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Astoria Characters: The Champion Of Comic Books

On the last cease on the N and Q strains, at the tip of a brief tunnel, there’s a circular dime-shiny signal that — Bam! Pow! Zap! — punches proper by way of the grey gloom of the subway station.

Look at it, up at the ceiling. It’s not a bird. It’s not a airplane. It’s Silver Age Comics, the tremendous-cool shop of superheroes.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Silver Age Comics opened in 1991.
For the final 25 years — Silver Age celebrated its silver anniversary in February — Batman, Superman, Surprise Lady, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Captain America, The Flash and their friends have convened here on the command of the mighty Gus Poulakas.

Gus, tall and skinny and horn-rimmed like Clark Kent, has never had occasion to wear a cape, however to Silver Age fans, he is a knight in shining armor.

These days, comedian e-book shops are as scarce as kryptonite. Silver Age is the just one left in Astoria and one of the few brick-and-mortar outlets on the planet that sells vintage as well as new books.

Photograph by Nancy A. Ruhling
The place superheroes know your title.
Gus, whose mother and father are from Cyprus, was born and raised within the neighborhood.

The youngest of three, he purchased his first comedian e-book, 1974’s Motion Comics’ Superman No. 438, whose cowl options a monster model of Lois Lane choking our hero, from a candy store near his home. It was 20 cents.

“It was the artwork but also the characters and story that attracted me,” he says.
Photograph by Nancy A. Ruhling
Gus stocks about 250,000 comic books.

For example, he pulls two pristine copies of Superman Double Function No. 76, revealed in Could/June 1952, off the rack.

On the cover, which was finished by Win Mortimer, Superman and Batman swoop all the way down to rescue Lois Lane, who’s trapped on the roof of a constructing, huge, vivid orange flames licking at her lengthy legs like wolves’ tongues.

“I might love to see Picasso draw 22 pages on deadline like Jack Kirby, who is my favourite comedian e-book artist,” Gus says. “These guys are so underappreciated.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Batman and Superman to the rescue.
The e book, which initially value a dime, goes for $800 to $1,300, relying on situation.

The sweet retailer was handy, so Gus kept going there.
That’s where, later in 1974, he plunked down a quarter for his first Wonderful Spider-Man, No. 134, wherein Peter Parker takes on Tarantula and The Punisher makes his second look.

By the time Gus was working his means through St. John’s University, the place he earned a degree in accounting, he had amassed fairly a set.

And that is all it was till a couple of year after graduation when Gus noticed that the subway space was available.

At one point, it had been an actual estate workplace and probably, Gus says, a nail salon as a result of when he moved in, the walls were painted pink.

Photograph by Nancy A. Ruhling
Gus started amassing at age 7.
If you’ve never visited Silver Age’s tunnel, likelihood is you’ve got seen it anyway: In 1973, the chase scene from Serpico was filmed there.

Gus grabbed the opportunity and shortly the shelves he built have been stocked together with his private assortment.

He named it Silver Age to signify the comics that had been produced from 1955 to 1969.
“These are my favorites,” he says. “The Golden Age, the time of the superheroes, ended within the late 1940s. In the Silver Age, they returned.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
He had a quick profession as an accountant.
The i beat daredevil shirt 1,100-sq.-foot space, which shakes with the subway, houses, as close as Gus can estimate, 250,000 comic books, outdated and new, in addition to motion figures and graphic novels.

“I’m shopping for all the time, and that i purchase other collections,” he says.
What he doesn’t do any extra is buy comics for himself. As a substitute, he collects the original drawings the books are printed from.

Picture by Nancy A. Ruhling
Silver Age Comics’ colorful front window.
“I have some nice items, together with the cowl art for that Superman 134 that I purchased when I was a kid,” he says.

Gus says that operating a comic book store is a enjoyable way to earn a dwelling.
“Individuals are available off the subway to decompress,” he says. “Sometimes, we have i beat daredevil shirt now silly conversations about superheroes, however different times we talk about actual points like politics. It’s like folks stopping in on the bar on Cheers.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Buyer Rayford Zapata browses the books.
If it takes a superhero to keep a mother-and-pop enterprise alive in the twenty first Century, Gus suits the bill.

He works seven days per week; when he’s not behind the counter, he’s at house posting comic books on eBay or working a booth at Comic Con.

“I’ve sacrificed every little thing for this place,” he says, smiling.
Photograph by Nancy A. Ruhling
At 25, Silver Age Comics is going for the gold.

Gus is turning 50, however there is no heir apparent on the horizon able to swoop in and rescue Silver Age Comics if he decides to retire.

His 15-year-outdated daughter, Zoe, has shown some interest, however she lives in Brooklyn together with her mom.
“She’s helped me out a few times,” Gus says. “I determine that if I can keep the store going, 20 years from now it is going to be a great way to keep myself busy.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com; @nancyruhling on Twitter, nruhling on Instagram.

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