comics. Photo by Hunter Clauss.

CSJ: Do you think comics will follow vinyl, where it still has a following but isn?t the primary way people get their music?

MB: It?ll be like records because very few are being produced comparatively these days, so I understand vinyl being precious because not every album comes out on vinyl anymore. I think the same thing is going to happen to comics. We?re currently seeing some of the lowest print runs in the history of comics.? A high-selling book sells about 400,000. Whoopie. There were regular books that sold that back in the day when X-Men was selling 9 million and Spawn was selling 1.5 million. I have every one of those books in the dollar bin now. That?s how worthless those books are now. Value wise, comic books right now have the potential to be worth more just because there is less of them.

But I think the people who go out and buy iPads to read comics are not collecting comic books anyways. If they want to read them in a digital format, they were probably downloading them to begin with. So I don?t think it?s going to affect us a whole lot.

CSJ: Plus there are also the conventions, which seem to give some momentum to the industry. What?s your impression of C2E2?

MB: I like the lineup. They?ve got people I haven?t seen at cons in a long time. I don?t remember when Mike Mignola went to a con before C2E2. There?s also Chris Ware. He doesn?t usually go to a lot of stuff. Then there?s Carrie Fisher. That?s pretty bold to get someone from Star Wars. That?s like getting Harrison Ford or Mark Hamill?one of the top three. They?re getting a lot of good guests.

CSJ: Who are you most excited to see?

MB: I usually don?t get to see anything. I?m usually at the booth, and none of my employees are comfortable making decisions on pricing. If my wife is there, she?ll do it.

CSJ: Is she into comic books?

MB: No. [Laughs.]

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