- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) - Tucked between a dog trainer shop and a dog groomer shop sits Dragon’s Refuge, one of the area’s only comic book and table top game stores.

Brock Hunt first opened the store in Peotone, then moved to Bourbonnais two years ago when he found most of his customers were driving from Kankakee County to shop. A board gamer since age 12, Hunt grew up in the 1980s, when games such as Dungeons & Dragons became popular among a certain group of kids. Now, he’s seen his hobbies experience a kind of renaissance.

“It’s more mainstream now, that’s for sure,” Hunt said. “Back in the day, you were considered a nerd. With shows like the ‘Big Bang Theory’ it’s made it more normal, but some stores have still been around a long time.”

With superheroes on the silver screen and comic books such as “The Walking Dead” turning into lucrative TV shows, previously “nerdy” pastimes are everywhere.

“With all the Marvel movies that are out now, all that is is free advertising. People want to keep up with their favorite superheroes,” Hunt said.

The audience is changing, too. Comic book analysis site “Graphic Policy” takes a monthly look at comic book fans by analyzing data from Facebook. The site’s first analysis in 2011 showed Facebook comic book fans were far more likely to be male, single and younger than the general Facebook population. In the most recent analysis, women were more than 45 percent of the comic book fan population.

“The companies are starting to realize there’s a whole market they haven’t tapped into,” said store manager Martin Lindemann. “There are more female writers and artists. … Comics are really trying to be more progressive. They’ve toned back the over-sexualization.” He sees more female customers, including a little girl who visits regularly with her dad to find comic books with empowering messages.

As the products become mainstream, Hunt tries to make his store a welcoming place, both for customers new to comic books and games and to those who have been reading and playing for years. But throughout the years, a regular crew of mostly-male players has developed at the Dragon’s Refuge.

“Most of our clientele, they’re usually here three or four times a week. Most of them know my name and there’s a lot of bantering going around. I guess ‘community’ is a good word, but I keep coming back to ‘family,’” he said.

One of those customers is Brandon Housman, who has been coming to the store for five years. He’s one of the store’s regular players of “Magic: The Gathering,” a popular fantasy trading card game created in 1993.

“When I first started playing Magic I thought it was geeky,” said Housman. “But I think it’s getting more accepted. People that still criticize it, they have their blinders on. They need to experience it, to give it a chance.”

“If you’re enjoying this, you can play your whole life,” he added. “If this is what I enjoy, why stop doing it?”

“Whatever you’re playing, you can find something to suit your playing style with your friends and family. Even a 5-year-old kid, you can find a game they’ll like to play,” said customer Andrew Schultz, who’s begun introducing his young daughter to games.

“Playing these games, you get people from all walks of life,” Schultz said. “You can have a kid living at home playing a doctor or a lawyer.”


Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/2oKOt9g


Information from: The Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide