It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s … a comic book store.

According to comichron.com, comic sales have steadily been on the rise since 2012. Sales dipped in 2017 but bounced back in a big way in 2018.

Combined print and digital download sales in 2018 were just under $1.1 billion. A breakdown shows that in 2018, comic stores had higher sales than digital downloads.

Two Killeen comic book stores have noticed the increase in sales as well: Book Stan, 204 N. Fort Hood St., Suite D, and America’s Heroes Comics and Games, 3401 W. Stan Schlueter Loop, Suite 8.

Prior to looking up the numbers from Comichron, Terry “Stan” Stanley, owner of Book Stan, said sales have trended up.

“Right now, I think comic books are the strongest they’ve been in the 40 years I’ve been in business,” Stanley said.

He opened a store in Beaumont on June 1, 1979, — which is still open — while the Killeen store opened Oct. 1, 1991. Stanley has run the Killeen store since 1996.

He joked that he had the “longest chain in Texas.”

Stanley attributes the rise of sales in his store to the recent movies from Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

“The movies have helped the most lately,” he said.

Stanley said the biggest sellers in his store are from Marvel and DC, but he also said “The Walking Dead” and independent comics generate a good amount of business.

Stanley also appeals to gamers and hosts tournaments for games such as, but not exclusive to, “Dungeons & Dragons” or “Magic: The Gathering.”

Many customers return to Book Stan for the gaming, including Killeen residents Woodbridge Bullock, 36, and Ryan Richardson, 25.

“Stan’s is one of those places people keep coming back to because of who plays here,” Bullock said.

“It’s a very friendly community for new gamers,” Richardson said. “Everybody here is usually willing to teach.”

America’s Heroes opened in 2007 and current owner Earl Daigle took over in December of 2010.

Daigle worked at Book Stan from June 1997 to November 2008 and has known Stanley since 1990.

He said that from his perspective, the comic book industry in Killeen is “pretty good.”

He also said many people in the Killeen area still prefer the print version of the books.

“Nationwide you hear a lot about digital comics, and while there are some people around this area that do get the digital comics, there are a lot of individuals that still buy the hard copies,” Daigle said.

Daigle attributes some success to the increase in business to the movies, however, he said it is mainly due to a younger readership.

“We’re getting a lot of parents who read comics as a kid who are wanting to get their kids to read comics,” Daigle said.

He said reading comics is a good way for kids who are learning to read.

In terms of mainstream media that helped the comic sales, Daigle attributes that to “The Walking Dead.”

“‘Walking Dead,’ the TV show, helped the comic sales tremendously for quite a few years,” he said.

Daigle’s biggest seller, however, is “Batman.”

“It’s always been the leading seller for years,” he said.

Daigle said it is hard for stores that sell just comics. He said they need to diversify and sell other things like games or collectible figures.

In his store, he sells both. Although he does not have room for in-store gaming, he still sells cards and other gaming accessories.

For comic and game lovers alike, both stores appear to be able to cater to a buyer’s desire.

Time will tell how long the upward comic sales trend will continue, but Book Stan and America’s Heroes look to continue to be mainstays in Killeen for years to come.

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