A Marion Marvel

man in red shirt and jeans standing in front of racks of comic books

“The part I enjoy the most is when somebody new comes in, and they don’t exactly know what they want. They kind of do, they kind of don’t. You have the people that will come in and be like ‘I’ve never collected a comic book, but I’m thinking about it’.”

Jon Hayes has collected comics since he was ten years old with what he calls his “disposable income” from his newspaper route. While Comics Paradise Plus is the oldest comic book store in the state, he has owned it since 2010. 

“I ask a few questions,” Hayes continued. “I’m able to hone in a little bit… and make a recommendation. So that is one of my favorite things.”

min in red shirt and jeans standing behind the glass display counter in a comic book store

Dig a little deeper

For those first time customers who are brand new to comic books, he asks things like if they read books, what type of books, if they watch television, what kind of shows, what kind of movies, etc. 

“I don’t know if they realize what I’m doing to start with, but I’m figuring out what genre of things they like. From there, I can figure out what books they want.”

That, he said, is what he loves most when it comes to work or life. “I love conversing, so if I go have a beer at a bar after a day at work, I’ll sit and have a conversation and learn… I like learning about new things and what people are doing and why they’re doing it.”

He’s from a small West Virginia town, Middleburn, “Nice and small. The town still doesn’t have any stoplights or any fast food or anything crazy. A good way to be raised,” he described. 

His dad liked sci-fi and his brother liked fantasy novels. When they’d go to the nearest town, they’d stop in The Nutty Professor Bookstore, where there were two spinner racks of comic books. And that’s where it all started.

He knows the when, the where and the how of how he got into comics, but the why?

“I don’t know. I’d have to ask the ten-year-old me. I really don’t know; I just loved it…. The ten-year-old me was always attracted to that type of genre.”

The comic book industry

Just as he has grown so has the comic book industry. It started with superheroes, he explained, from DC, Marvel and Archie. Now, however, readers have their pick of numerous companies and genres from horror to fantasy to post-apocalyptic. 

Aside from comics having broadened and gotten more expensive, they’ve gotten more complex in their content. 

“They’re not as simple as when I was younger. Stories back then could be one to two issues with an underlying plot point kind of like seasons of tv shows. Now that’s stretched out a lot more. Things are a lot more complex. Comics take on social issues and things like that… There are a lot more twists.”

man in red shirt and jeans standing in front of a glass display case of action figures

There’s always a twist nowadays. Jon – I’m guessing many people would never guess – doesn’t just own just a couple of comic book store. It’’s not even his day job. He’s an engineer who also happens to order comic books, sort collections, buy collections and remind people to pick up and purchase their pre-orders. It’s a lot, but that was the dream  – and there are more.

Where the store is located, one block away from Fairmont Ave., behind Health Naturally, there used to be a pizza shop. There used to be other shops. 

Future plans

“I won’t even say businesses have come and gone. They’ve just gone,” he said and laughed. “I’ve got all kinds of lofty goals. I’d love to have a building that was bigger that I could put the store in and be able to support other like-businesses.” For example, he said he loves craft beer, so a comic book-themed bar would be both another business and a way to support someone who wants to become a brewmaster. And if there’s space, maybe game nights, podcast hosting capabilities – the possibilities are endless. 

When he’s not dreaming or planning or ordering, he spends time out and about. The hiking trails are on heavy rotation when the weather is nice. Of course, he reads comic books and keeps up on the industry. He frequents Morgantown Brewing Company and Keglers for the wings and visits family back where it all began, Middleburn. 

“I enjoy that a lot more than I ever did in my past, too. So I guess in a sense maybe I’m finally slowing down. I’m a pretty hyperactive person, so maybe I’m finally slowing down and relaxing a little,” he said in the midst of explaining – quite enthusiastically – his dreams and plans for Comic Paradise Plus, for more storefronts, for more people and more comics. 

Are you a fan of comics? 

 

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