Where is the Amazing Spider-Man when you need him? When the Planet Earth Comics & Collectibles store on State Road 52 was broken into early Sunday morning, no superhero showed up to save the day.
The task of catching the person or people who took almost $1,000 worth of comic books from the store has fallen to an entirely mortal Pasco Sheriff's Office deputy. Meanwhile, the two couples who bought the store last year are left to speculate on who took some of the store's most expensive items.
"I consider everyone who comes in here a friend," one of the owners, Cindy Teske, said Tuesday. "It hurts my feelings that way."
The initial report taken by the Sheriff's Office listed 11 missing books worth $475. After about 10 more books were found missing, the owners increased the estimate of their loss to $974.50.
The store has about 60,000 new and old comic books, as well as sports cards and fantasy figurines. The books all are neatly jacketed in polyethylene bags, and filed alphabetically, in a small shop in a plaza a mile east of U.S. 19. Cindy Teske, her husband, Gerald, and David and Tara Heywood take turns tending the business that has not lost the flavor of a hobby.
"This one has a really good atmosphere. I've been in 30 or 40 comic book stores in the past year, and this one has the best atmosphere," said Chris Leidenfrost, a 20-year-old West Pasco comic book collector.
The most expensive book taken in the burglary was a Marvel Daredevil No. 2, first published in the late '60s. It is in good condition and worth an estimated $275. In mint condition the book probably would be worth $400.
"It's just an old book and a big name. It had a character named Electro in it. (Book No. 2) is an early appearance for him" among Marvel publications, said co-owner David Heywood, who also teaches art at Hudson High School.
Other stolen books include a Spider-Man No. 1 issued last summer that was autographed by the writer and artist Todd McFarlane. It's valued at $37.50.
Some books begin to appreciate in value almost immediately after publication, Heywood said. A book sold for $1 might go for $2 or $5 within months.
"Even the little kids, they always ask, "Is this one going to go up?'
" Heywood said.
Spider-Man is the most popular comic book sold at the store. Ninety-three customers have standing orders for the latest monthly issue. The second most popular book is Batman, which has 61 subscriptions at the store.
Heywood estimated that half the customers are teen-agers, half are adults. There is a variety of comic books, from traditional superheros to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to books reserved for adults, and others based on television shows.
There are The Punisher, Avatar and even Doom Patrol.
"This Monster Unmasked," the Captain America installment that sold for 12 cents in April 1967, seemed upon a rereading on Tuesday to have lost none of its vigor with the passing of the years.
This week, the owners certainly wouldn't mind any help from a superhero.
"We'd like to get the stuff back if we could," co-owner Gerald Teske said. "The value for a robbery isn't that great, but the feeling that some one could come in and steal from us. ... It's upsetting."