Royal Comics and Gaming is now open for business on Main Street in Lansdale. Here's our preview story on their opening, published Feb. 4.
Superman had the Fortress of Solitude. Thor had Asgard.
We have Royal Comics and Gaming in Lansdale.
The “we” is the thousands of geeks, comic book collectors, action figure fanatics, “Dungeons & Dragons” devotees, “Magic: The Gathering” mages, DC vs. Marvel debaters and video gamers that reside in, not just the North Penn region, but southeastern Pennsylvania.
Fort Washington firefighter and business owner Robert Royal (no, that’s not a superhero alter ego; yes, it’s his real name) has begun filling a wall with Green Lantern series action figures and expensive character statues, stocking shelves with Punisher, Deadpool, Spider-Man and Superman T-shirts, and lining up new comics along another wall, all the while adding to the pile of empty Diamond Comic Distributors cardboard boxes.
Royal is prepping for March 1, the day he officially opens for business. A grand opening will follow May 5.
One look at Royal, and you wouldn’t guess he holds a love of all things comics and gaming: the over 6-foot-tall, 46-year-old, tattooed, bodyguard-built new Main Street business owner resembles more of a sturdy Lex Luthor than a comic geek.
Captain Marvel was the Shazam to Royal; the first time he saw the superhero (aka Billy Batson, who was bestowed the strengths and abilities of seven archetypal figures from history by the aforementioned wizard) as a youth, he was hooked on a hobby for life.
“I’ve been collecting since I was nine. He got me into it,” he said. “I started out liking both DC and Marvel. Captain Marvel inspired me because I was the same age of Billy when I started reading him. It was literally ‘I could be a superhero, I could do this.’ Then, I got into everything else. At one time, I had a good $200 a week habit.”
When he hit 24, Royal got into the hobby on a more serious level. He now has an extensive collection at home, which will not be sold in the store.
The genius plan to bring a comics and gaming store to Main Street was nothing more than fulfilling an untapped necessity in this part of Montgomery County.
The last time Lansdale Main Street had something like this was in the 1990s and early 2000s with The Reclining Dragon.
“The look and the feel of comic book stores have changed a bit. They are almost non-existent,” he said. “The ones I used to go into had been more of a ‘hang out’ environment. They were just a lot smaller.”
That’s why comfort is a number one priority.
“This is all about comfort,” Royal said. “Comfort for people that come in to shop, comfort for the people that come in to play. If you go to most comic book stores, there’s a fold-out table, there’s some fold-out chairs, and you’re four to five inches away from where they have all their merchandise.”
Unlike some of his competitors, Royal Comics and Gaming is poised to offer a clean, spacious environment for both gamers and comic readers.
In some other stores, you’re playing your role-playing game, and customers are bumping into you trying to buy stuff, he said.
“It’s not good for you, or the customer,” he said. “So here, they will have the freedom of space to enjoy their games and people have the freedom to shop without feeling like they are interfering with each other.”
Royal’s store certainly has a lot of room. He has opened in the former location of and property owner Celso Leite refurbished the floors, walls, exterior, vestibule – everything.
“I was going to Brave New Worlds (in Willow Grove) and I didn’t want to cramp their style. I knew I wanted to be so far out, but not so far out that I wasn’t too far from Fort Washington,” he said.
He sat down with his group of friends and they answered a question: If you could open a comic book store, what’s an untapped market?
“Nine out of 10 said Lansdale. So I started looking at Lansdale,” he said. “I originally was going to look down at Hillcrest Shopping Center, but with different lease obligations, I couldn’t do it.”
He drove down Main Street, saw the vacant store, and called Leite.
“He met me down here that day, we talked and the next day I signed the lease,” he said. “I was really impressed with what he had done with the building itself.”
Even in Royal’s market research, it was proven that, with traffic flow through Lansdale, the location was perfect.
“Now, it’s about going out and letting the people know you’re here,” he said. “My friends said ‘You’ve got to go to Lansdale,’ so that’s why I ended up here.”
