STeve Howe welcomed a customer to his new comic shop last week, where Seidr’s Den opened in a former gas station on North Center Street in Casper.
“Feel free to take a look,” Howe said on the store’s third day open. “If you have any questions let me know.”
He and his staff give customers their space to browse. But if they choose, customers could find themselves in the middle of a conversation about comics or games.
“It’s the most rewarding business I’ve ever owned,” Howe said, “because it’s also a dream come true after almost 30 years.”
Howe has wanted to own his own comic book store since he was 14 years old. He opened Seidr’s Den last year in a smaller space shared with his other business, Norse Vapor, a few blocks south. Then he found out about the request during Casper Comic Con in June, he said. So he expanded the store to 2,200 square feet, which offered plenty of parking in a friendly location. He even uses some of the old gas station’s coolers to store cold drinks, he said. The official store opening is Sunday.
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Ever since he was a kid, Howe has spent time in comic book stores whenever he can. He was talking with owners or managers of comics and scripts, he said.
“I always wanted to be that guy behind the counter and be able to share that information with others,” he said. “And now I have it. And it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life that isn’t being a father.
Build a community
During the first hour of Casper’s first comic-con, sales from the Seidr’s Den booth exceeded what Howe expected for the weekend, he said.
“Comic Con is the reason we decided to move Seidr from inside our other business to here is that they had almost six times more visitors than expected and we achieved 300% more sales than expected,” he said.
It was a “wild wake-up call” to Casper’s demand for comics, he said. Most of the customers were locals who said they buy their comics in Denver but would shop in town first, he said.
“I didn’t know how many people were real comic book fans here in town,” he said, “because comic books are still this hidden geek genre subculture where nobody talks about it. And so to find out that there were so many people in so many walks of life who were comic book fans who would buy every week if you got what they want got us really excited and we’re heading towards that.
Seidr’s Den is the only new comic book store in town, and Howe plans to increase stock of back issues to 10,000 by November, he said. But there’s more to the store than shelves of comics, games and collectibles, he said.
“I mean, yeah, the money will come to the store,” Howe said. “But building a community together and having fun together is more important than anything else.”
That’s why the shop will be hosting a slew of events, including a regular comic swap day for people to swap their comics with others, a new comic book day every Wednesday, and a Halloween Comic Fest on Oct. 26 with free comics and a costume contest for kids and adults, he says. Every week, Monday Movie Madness offers a free movie at 5 p.m. in the store, followed by a Magic: The Gathering tournament. Anyone who correctly guesses the film’s title based on a weekly hint posted on the store’s Facebook page will receive in-store discounts, he said. The store will also host game tournaments for Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dungeons & Dragons, and Warhammer.
“Plus, people can come in and meet other people to run their own campaigns, whether it’s in-store or private, to build that community,” Howe said. “They get what they’re looking for from, you know, geek culture.”
The staff, whom Howe has decided to call “den keepers,” add their own expertise. Howe’s son and co-owner of the shop, Christian, takes care of the gaming side. He’s been an avid gamer since Howe introduced him to Magic many years ago and loves the comics.
“We can both have our parts of the store and touch each other’s worlds in terms of moving from games to comics and vice versa,” Howe said. “And we’re able to build a two-tier community, which is pretty common in big cities.”
The shop’s name comes from the Norse word for magic, Howe said.
“Specifically, it’s the Norse word for love magic,” he said. “And we love Magic here, so that’s fine with us.”
Store manager Zach Reiser has been a comic book fan for a decade and finally has a shot at his ultimate goal “to get paid to be a nerd,” he said. He’s happier that he’s never helped build the comic book shop or game store he’s always wanted in town.
He keeps up to date with comic news and releases, and he’ll talk about any comic topic everyone wants to discuss. He pointed to a few prized numbers displayed behind the counter, including Steve Ditko’s latest “Spider-Man” cover and the rare “Fantastic Four” #26, “The Avengers Take Over,” which was among early Marvel crossovers and featured Aunt Petunia’s first reference, he said. Others in stock include a story of Captain America giving up on being a superhero and an issue with the second appearance of Kraven the Hunter, who was responsible for Spider-Man’s second worst life experience when he buried the living superhero. , he said.
Reiser discovered his love for comics as a teenager in Casper, where there was no comic book store for most of that time, he said.
“We’re mainly trying to build community,” he said. “Just a bunch of people who have a passion for comics and people who lack a place to pursue their passions – not just a place that sells comics but a place that loves comics, basically.”
Growing up with comics
Howe’s parents didn’t think much of comic books and wouldn’t buy them. So he mowed lawns, babysat and washed cars to read them. Comic books and the culture around them have been an integral part of Howe’s life since his formative years, he said. The many successful comic book hero movies show how far their influence has spread across pop culture, he said.
“And everyone from my generation does because of the importance of comics in our childhood in the 80s and 90s,” he said.
The comics’ popularity waned for years, Howe said, until “Iron Man” and other comic book-based movies brought in new fans, Howe said. He reckons most comic book fans under 30 started with the recent Marvel movies.
Robert Stover walked into the store last week and purchased “Deadpool” and “Spider-Man” issues after spotting the new store on Facebook. He loved movies growing up and recently started getting into comic books, he said. His daughter learns to read and he introduces her to comics.
“The Spider-Man I can read with her, so that’s cool,” Stover said.
Howe was personally influenced by stories like “Uncanny X-Men,” with characters from different walks of life and countries banding together against oppression, he said.
“Basically, the story of X-Men started as an alternate reality vision of 1960s America, so stopping the discrimination and stopping the sexism,” he said, “and that really made me influenced by being a very accepting individual, regardless of race, gender, identity, religion, all of that.
Howe recalled a defining moment as a collector around the age of 14 when he picked up the first issue of “Fookiller”, which sparked a lifelong love for the character and an interest in the non-super power, anti-hero side of comics. He sees his store as a place where comic book and game fans of all ages can stumble upon such finds, find things they’re looking for, and hang out with others with common interests, he said. -he declares.
Parents can add money to children’s accounts at the store so that they can choose what they want themselves. Store staff will ensure he only receives age-appropriate products unless he has parental approval, Howe said. Children under 18 could not browse previous comic book selections inside the Steam store without parental supervision.
Howe still visited comic book stores as the family moved across the country with his father’s military career, and he even visited some overseas. Today, he continues to share his love for comics.
“The stores I like to go to are the ones where the people who work there will interact with you instead of just checking you out when you’re done,” he said. “So I really wanted to bring what I love about the comic book stores I visit in Casper.”
Follow journalist Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner