NORMAN — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all have a headquarters in Norman. It’s no secret lair; the location is Speeding Bullet Comics, 614 N. Porter Ave. in a strip mall alongside a battery shop and Mexican food store. Annette and Matthew Price have operated the establishment there since 1998.
“I’m pleased we’ve been here this long,” Matthew Price said. “Most years have been pretty positive but with recessions there have been times that are trickier than others. Our goal has been to stay relentlessly positive by promoting literacy and helping kids, schools and libraries as opposed to being here to get rich.”
Speeding Bullet was nominated for the comics industry’s Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award in 2005. Besides owning and operating this small business Price has been a features editor for the The Oklahoman newspaper since 2000. His column on comics, titled Word Balloons, has run in the paper’s Weekend Look section most of that time. He’s an OU alumnus who founded the “comics and geek culture” blog nerdageblog.com that’s been honored by the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists.
Speeding Bullet Comics store is a retail store with an impressively large and diverse inventory of old school comic books, contemporary graphic novels, action figures, T-shirts, buttons and posters. There are many shelves of hardbound books devoted to a literature documenting comics, their many genres and related subjects. Superhero comics, some going back to the 1940s and fresh 21st century editions delivered on a weekly basis, are generally available for prices ranging from hundreds of dollars to a few bucks. On a recent weekday afternoon, business was brisk.
As with any business that involves popular culture little remains static.
“A lot is different from when we opened the doors in 1998,” Price said. “There weren’t as many graphic novels back then; most merchandise was in comic book form.”
From having only a handful of graphic novels in stock early on, Speeding Bullet now has a selection of approximately 4,000 titles. Editions go in and out of print and keeping a popular mix on hand is part of Price’s challenge. New DC, Marvel and Dark Horse comic books represent half their sales, books a quarter and T-shirts and toys making up the rest.
Price orders from a monthly Diamond Comic Distributors catalogue and also buys from a few smaller publishing houses. Requests from patrons and past sales influence his purchase decisions. Customers are mostly from the metro area and tend to be predominantly male aged 21 to 45.
“We also have posters, prints and some art work,” Price said. “Along with statues and models.”
Annette Price is a cake decorating instructor at the Moore-Norman Technology Center. She sometimes conducts cupcake classes and sells supplies at the shop. There’s also a separate room from the retail space that’s occasionally rented for birthday parties, book signing events or hosting HeroClix tournaments.
“It’s kind of a chess meets Risk super hero game,” Price explained. “There are little figures with dials that denote how much strength they have and then they move across boards attempting to take over territories.”
A primary misconception about comic books is that they’re all about superheroes. A glance around the store found a dizzying array of topics, art styles and written content.
“I love superheroes but you’ll see we have non-fiction books, crime-oriented, humor and fantasy stories,” he said. “Some are science fiction and others are reality based.”
One of the comics available was co-authored by Price himself. He collaborated with Oklahoma native and DC Comics writer Sterling Gates on The Posthuman Project. It’s a story about five teenagers who unsuspectingly acquire genetically engineered super powers and race to learn the secrets behind them.
The tale was picked up by Oklahoma director Kyle Roberts who has made it into a feature length film that’s presently in post-production. Most of the cast and crew are Okies as are the soundtrack musicians.
“Creating a product that you can’t get anywhere else has been another way to draw people into Speeding Bullet,” Price said. “We’re now working on an anthology with some area artists and writers including myself to help celebrate local creators. We’ll have a shindig in the store when that comes out.”
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