FOLLANSBEE — The door to a new business at 150 Rockdale Road on Hooverson Heights appears to be no different than that of many small town shops, but a step through it will lead visitors to a multitude of worlds inhabited by knights and wizards, superheroes and mad scientists, and vampires and zombies.
It is the home of Marty’s Marvelous Comics and Collectibles, an emporium offering current and back issues of a variety of comic books, statuettes and toys inspired by various fantasy and science fiction series; and games that allow players to assume the roles of such fantastic characters.
Its owner, Mike “Marty” Martin, operates the business on a nearly full-time basis when he’s not working in another full-time job. But it doesn’t seem like work to him, he said.
“I’m past the point of doing what I have to do. Now I’m doing what I want to do,” said Martin, who had read comics as a youth, then revisited them in more recent years.
“One day I got back into reading Captain America comics and it was fun, so I got back into it,” he said.
Over the last several years, Martin amassed hundreds of comics, which he sold at conventions in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
And Martin still frequents the convention scene, bringing back with him treasures customers have been seeking and others they don’t yet know they must have.
And that may include not only a rare issue of ‘X-Men’ or ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ but also a statuette of the Crow, a 1990s comics character who was featured in a cult favorite action film, or figures based on popular characters of Japanese anime.
For decades the eastern nation has produced hundreds of animated films of various genres for youth and strictly adult audiences, and items pertaining to them are among the store’s best sellers.
“If it involves anime, it doesn’t last. It’s in the door and it’s out. We can’t get it fast enough,” said Martin.
He said the shop’s best selling comics include Star Wars, Red Sonja, Vampirella, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Batman.
The store also stocks walls full of Funko Pop figures, large headed cartoon statuettes of pop culture stars ranging from members of the singing group TLC to the many heroes and villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Martin confirmed the popularity of the many Marvel Comics inspired movies has helped sales, noting his shelves include figures tied to the recent release of “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
There also are cards and other accessories for the Magic, Pokemon and Dungeons and Dragons fantasy games and assorted versions of Monopoly featuring characters from such franchises as “Star Wars” and “Deadpool.”
Martin is aided occasionally by his son, Roman; and girlfriend, Cindy Hunter; and regularly by his brother, Tim, with whom he sold artistically crafted swords in a Wheeling store for a time.
Located in the Hooverson Heights suburb just outside Follansbee, the store has been a pharmacy and a restaurant over the years but in its various incarnations, was often a gathering place for local residents.
Martin said he hopes his shop will continue to fill that niche, adding with the cooperation and support of Larry Perez, the building’s owner, he has tried to create an overall fun atmosphere there.
Just inside the door is a Treasure Chest game machine that challenges players to use a mechanical claw to lift one of an assortment of Hot Wheels cars, action figures and other toys from its bottom.
“It’s tried and tested. Everything can be won. I sat there (playing it) for two hours to be sure,” said Martin.
He welcomes those interested in selling comics and other items, especially issues from the Silver Age (a period generally defined by comics buffs as the mid 1950s and 1960s) or Bronze Age (largely the 1970s), while stressing, “Good condition is everything.”
Martin also offers to help collectors find the rare issue or collectible they are seeking.
“If you’re looking for something, let me know. I know people who know people,” he said with a smile.
The store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Information about it can be found on its Facebook page at Marty’s Marvelous Comics and Collectibles Group.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)