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April 18, 2024

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Cameron’s Comics and Stuff invades downtown Bowling Green

Cameron’s Comics and Stuff

Downtown Bowling Green now has a comic store, called Cameron’s Comics and Stuff, that provides people with new comics, games and other merchandise. Owned by Johnathan Smith, Cameron’s Comics and Stuff is a place for nerdy Bowling Green residents to find their fix.

This comic store has been open for a few weeks in downtown Bowling Green. This is Smith’s second store, his first opened about a year ago in Adrian, Michigan. The sign out in front of the store, saluting both customer’s and passersby, reads “Greetings Earthlings.”

Bowling Green’s store has walls lined with comics, along with shelves in the middle for graphic novels and figurines. This store is bigger than the one in Adrian, but they both have bright orange walls and posters depicting dozens of superheroes.

Smith was looking for another opportunity in a downtown area, and Bowling Green was a good fit.

Even with two stores now, Smith keeps the store in the family, with his 16-year-old son, his girlfriend and other members helping out at both the stores.

Smith feels that, even though the store only opened a few weeks ago, things have been going really well and the community has really accepted him.

“I opened this store after my wife passed away and I needed something to do that was closer to my son. He was kind of interested in comics so this is what I did,” Smith said.

Smith is no stranger to comics either, he was a huge fan of “Calvin and Hobbes” in high school. His current favorite comic is “Batman.”

 “You can’t go wrong with ‘Batman,’” he said.

Before opening the store, Smith made trips to comic stores with his son on Wednesdays, but when that got expensive, he decided they should just open their own store and have all the comics that they want on hand, “I don’t know, it just kind of happened,” Smith said.

The store has shelves for $1 comics, new arrivals, graphic novels and general comics. They are all arranged in alphabetical order by title and then in numerical order by volume or issue. Comics come in issues, which are short, several page stories, like episodes and volumes are made up of several issues, like seasons.

The store is also home to two dogs, Bella and Calla, who roam the store and greet customers as they come in.

Comics, especially the most well-known superhero comics, have historically been known as “nerdy” or “geeky.” But now, superheroes have taken over the blockbuster industry, with multiple movies coming out every year, getting rave reviews and making millions of dollars. Before the movies, the Marvel Comics franchise started in 1939. It became well-known in the early 60s, and the movies have become a cultural phenomenon. 

Traditional “nerdy” things have made a cultural upturn, where people used to be bullied for liking science fiction, video games, collecting merchandise, reading comics and going to conventions are now part of “nerd culture” and are things that are considered fun.

These things still might be judged as “less than cool” but they have, nevertheless, gained a huge following.

Comic Con drew in about 100 attendees in its early days. Now, over 130,000 people attend the con to meet other fans, attend panels and buy merchandise for whatever they are into, According to the Comic Con website.

Cameron’s Comics and Stuff has also starting to host Rocket League tournaments, a video game that combines soccer and race cars.

Smith actually had a career racing and selling radio-controlled cars, and would travel the country selling parts for them. He started racing in high school but the cars kept getting bigger and more expensive. He raced them for almost 10 years, from 2003 to 2012.

“Those are actually like full-on racecars, it’s crazy. It’s not really a toy, they cost multiple thousands of dollars. Very expensive if you wreck them, they’re very expensive to fix,” Smith said. “I mean, I went around the country. That was my business. I sold the cars’ parts, engines and it didn’t hurt that I was pretty good at racing.”

Smith wants to host other “video game stuff” events as well, other than Rocket League. Board and card games are also on the table for events at the store.

This includes games like Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons that can be played in the back part of the shop. Table top games, but particularly, Dungeons and Dragons (frequently called D&D), have made a resurgence, especially online.

This can be attributed to the popularity of “Stranger Things,” a Netflix show that features D&D as a framing device for the conflict. Or, the multitude of “actual-play podcasts,” where people record themselves playing table top roleplaying games, like D&D.

One popular podcast is the “Adventure Zone,” hosted by three brothers and their dad, who recently finished up their first campaign after three years of playing. The Facebook page for the podcast has almost 30,000 likes.

Critical Role, a show hosted by several voice actors playing once a week for a few hours live online, also gets almost 30,000 views a week.

Many popular memes, like picking the “alignment” of yourself, objects or fictional characters, are based on a D&D game mechanic. 

Bea Fields, senior student at the University, has been to the comic shop many times since its opening. Bea did not know a lot about comics before coming into the store, but she’s excited to learn more.

“It’s cool because there is a lot of variety in the store. It’s not just mainstream comics. There is a whole bunch of stuff to look through. We were actually learning about comics in one of my classes when it opened so it was a cool combining of interests,” she said.

Cameron’s Comics and Stuff offers things for casual comic book fans, gamers and nerds of all kinds. While he won’t be opening a new store any time soon, he always had a dream of opening up shop in Chicago.

For now, though, Bowling Green residents are able to enjoy Cameron’s Comics and Stuff.

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