4th Wall Comics opens in Lancaster
It's been a recipe for success for movie studios for a while now; take super heroes and turn them into a blockbuster hit on screen. From Batman, to Spiderman to even Antman, audiences continually sell out theaters to take a look at their favorite super heroes.
But before reaching the silver screen, the heroes appeared in a much simpler form – a character in a comic book.
The newly opened 4th Wall Comics at 1224 Millersville Pike in Lancaster, are keeping the heroes in their original form, and the customers have been flowing steadily in and out since its May 29 opening.
"It's been really busy. We've been getting a steady amount of people each day," said Jim Mathison, one of the three owners of the store. "It's very rare, even during the afternoon hours, where we don't have at least one person in the store."
Along with Mathison, his brother, Jeff – who wasn't available for the interview – is one of the owners, as well as Jared Wolf.
"We were shooting for May 1, the day before National Comic Book Day for our grand opening, but we wanted to have more stock in. We had to work on that," Wolf said. "The grand opening exceeded expectations greatly. We've had nonstop traffic. We did a 20 percent off everything sale, as well as a DJ and an art gallery, which brought a lot of people in."
Along with the 20 percent off sale that 4th Wall had, they plan on implementing a membership card that will give regulars five percent off of a purchase.
"It's something. You can also choose if you want to be a super villain or a super hero. We'll have sales that rotate depending on which one you are," Mathison said. "We're trying to have a lot of interaction with whoever comes in here."
The three began their love with comics at a young age, but Wolf and Jim Mathison worked together at a comic store in York to get their start and understanding of the industry.
"We both have loved comics since we were young. I started to read them at age 9, and he (Jim) was watching creature films with his parents and such," Wolf said. "I worked at a shop in York for 10 years, and Jim worked there with me for two or three years. We got to know the industry enough, so we were confident to take the opportunity and do it."
So it didn't out of the blue one night, as they had a combined 13 years of experience in the business before deciding to start one of their own in a prime spot in Lancaster.
"I think it was my brother and my dad who came down here, and I don't know if they were getting something to eat or seeing a movie, but they saw this spot. We were looking at a few spots in the city that looked OK, but this place is perfect," Mathison said. "It's next to a movie theater that was just remodeled and the parking is huge here. In the city, there's no parking. That would be really annoying for people."
"We have big spurts on Wednesday for the new releases, but we have people coming in on Thursday, Friday and Saturday that couldn't make it in on Wednesday," Wolf added. "To have 10 or 15 people at a time, it would be bad for them to pay the meters in downtown Lancaster."
Like the idea of the store, the name 4th Wall wasn't out of nowhere, either.
"Are you familiar with 'Saved by the Bell' or 'House of Cards?'" asked Mathison.
Well, yeah. Who isn't?
"When everyone freezes and Zach Morris talks to the audience or when Francis Underwood does it, that's called breaking the fourth wall," Mathison explained. "Our idea of the comic store is that you have the whole normal world, but then you have the comic world where you can walk into and break into a Sci-Fi world. You can forget about your dull life and being depressed about paying bills. We wanted this to be a fun space to be in."
And the owners convey that, as they are both passionate about their job and hobby. Wolf has gone as far to get a tattoo of one of his favorite comic books "Promethea" on his arm.
"Having a passion for this stuff, where one of the biggest things we want to do here is talk to someone when they walk through the door. We want to make sure that they know we're into this stuff," Mathison said. "We aren't this dark, dank comic store where they come in and have to hunt for their own stuff. We want them to be open and feel comfortable."
"We all have lives outside of here, but this is the most important thing to us right now. We're passionate about it and we know others are, too," Wolf added. "We want to fuel that. We get excited by turning other people on to it, as well."
The store, which is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., has to tackle an issue that it didn't face back in the day with digital counterparts. The book industry has faced it. The music industry has faced it. What makes the 4th Wall guys so confident that the comic industry can come out on top?
"As far as I know from articles, the industry is growing with movies, television shows and everything. I think that comic fans like the physical copy, because a lot of them are collectors. I know I like the physical copy a lot," Wolf said. "I like the smell of them, and I just like the texture of them in my hands. I enjoy collecting them. The graphic novels are great on a bookshelf. To me, bookshelves are timeless."
"I think it's just collecting stuff," Mathison added. "When we were kids, people played Pokemon or played cards where they collected things. We're adults now, so just collecting comics or records are great. We're at an age of collecting things, and it's cool to have a store where you can get certain things for your own collection instead of downloading it on an iPad that doesn't have that soul to it. I like holding the paper and smelling the old books."