While we tend to interview a lot of local artists and writers involved with comics, we sometimes forget that without the local shops giving them a chance to be featured, we'd never see them. So today we're going to look at one of the more prominent places in town.
--- Dr. Volt's Comic Connection has been a mainstay name in local comics for years. Providing an extensive library of past and current titles, catering to card role playing games, finding the best lines in action figures and collectibles, and more areas of the genre that I don't know where to start at. I got to chat with current owner Dave Landa about purchasing the shop and his history there, also talking up local and national comics and a few other subjects. Plus pictures from around the place.
Gavin: Hey Dave, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dave: I am a native Utahn, 33 years old. I went to school here through high school, and went to Montana for college before coming back to go the University of Utah. I majored in Environmental Studies... not exactly much use for it at the moment.
Gavin: How did you first get interested in comics?
Dave: I was interested as a kid, but my brother really got me back into comics after collage when I came back to Utah.
Gavin: What were some of your favorite titles growing up?
Dave: Growing up I read the main comic lines. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men comics. After coming back I started to get into some of the more independent titles, like Powers and Queen & Country.
Gavin: What brought about the idea of buying the shop come from?
Dave: I was a customer of Dr. Volts for a couple of years before that, while I fed my comic addiction. At the time I had finished collage and was working real estate (again not remotely related to my collage major), and recovering from a fairly serious illness. As I was recovering one of the things I enjoyed was being in the comic shop and even helping out with the shipments and customers. Around that time I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the real estate business and started looking for something else to do. The previous owner, Jon, was looking to sell the store and I jumped at the chance to do something that I loved. This all happened in 2001 and I have been running the store ever since.
Gavin:%uFFFD Do you know where did the name Dr. Volts from?
Dave: As I understand it the original owner who used to wrestle under that name.
Gavin: How did you go about setting up and finding the current location?
Dave: I moved the store to a larger location with the strip mall where it is located. I love the location and think it is a perfect place for a comic store. In fact when the larger space opened I immediately moved the store in and gained around twice as much space as before.
Gavin: What was it like that first year after you took over?
Dave: The first year that I was running things where very busy and challenging. In addition to moving the store to a new location, and I trust everyone knows what a pain moving is, I was learning how to navigate the often confusing world of comic ordering. Just trying figure out how many comics to order every month is a challenge when you are just starting out, hopefully I am little better now that I have been doing it the last eight years. Also getting to know what the customers want, and letting them get used to me took some time.
Gavin: You've been one of the longest running shops in the city. What's your view on the changes in both comics and readership over the years?
Dave: I think that over the years comics have transitioned from when the were mainly for kids and teenagers to now when the majority are marketed to adults. Story lines are now more interwoven throughout the books and require more time, not to mention money, to follow. Overall I believe that most comics today are much better that they were even ten years ago, however the flip side is that the comic companies are now charging much more than they used to. When I first started running the store the majority of comics were around $1 to $1.25, now the average is $3 to $4 dollars.
Gavin: The shop has one of the more extensive collections in the city as well. Was it simply just a matter of time to build this selection, or was there a thought-out process behind it?
Dave: It was mostly a matter of time, but there was a long term plan behind it. I saw early on that trade paperbacks would continue to be popular as people could buy an entire storyline in one go, instead of waiting every month to get one chapter of the story. So I gradually expanded my selection of trades as the various comic companies released more and more of their stories in that format. Now it is automatic for them to put out the compiled trade edition a month or two after they hit the six issue mark, for some stories it can even be as quick as two weeks. As for the toys and statues we have in the store, I constantly get requests to get one or the other toy series in that the big box retailers either don’t or won’t carry. So I try to order in the unique to hard to get toys that only come through the comic stores.
Gavin: After being around for so long, do you feel other local stores are competition or comrades?
Dave: We are on friendly terms with all of the local stores. I know that every once in a while if they sell out or don’t get something in I will help them out, and they do the same thing whenever that happens to me. I think a large amount of that is the fact that there are very few comic stores left in the valley and we want everyone to succed and be available to the fans.
Gavin: I know there's a debate on card-based games and whether to do anything with them or not, your store does. Was the a decision you jumped on board with immediately or worked your way into, and why?
Dave: We have always carried the card games, I think for a couple of reasons. One of the big ones is that we have a junior high school across the street from us and we get kids in all of the time looking for the games and places to hang out and play them. Another reason is that there isn’t a gaming shop in the area, so we have no real competition in the neighborhood.
Gavin: What is your take on the current local comic scene and the books coming out of it?
Dave: For the local comics I would say that there are some good books coming out, but unfortunately not as many as I would like to see. The problem the local comics have is that they have to compete with the hundreds of other titles that the big publishers are releasing. That plus the high cost of putting out your own comics at the moment make it difficult for the local independents to compete. I will say that I enjoy seeing local comics and would love to have more people bring them in.
Gavin: Who are some local artists and writers should people check out?
Dave: One of our favorites is Derek Hunter who does Pirate Club. He has it running as a web comic right now and is doing book releases every few months. Another is Dave Chisholm who just released a graphic novel of his comic Let’s Go To Utah.
Gavin: Going a bit national, what's your take on the comic book industry as it stands right now?
Dave: I would say that they are overproducing the books for Marvel and DC, and that we need to get more of the independent comics into the stores.
Gavin: What would you say are some of the best series in print right now?
Dave: I would say Powers (Icon), Planetary (Wildstorm), Blackest Night (DC), Fables (Vertigo), and Invincible (Image) are some of the best ones at the moment. I could go on but I would have to list about thirty more.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on online publishing and how some books are now going strictly to an internet format?
Dave: I think online publishing is a great way for some of the independent and smaller publishers to get their work out without having to compete with the big companies for the limited wall space in the comic stores. I also think it is perfect for viewing the older titles you can’t find or don’t want to pay huge amounts of money for. I don’t think it will affect most of the new releases or the trade sales yet. The technology isn’t there yet to duplicate the feeling of having a book in your hand, or filing a trade on the shelf that you can just pick up and read anytime you want to. I know that as nice as it is to be able to sit at a computer or use a hand held to read something, but it just lacks the full comic experience.
Gavin: Do you feel it will overtake publishing or will there always been a need for a hand-help copy?
Dave: I think in the future most comics will go digital, but we have to wait until the technology is ready. I would say we have many years left before that happens.
Gavin: Where do you see the state of comics over the next couple of years?
Dave: That is always difficult to tell, but I would say with the movies and TV series coming out based on comics that they will be a strong force for some time to come
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Dr. Volt's the rest of the year?
Dave: We will continue to reach out and spread the joy of comics. We will also be trying to have comic writer Jeff Parker come out and do a signing, Jeff is one of the bright lights of the comic industry and is working on some wonderful books.
Gavin: Aside the store, anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Dave: Besides the signing, I would just like to say come in to check out Blackest Night. It features the Green Lanterns, and is the best crossover book that DC has done in years.