New comic book store seeks to enrich Starkville

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

Starkville’s newest - and only - comic book store held a grand opening celebration on Saturday that featured costumes, face-painting, snacks, live music and specials.

Located on Washington Street between Restaurant Tyler and Southern Billiards, The Last Page officially opened on May 9, but used the occasion Saturday to truly show the store was open not only for business, but to the community.

Starkville native Jenni Kilburn, whose favorite comic books involve the Marvel character Deadpool, said she was ecstatic to finally have a comic book store in Starkville.

“Been wanting one for a long time so (the opening) got me super pumped about it,” Kilburn said.

When asked if should would be interested in the store’s $1,000 copy of The New Mutants #98, which was printed in February 1991 and was the first appearance of Deadpool, all she could do was wish.

“I doubt that,” she laughed.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

The small business is a family affair, as owner and Air Force veteran Sky Thompson is joined by her parents, Bob and Penny Thompson, sister Cat Thompson and dog Atlas.

Sky expressed gratitude to the steady flow of customers, some in costume, who filled the store on Saturday.

“We’ve had a lot of good reception even before today, especially without the college kids here,” she said. “It’s great how many people have turned out.”

The inspiration to begin the store originated with her father, though, who has owned two comic book stores - one in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and one in Panama City, Florida.

Penny, who was in the Air Force at the time the couple owned their Florida store, received orders to Oklahoma City, so the couple closed their store and Bob kept all of the leftover inventory - about 100 boxes of comics, which have been in storage for about 20 years.

“I told (Sky) she could have that and open the store and use it as back stock,” he said. “We get new shipments every Wednesday.”

Bob, who works as the IT director for a company out of Atlanta, moved his home office to the store to help out as needed.

In his career, the has seen the market boom for comic books and has seen it at its low points.

“I wish they’d had the movies back in the 80s,” he said. “It would have helped, but it’s made a big resurgence.”

While the reception during the first month of business has been exceptional, Bob said he knows they will be even busier once college students return.

“They’re going to be your biggest customers and they are into the gaming as well,” he explained. “We’ve got tables in the back and they’ve already been in here until eight, nine or 10 o’ clock at night playing games.”

Penny then explained one of the store’s digital features.

On the store’s website and Facebook page, customers can access an electronic pull list subscription, which will allow them to grab inventory in the store before it is sold out.

“If you want a certain comic pulled, you will get a 10 percent discount,” she said.

While the entire Thompson family can be seen buzzing around the store, Sky referred to having the family unit in the store as a “support system.”

“It's really cool to work with them … Dad's done it all before, so I already have the info on how to not run a store and stuff,” she said. “And he's always had comics, so I grew up reading them. It gave me an appreciation for literature and art at an early age.”

OFFERINGS

Future plans call for the 2,000-square-foot store to play host to events geared toward gamers, such as Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering.

The owners of the store also hope to get certified by Wizards of the Coast, the gaming publisher responsible for the aforementioned titles and other science fiction and fantasy games. A certification would mean the store could officially host gaming tournaments.

Also, the newly-formed Starkville Cosplay Group will use the store to host events and workshops for costume lovers.

Sarah Norris, head of the Starkville CosPlay Group, was dressed as a springtime version of Persephone, the mythical Greek queen of the underworld and wife of Hades.

Norris, a Starkville native who just moved back from Tampa, said she hopes the group can start meeting in August on Saturday afternoons once a month, for workshops such as basic sowing and basic leatherwork.

“When I moved back, I really just want to help facilitate as much creativity as possible,” she said. “I really think it will expand the community in a lot of ways, we have almost 40 people who have signed up and it’s really exciting because it’s so many more people than I anticipated.”

Andy Childress, a local cartoonist from Louisville, was set up at the grand opening selling books and hanging out with Rosco, a red monster puppet with a small puppet of his own.

Childress said he missed the days when Starkville had a comic book store and was happy to see The Last Page open its doors.

“You get a community out a brick and mortar shop,” he said. “You get the comic book readers, novel readers, gamers, cosplayers, cartoonists, you get everybody and it gives you a place where you can meet up face-to-face with folks.”

Childress also said he looks forward to the next Free Comic Book Day, which is on the first Saturday of May every year. Now, he will no longer have to drive to the Gulf Coast for the comic book community’s most exciting day.

“I’m just happy.”

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