News / USA

Comic Book Heroes Expand Their Reach

Greg Flakus

Marvel Comics has entertained people for decades with characters like Spiderman, the Hulk and Captain America. But with the growing popularity of video games and Internet entertainment, comic book creators have had to expand the settings and themes of their stories. They are now bringing their characters and stories to various parts of the United States.

Fans from all over Houston and beyond came to the 8th Dimension Comic Book Store to meet the author and artist who created Marvel Comics new series “Scarlet Spider,” which is set right here.

“On behalf of the city of Houston, thank y'all for incorporating us," said a woman.

Scarlet Spider is the Houston-based character that was, er, “spun off” from Spiderman, and 18-year-old fan Stephanie Burgess recognizes some of the downtown settings.

“Looking through this was pretty cool because I see some of the buildings, they look pretty familiar," said comic book fan Stephanie Burgess.

It was a good business day for store owner Jeremy Bulloch, who is also excited about having a comic book story set in his home town.

“I own a comic shop, but first and foremost I am a comic book fan, so as a fan I am super-excited that this is going on," said Bulloch.

Bulloch says having a series like this also helps sales of older comics, which often sell well above their original cost as they become attractive to collectors.

“The collector mentality is a big part of the comic book industry and what makes comic books fun," he said.

These books attract young and old readers.

“My folks had a grocery store and we would stand in front of the comic books stand and go through all of them," said a woman.

Many fans say they enjoy the depictions of fantastic characters and the worlds they inhabit.

The author of the new Scarlet Spider series, Christopher Yost, tries to make those elements resonate with readers.

“I think comic books are the new mythology and if you look at movies and video games, so many of the big summer blockbusters are based on comic books," said Yost.

Most of Marvel Comics’ super heroes are based in New York, but the company is now establishing new characters in other cities, like Houston, where Yost sees lots of possibilities for story lines.

“Houston seemed like a good place because, A, it is a place the Marvel universe has not seen before and, B, with its proximity to Mexico and its proximity to the Gulf, it has a lot of new opportunities," he said.

Yost says a future episode will have scenes set on an oil rig in the nearby Gulf of Mexico.

Artist Ryan Stedman used online images for scenes in the first part of the series, but relatives who live here in Houston will be taking him around for a firsthand look.

“We are going to look at all the stuff and I am going to take pictures and try and get a good feel for the city so that I can do more of those little details that I think are so important," said Stedman.

But, given concerns about U.S. education, shouldn't young people be reading “real books?” Not according to fourth grade teacher and comic book fan Debbie Cook.

“Reading is reading, whatever you can do to get them to be better at reading, understanding - I encourage them to read anything they can," said Debbie Cook.

So, there you have it, comic books can be good for you, although Jeremy Bulloch says “fun” is still paramount.

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