IN THIS era of technology you’d be forgiven for thinking that most people don’t buy books or comics any more and that their main reading experience is done online.
Well that’s not the case.
In fact, one Mountrath man firmly debunked that idea two months ago, when he opened up Celtic Comics in Portlaoise, the only comic shop in the midlands.
Martin Moore was born and reared on comic books such as the Beano, Dandy, Hornet, Topper, Commando and Lion.
You could say that he is a fanatical pannapictagraphist – an avid collector of comic books.
“It was our TV at the time,” he said. “There were no videos and only one television and radio station when I was growing up, so we got all our enjoyment from reading books and comics.”
Martin would be well known from his late father John and his mother Lily, who ran the Olympic Arms in Mountrath for many years.
Now 51 years of age and a former self-employed decorator, Martin said: “Throughout my life I amassed a huge collection of comics that I stored up. A couple of years ago I tried buying and selling a few online and was massively surprised by the amount of people, both young and old, who were interested in comics.
“I also used to attend comic conventions around the country and thought to myself I could organise one for Portlaoise. So during the Portlaoise Fort Festival I ran one and at the same time opened up my shop here in Railway Street. We were so delighted with how the Comic Con went in Portloaise that we have booked out the entire O’Loughlin’s hotel as well as its car park for two days next year and we are expecting up to 2,500 to attend the event.”
Mr Moore said that following research, he realised that there were no comic shops anywhere in the midlands, with the nearest being in Dublin, Cork or Galway.
“So I decided to open up the shop here in Portlaoise. In the past two months since opening, I have been kept very busy.
“I disagree entirely that people are moving online to the internet to do their reading. What I am experiencing every day in the shop is that people do read comics and large numbers are taking more and more interest in them.”
Mr Moore said that it’s just not comics that he stocks in his shop but graphic novels, vintage toys, manga books, super-hero figures, posters, Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh! trading cards as well as vinyl LPs. He also offers a comic recycling scheme, whereby customers who buy 12 comics can return them and get another 12 for €5.
He said that comic prices start at €1 each, with the most expensive in the world – a rare first-edition issue of a Spiderman comic – costing €5.55 million which, he hastily adds, he hasn’t got, but has a photocopy of its front cover.
He also has collectables and takes orders and deposits for comic stocks from as far back as the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s that he may not have in the shop.
“I have a solid, regular customer base that is growing weekly. Every Friday I hold a free draw for those who purchased anything from me during the week as well as hosting a free dungeons and dragons session every Friday evening from 4pm,” he said.
Martin said that not long after the shop opened, Scoil Chríost Rí student Megan Farrell sought work experience with him. He said: “She has been a huge asset in the shop and on top of that she is a brilliant artist, which is a major plus for this kind of shop.”
The official opening of the shop took place last Saturday, with some of the biggest graphic novel artists in Ireland present.
You can find out more about the Celtic Comics shop on its Facebook page or by phoning Martin on 083 3976871.