In medieval times, it was a common practice of cartographers to fill up unexplored regions of their maps with images of mythological creatures. These areas represented the frontiers of the know and unknown, the accepted and the unaccepted, but more importantly they represented the point where empirical knowledge ceased and the only ships that sailed forward did so on the winds of imagination, It is in these blank spots where possibilities stretch towards the infinite, where titans walk among mortals, where science soars towards impossible heights and magic sloughs off any rules placed upon it.One industry in particular has been exploring these realms and reporting upon them since the 1930’s and just behind a set of unimposing glass doors on Main Street you can see it all for yourself at Dave’s Comic Shop.
Dave Hinson, the owner of Dave’s Comic Shop, has been in the comics business for nearly forty years, although he has been a comics collector for most of his life. Dave describes that, as a child, reading comics was the highlight of his leisure time, and that trips to the Newsstand on Main Street Rock Hill represented a special degree of freedom, as his mother allowed him to walk five or six blocks from home to pick up new issues. Dave shared his collection with a friend for years, keeping their comics at the friend’s house until the friend got married, and brought the whole collection to Dave. In 1968, Dave bequeathed his collection to his brother, but four years later, while at a flea market, he encountered a man selling comics for ten to twenty dollars a piece. Realizing the collectable value of his childhood pastime, Dave and his brother began traveling throughout the country buying, selling and trading comics.
In 1979, Dave’s brother got married and left the business. When asked if the parallels between his childhood friend’s and his brother’s departure from comic collecting due to marriage indicated that comics collecting and marriage were somehow diametrically opposed, Dave indicated that many of his best customers were women who, like most comics readers, were drawn to the complex stories, characters and art represented in the medium. When asked to expand on what turns a comic book reader into a comic book collector he points out that any comic reader, of any scale, tends to keep their comics and are proud of them.
When asked to comment on technology and its impact on print materials in general, Dave replied, “Comics will hold their value in print, because you get your money’s worth the first time you read them.” He continued, stating, “A comic is story driven and through the combination of a low print run, an exceptional artist and engaging story the collectable value of that comic can greatly increase.” Like any collecting, the thrill of discovering a rare comic is quite exhilarating. Personally, Dave enjoys discovering comics from the 1940’s including such characters as Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner which were printed when his parents were children. Nothing that many of these characters are still prevalent in popular culture today. Dave indicated television and feature films have affected the comic industry positively as modern kids are introduced to the comic culture through these prevalent mediums and seek more stories about the characters they come to love.
As to the fate of the comic book shop itself, Dave says he has no worries. His regular customers are like family and with each new shipment, there preferred titles are set aside for each of them. Dave will even take you on in a game of Chess if you have time or simply the nerve. One of these regular customers, Mr. John Brunson of Clover SC, when asked what he likes about Dave’s shop and comics in general replied that he had been shopping at Dave’s shop for nearly thirty years. He states, “Dave’s Comics is authentic.” and that further added that he has passed his love of comics to his son, who at 10 years of age has three boxes of comics all his own. He also mentions that the only thing that curbs the growth of his collection is possessing the space to keep them all. He feels the relationship of the shop with its regular and emerging customers will support comic shops and comics in general, despite innovations in technology.
Dave’s Comics opened its doors on Main Street Fort Mill in 1982, relocating to Rock Hill in 1989, and reopening in Fort Mill in 1995. Dave says he missed operating in Fort Mill, and enjoys the slightly slower pace and friendlier aspects of a smaller town. Dave is also there to helpguide the uninitiated in their discovery of the comics culture. Dave maintains three full racks and thousands of titles for kids and is always on hand to explain the rating systems to parents and to guide the children to stores they will enjoy. Dave also partners with Mr. Rick Fortenberry, a fellow collector from Charlotte NC, to operate what is arguably the best one day family friendly comic book convention in the country. Begun in 1995 and now held several times per year at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Executive Park Hotel, the Charlotte Comicon boasts an array of vendors, guests, and events which draw hundreds of attendees to each convention throughout the year. The impetus behind the formation of the Charlotte Comicon was an observation that the amount of children attending other conventions in the 1990’s was waning. The joy comics had brought Rick and Dave as children was something they did not wish to see lost for other generations, so an event which would engage the whole family was conceived. Today, the Charlotte Comicon draws participation from fans who attend in costume, dressed in the style of their favorite characters. Storm troopers mix peacefully amongst Star fleet officers and anime avatars, while collectors and kids feed their imagination on the spectacle. Details of the event can be found online at charlottecomincon.com.
Dave shared a regret that at one time he had in his possession a copy of Detective Comics No. 27, a pre-World War II comic featuring Batman’s debut. This comic can fetch upwards of $400,000 if it is in good condition. He also mentioned that he is always looking to buy, so take a hard look at the next stack of dusty books you see at a yard sale, there could be comic book gold amongst them. Dave puts it best stating, “I have never seen a misspelled word in a comic book.” Indicating that as a vehicle to get kids into reading you could do far worse than a comic book. So the next time you need an adventure into the worlds of the imagination, for you or your family, navigate by Dave’s Comics on Main Street. There may even be a mighty dragon or two waiting for you inside the undiscovered country of your local comic shop.