If the life-size Spider-Man hanging on the wall outside is not enough to let customers know what to expect when walking into Emerald City Comics, the innumerable comic books and paraphernalia available inside should. Here, they take comic books seriously.
The place is a comic book superstore that carries everything else the culture encompasses. From the old — like a first-edition X-Men comic book written by Stan Lee ($2,200) — to the new — like Dexter ($3.99), who like The Vampire Diaries and Sons of Anarchy transitioned from TV screen to the printed page — Emerald City has them all.
Neil Johnson, a comic book fan and collector himself, started the store back in 1989. With the years the store grew so large it needed two locations. In 2013 they both merged into the Clearwater superstore.
The crowd is as diverse as the comics available. From kids looking for My Little Pony or Scooby-Doo to parents who are introducing their children to Spider-Man and Iron Man to diehard adult fans who visit every Wednesday for new issues of The Walking Dead or The Avengers.
There are also gamers, but the games they're looking for are all played completely offline, with no Internet or even an electrical outlet required. New board games like Forbidden Island ($17.99), which make all players work together to beat the game, or adaptations of new ones like The Walking Dead Risk ($59) are the top choices for these young adults.
To keep fanatics interested and casual readers entertained, Emerald Comics takes it a step further with merchandising. Around the store the staff, which is comprised exclusively of comic fans and experts, arranges themed displays that change periodically.
For Cinco de Mayo, an entire wall of comics featured heroes and villains of Mexican heritage. For Stan Lee's birthday in December, that same wall might feature some of the most famous and more obscure titles by the comic book legend. And if, against all odds, a customer wants a title they don't have, the staff will swoop in just like its beloved heroes and save the day by special-ordering it. They will probably start reading it, too.