In the Golden Age of comic book stores, fans would walk into a business and browse through bins for rare issues. Now, in the Modern Age of comics, online shopping is the way to go.
Not in Royal’s eyes. He, and certainly his customers, want it now.
“I don’t like shopping online: I want to see it, smell it, taste it, whatever. I want it when I want it,” he said. “I think, around here, it’s so needed. When it comes down to it, it’s about sharing your passion and getting the next generation involved.”
Royal said he would be here for the long haul.
He has already met other shop owners – Doug DiPasquale of Minuteman Press, Mary Schwalje of Sign-a-rama and Joe and Chris Flyzik of Wilson’s Hardware.
“I’m excited to become a part of that. All the shop owners have been very, very nice and really supportive. I’m blown away,” Royal said. “And Not Just Sandwiches has some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life.”
Even before he’s open, Royal is getting customers opening the front doors, and expressing their excitement.
“The one thing I get told over and over is ‘I can’t wait until you open.’ Who doesn’t want someone saying, ‘Wow, we’re so glad you’re here.’ That’s one of the best feelings in the world,” he said. “I had two girls – which is great, because girls and reading and collecting comics is awesome – that were so excited, you think I was putting in a Justin Bieber museum. I’ve been getting great feedback.”
The key to a success is what the owners put into a comics store.
“I’ve known comic book stores that go out because they are run lousy, or they make people mad when they go in there and lose customers, or they don’t order enough,” he said.
Royal Comics and Gaming will have brand new inventory from Diamond Comic Distributors, Alliance Comics and Sports Images Inc.
The store’s two mascot mannequins, Alexander and Noah, will greet customers at the door with their weekly reports on what comics are their favorites.
When you first walk in on your left will be a kids’ corner for youths 10 and under, complete with age-appropriate action figures, collectibles and T-shirts.
One long wall on the left will be stocked with all new action figures, both DC and Marvel.
T-shirts will be stocked on small shelving units in the middle of the store.
Trade paperbacks and graphic novels will also be stocked in the middle of the store.
“Trust me, we have a lot of good trades coming in,” he said.
Busts, lead figures, chess pieces and such will be in the glass counter by the register.
The far back left wall will be home to the rows and rows of new comic books.
On the back right, customers can find cases of porcelain sculpts of comic book characters.
Completing the store, in the far back of the store, are three huge conference tables that sit six people each.
These will be the locations for the showdowns of “Magic,” “Warhammer” and “Dungeons and Dragons” during Royal Comics and Gaming’s scheduled gaming nights.
“Yes, D&D will be at the store,” he said. “I’ll be posting a gaming schedule on the website. It’s going to be a nice schedule for a lot of people.”
Royal will also stock his store with board games for people to play, like Monopoly and Axis and Allies.
Royal will also have two computers for online gaming, where users can use their passwords and access a plethora of games.
“If you’re an online gamer, but you don’t have the great computer or great laptop, you can come down and get a really incredible experience on the gaming computers,” he said.
Lee Inglewright, of Include Information Management in West Conshohocken, said the computers will be on a server network, and users will have their own sign-ins. There will be allocated hours to use the computers, he said.
“They are custom-built, top-of-the-line gaming computers, put together piece by piece, with all the best stuff,” Inglewright said.
Perhaps the best part about it all – custom and special orders.
“We’re going to have pull lists. If there’s something that we don’t carry you want, let us know and we’ll get it,” he said. “We’re going to be as customer friendly as we possibly can.”
Royal will not be dealing with used trade-ins or buying used comics and figures at this point.
“It’s strange when you start to realize your dream. It’s not as fun; it’s more scary,” he said. “I hope people will share in my dream.”
Royal Comics and Gaming is located at 305 W. Main St., Lansdale. Call them at (267) 263-4219.
Check their website at http://royalcomicsandgaming.com/.
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Scheduled gaming nights are as follows:
- Mondays and Fridays – Magic: The Gathering
- Tuesdays and Wednesdays – Open gaming
- Thursdays – Role-playing night
- Saturdays – Warhammer
- Sundays – Dungeons & