Bookstore fills the panels of the future with potential

Queen City Bookstore owners Emil Novak, Jr. and Emil Novak, Sr. behind the counter.

Photos by Rachel Doktor/The Record

Queen City Bookstore owners Emil Novak, Jr. and Emil Novak, Sr. behind the counter.

The employees at Queen City Bookstore are nerdy and they know it — and honestly, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take a drive over to 3184 Main St., a few blocks past Hertel and Main, and you enter a different world. Upon entering the comic store, a bright red, yellow and orange room greets you. The walls are stacked with endless shelves of comics. Each comic on display, like pieces of art, sits there waiting for someone to snatch it up and discover the heroic tale and eye-catching illustrations hidden inside.

Indeed, the comic book world is growing more popular each day, and it’s only good news for Queen City Bookstore.

“Nerds are making a comeback,” said owner Emil J. Novak, Sr. “We rule the world now.”

Novak stood in the middle of the room with one of his buddies. You could have mistaken him for a customer as he looked so comfortable standing and admiring his comics scattered on the table.

His passion for the growing world of comics is written all over his face. But that’s just what happens when you are literally born into the comic business.

Novak’s father opened the store in August of 1969. They have been opened at their location on Main Street since 1986, and this August marks the stores 45th anniversary year.

Queen City Bookstore, just by UB South on Main St., provides every comic fanatic with their fix.
Queen City Bookstore, just by UB South on Main St., provides every comic fanatic with their fix.

Novak said the comic industry is booming right now, and it’s due to a mixture of reasons.

“It’s a combination of Marvel movies, ‘The Walking Dead,’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory,’” Novak said. “All those shows have brought lots of people in here.”

According to him, the store’s customer base goes in cycles. About every four years, they get more clientele. The average age runs from 18-40 years old. Lately, though, they have been attracting a lot of kids and “lots of gals.”

Novak thinks that Image, a comic publishing company, is the reason for such a versatile clientele in his store.

“Image releases a lot of products that are very friendly to a wide variety of audiences,” Novak Sr. said. “We’re getting a lot more kid and lots of regulars coming in. It’s found its niche again and the digital technology has also helped too.”

Novak Sr. said he loves having a comic book store because he loves just being able to talk to people about cool stuff.

“It’s also my hobby and it’s what I love, so it covers many grounds,” Novak said. “It’s a great job.”

Novak also provided the rundown as to why Captain America is the greatest super hero that ever existed. And he made sure to campaign for everyone in the room to see, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, because it’s amazing.

“If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s your own fault,” said Novak, who added that there’s no excuse that it’s only been out for a little over a week now.

He then gave a look to his son chuckling, and said, “Now go give him a hard time.”

His son, Emil Novak, Jr. was behind the counter, smiling after hearing his dad talk about the business. Novak Jr., like his father, was born into this world of crime fighting, super heroes, and villains. Comics have always been a part of his life, and he isn’t complaining. He enjoys working in the store and says that he is happy in the comic book business.

Novak Jr. deals mostly with a lot of the younger clientele, where his father handles the older customers. He also likes more of the alternative comics. The Walking Dead comics are huge right now, so he’s really into those particular ones.

“It’s not all about the superheroes,” Novak Jr. said.

When asked what comic book character he would be, he answered without hesitation.

“A guy named Luke Cage,” he said. “He’s a black guy who’s a hero for hire. He’s a body guard and has super human strength. That’s my thing. I grew up in the ‘70s with him.”

He also mentioned how great it is that women are getting more and more into comics.

“My buddies are all excited about it because it’s not just a stereotype of a geeky thing anymore,” Novak Jr. said. “You got females coming here now, so that makes guys think, ‘maybe now I can branch out and start reading them more.’”

Novak St. poses with a photo of his younger self as a comic book aficionado.
Novak St. poses with a photo of his younger self as a comic book aficionado.

Virginia Carrigan, an employee at Queen City Bookstore, is a prime example. She has been into comics for just over seven years. She came into the shop one day to buy some back issues of Spawn and after striking up a conversation with Novak Sr., she left with a job.

“It’s sort of my dream job,” Carrigan said.  “Even though I didn’t really know it was my dream job.”

According to Carrigan, the number of female comic fans is growing exponentially.

“There’s much more product out for both genders at this point,” Carrigan said. “It’s a whole lot easier to get women into comic books now than it ever has been.”

Ultimately, Carrigan insists there is a comic out there for everyone, and when it comes to picking out which type suits any customer that walks through the door, she hasn’t been wrong yet.

“I’m able to find something for everyone,” Carrigan said. “It’s like my super power.”

One of her favorite publishers right now is Image. Carrigan said they are putting out some of the most original, well written books, with some great art. “Saga,” “Revival” and “Manifest Destiny” are among her favorites from Image. A DC favorite, though, is the tried-and-true Wonder Woman.

“I know it sounds cliché, but the book is so well written,” Carrigan said.

She’s big on individual character books from DC and said the graphics are very nice to look at.

“That’s part of why I love comics,” Carrigan said. “It’s such a visual medium.”

Her choice in which comic hero she would be was Ms. Marvel, or Carol Danvers, because of her flight and super strength.

“She’s blonde, but I can get past that,” Carrigan said, grinning. “I usually prefer the brunette characters.”

Carrigan’s choice differed from her bosses, but Carrigan admits she went to see Captain America with Novak Sr. and friends and said the film was just so good.

“We’re a nerdy group of people,” Carrigan joked. “Captain America was great. A lot of people get their asses kicked, and the humor isn’t forced, which I felt like it was in Thor at times. Plus Chris Evans doesn’t look too shabby in it either.”

Carrigan also mentioned Free Comic Book Day at the store, which is coming up on the first Saturday in May. And she is more than excited to see the influx of her favorite type of customer: the kids.

“We get a lot of kids,” Carrigan said. “I love having kids in the store because they’re the future of our shop.”

Carrigan loves being a “chick” in the store and said the store welcomes everyone.

“It’s a comfortable place for anyone to come in and shop for comics,” Carrigan said. “Or even if they just to want to come chat with us because we love that too.”

Their choice in favorite comic book characters is different, but when working alongside a relative, preference in comic heroes isn’t the only thing father and son won’t agree on.

“It’s a family business,” Novak Jr. said. “So obviously we are arguing back and forth, but at the end of the day, we’re shaking hands, saying goodbye, and, ‘see you tomorrow.’ So it works out.”

Novak Jr., like his father, is optimistic about the future of comics and where the industry will be in the upcoming years.

“I think it’s going to keep growing,” Novak Jr. said. “And I’m going to make sure it does.”


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