FOLLANSBEE – The doorway to a new store at 150 Rockdale Road in Hooverson Heights may seem no different than many small town stores, but stepping through it introduces visitors to a myriad of worlds filled with knights and wizards, superheroes and… Madmen are inhabited by scientists, vampires and zombies.
It is home to Marty’s Marvelous Comics and Collectibles, a merchandising center offering current and past issues of a variety of comics, figurines and toys inspired by various fantasy and sci-fi series; and games that allow players to take on the roles of such fantastic characters.
Its owner, Mike “Marty” Martin runs the business almost full-time when not working in another full-time job. But it doesn’t feel like work to him, he said.
“I’m past the point where I can do what I have to do. Now I do what I want.” said Martin, who had read comics as a youth and revisited them in recent years.
“One day I started reading Captain America comics again and it was fun, so I started reading it again.” he said.
In recent years, Martin has collected hundreds of comics which he has sold at conventions in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
And Martin still frequents the convention scene, bringing treasures that customers have been searching for and others they don’t yet know they must have.
And that can be not only a rare edition of “X-Men” or “Conan the Barbarian”, but also a statuette of the Crow, a comic book character from the 1990s who was featured in a popular action movie with an iconic character, or figurines, based on popular characters of Japanese anime.
For decades, the eastern nation has produced hundreds of animated films of various genres for youth and adult audiences only, and the related items are among the store’s bestsellers.
“When it comes to anime, it doesn’t last long. It’s in the door and it’s outside. We can’t get it fast enough” said Martin.
He said the store’s best-selling comics include Star Wars, Red Sonja, Vampirella, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Batman.
The store also has walls covered in Funko Pop figures, big-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 acknowledged that the popularity of the many Marvel comics-inspired films has aided sales, noting that his shelves contain numbers associated with the recent release of “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
There are also cards and other accessories for the fantasy games Magic, Pokemon, and Dungeons and Dragons, as well as different versions of Monopoly featuring characters from such franchises as: “War of stars” and “Dead Pool.”
Martin is occasionally assisted by his son Roman; and girlfriend, Cindy Hunter; and regularly by his brother Tim, with whom he for a time sold ornate swords in a shop in Wheeling.
Located in the Hooverson Heights suburb just outside Follansbee, the shop has been a pharmacy and restaurant over the years, but in its various incarnations it has often been a meeting place for local residents.
Martin said he hopes his business will continue to fill that niche, adding that with the collaboration and support of Larry Perez, the building’s owner, he’s tried to create an overall fun atmosphere there.
Just inside the door is a treasure chest gaming machine that challenges players to use a mechanical claw to lift one of a variety of Hot Wheels cars, action figures, and other toys off its floor.
“It has worked. Everything can be won. I sat there (played it) for two hours to be sure.” said Martin.
He welcomes those interested in selling comics and other items, particularly Silver Age (a period commonly defined by comic fans as the mid-1950s and 1960s) or Bronze Age (mostly the 1970s) issues, while emphasizing : “Good condition is everything.”
Martin also offers to help collectors find the rare edition or collectible they are looking for.
“If you’re looking for something, let me know. I know people who know people.” he said with a smile.
The shop is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit the Marty’s Marvelous Comics and Collectibles Group Facebook page.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])