Heroes Of Comics Come To Glen Burnie

September 23, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Flanked by law offices on Crain Highway is a shop full of mutants.

They have mighty powers. One absorbs kinetic energy, another walks on walls, yet another leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Some have saved the world hundreds of times.

Mere mortals, who open the gray door and drift into the Twilite Zone, succumb to the powers and lay their money down. One by one, they turn back toward the gray door, fling it open and step into the sunlight to read the comic books they just bought. And they'll be back in a week, when the newest adventures of X-Men or Nightbreed or Alien Legion will hit the stands.

The Twilite Zone is not a comic book store where Archie, Dennis and Donald share rack space with Conan. It specializes in adventure comics because, says manager Michael Stephens, because that's what the clientele demands.

"People are more into the action-packed adventure comics," he says, explaining that though the Glen Burnie store initially offered the tamer comics when it opened about a year and a half ago. The mutants left Jughead back in the dust in sales.

"It seems like up there people do like the more violent comics," says Scott Hanna, who with Roger Moyer owns two Twilite Zones, the original 9-year-old shop in Annapolis and the store in Glen Burnie, which opened after Galactic Enterprises, a comic books shop, closed next door.

Construction worker Kevin Lepley, 26, roams the Glen Burnie store briefly, leafing through a few of the 50,000 or so comics there and chatting with Mr. Stephens about the status of a few X-Men books. He gives Mr. Stephens a number and the manager vanishes, returning in a flash with a 3-inch high stack of comics, among them "Batman," "Conan" and "The Punisher." Mr. Lepley, of Glen Burnie, is one of about 230 subscription-holders at the store. He checks his box every week, but some come in just once a month, Mr. Stephens says.

Mr. Lepley takes just about everything in the stack, plus a few others. The tab: $32.49. And he'll be back next Friday. His subscription is for 43 different comics.

"I've been reading comic books since I was 6 or 7," Mr. Lepley says. He sees no reason to stop now, though he can predict the story lines.

The store's clientele reaches all ages and occupations, browsers, fans and investors -- yes, investors, as comics have gone the way of baseball cards. Mr. Stephens says the store doesn't get as much wander-in traffic as he'd like, but then again, not being in a mall has the advantage of lower rent and an atmosphere that is laid-back.

Lawyer Edward Groh, whose office is next door to the Twilite Zone, is also a subscriber. He gets two "Wolverines" a month, $1.75 each. Not for himself, but for his 9-year-old daughter Audra. The hairy hero is one of the milder action mutants -- "If a lady is in trouble, he saves the world," explains Audra. Mr. Groh attributes Audra's love of reading to comics, first Disney, now Wolverine, saying the interesting stories and artwork captured his child's imagination.

As Mr. Stephens reads a pile of comics -- a good manager knows his stock, he says -- he points out that 12 cents won't buy a comic book any more. The lowest priced book is $1.25. The 30th anniversary "Spiderman special," with a hologram on the cover, costs $3.50. And copies are going faster than a speeding bullet.

Back issues are tucked in boxes, except for the high-priced collector's copies on the wall. The plastic sleeve on a copy of "Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner," which sold for 12 cents in 1967, carries a $90 tag.

Already, Mr. Stephens says, he has taken reservations from HTC about 50 people for the issue of "Superman" due on the stands Nov. 18. In that issue, the 54-year-old man of steel dies at the hands of Doomsday. "People are ordering five, seven copies. They know it's going to be collectible. Everybody likes a dollar," he says.

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