We Sell Comics: ‘It’s not all sitting around reading comics — there’s a lot of work’

Cathal Travers is originally from Tallaght in Dublin. He owns the Comic Vault at Lower Oliver Plunkett St in Cork, which sells comics, graphic novels and collectibles. It also sells comics online, writes Marjorie Brennan

How long have you been in business?

We will be open two years next month. I had a website and I was doing trade shows across Britain and Ireland. I was working full-time, it was just something I was doing on the side, to see how it would go. We got a lot of customers in Cork and Munster in general. There were six comic book shops in Dublin and only one in Munster. So we moved down here and opened a shop.

Where did your interest in comics come from?

It started pretty young, with all the old cartoons, X-Men, Spiderman and Batman, that sparked my interest. Then I was given second-hand comics and got really into it.

Is it a collectors thing?

A lot of people take really good care of their comics and collect them, others are casual readers who just pass them on but I would say the bulk of my customers would collect them. I collect them myself. My mother keeps on telling me to get them out of the house.

How has business been?

Really good. We have got so much support from the community. The Marvel movies and superhero movies in general has sparked an interest, not just among kids but also adults. That has really helped.

What are your most popular comics?

A lot of the big movie superhero characters are big in books as well — Batman, Spiderman, X-Men are always good sellers. There are so many different characters out there, and you see progression in readers. They’ll go for the mainstream stuff, but as they go on, they start to get into different characters from Marvel and DC. Then there are loads of other publishers like Image Comics, Dark Horse, IDW, and they would be considered more independent. It’s not just superheroes, you have a lot of horror, sci-fi, fantasy. A lot of those are now getting picked up for television and movies. There is a writer called Mark Millar, and Netflix have bought his whole company so they have all the properties for that.

What other titles are popular?

There are certain comics, like the Saga series, that wouldn’t be generally well known but they are massive. Graphic novels are also very big, there are so many different ones to choose from now. Some of the most popular graphic novels are from Image Comics, which was established by a collective of artists and writers, and their output is very diverse. A lot of people will start with Marvel or DC and then get into graphic novels.

What is your customer base like?

We have a thing called pull-lists where people subscribe to comics, so they will come in every Wednesday or Thursday to collect the latest edition. The profile of the customers is pretty broad — young children, boys and girls, teens to late teens, adults, there is something for everybody. A lot of people who would have read comics when they were younger are coming back.

What differences do you find between the online business and having a bricks-and-mortar store?

Customers come in and they chat to me, to each other, they play games on the tables we have. You can see that people who come in are delighted to have like-minded people to talk to and listen to them. We do a book club and we also host Cork Comic Creators, they’re a group which meets up here the last Monday of each month — they make their own comics, individually and as a group; every year for the Dragon of Shandon festival they make a horror comic and distribute it.

What do you love about comics?

Like books, you can explore bigger worlds in a way that even television can’t, they wouldn’t have the budget to put someone’s imagination on the screen. Also, there’s the diversity of it, the genres.

What are the rewards of being in the comic business?

It’s not all sitting around reading comics — there’s a lot of work. It’s a vocation but it’s also fun, I do really enjoy it. It’s great to see the regulars coming in, and the kids getting excited over stuff.

People enjoy the social aspect of being in the store, flicking through books and comics to see if they like them. We have really tapped into something here in Cork; there was a ready-made scene but now the shop is here it gives people a chance to check out more comics.

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