Gauging superhero-movie excitement at Vegas comic stores

Ralph Mathieu at his store, Alternate Reality Comics
Photo: Wade Vandervort

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s popularity has been fueled by an excessively consistent release schedule over the past 15 years. The expectations and excitement generated by those movies has bled into DC Films under the Warner Brothers banner and other comic-book and superhero-inspired movies, pushing the genre to the top of the box office.

The pandemic temporarily derailed that trend, but things are getting back on track with the upcoming Black Widow (July 9), The Suicide Squad (August 5), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3) and others. A quick survey of local comic book shops reinforces what you’re already thinking—fans of these stories and characters can’t wait to get back to theaters and see the latest contributions to this universe.

“When you’re watching these movies, you want to see them on the big screen with the sound and the graphics and everything,” says Kanon Bene, manager at Torpedo Comics (7300 Arroyo Crossing Parkway #105, 702-444-4432). “Marvel especially is always the weekly buzz, with people talking about what happened in the last episode of WandaVision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. [Marvel] is doing an excellent job of introducing different characters.”

Those streaming series on Disney+, along with watch-at-home releases like Wonder Woman 1984 and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, have kept comic book fans eagerly awaiting delayed films like Black Widow.

“I think the [buzz on Black Widow] has slowed down a bit, but I’m cautiously optimistic, and I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to that one as with the second Wonder Woman movie, which was not as strong as the first,” says Ralph Mathieu, owner of Alternate Reality Comics near UNLV (4110 S. Maryland Parkway, 702-736-3673). “At times the constant delays make me worry that expectations have gotten too high and people have moved on to something else, but Marvel usually makes good movies. And with the vaccines out there, it looks encouraging; people want to go out.”

Steven Riddle, owner of the oldest shop in the state in Velvet Ground (825 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-258-2689), points out that while the explosion of superhero movies has impacted the comic book biz, movie fans and comic collectors aren’t necessarily the same people, so the film industry’s struggles haven’t hurt stores like his.

“When they come into the store with no movies for a year, there hasn’t been any buzz at all [about movies]. Most of the time they’re conversing strictly about the comics,” Riddle says. “People are going to be passionate about going back to theaters, but the comics themselves have hung in there.

“Here’s what happens with the movies: When we find out they are introducing new characters, collectors try to look for the first appearance of those characters in comic books, which we call key issues. That’s what brings a lot of hype. If comic book collectors know characters are going to be in a new movie or a [streaming] show based on those comics, they go cuckoo.”

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An award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers live ...

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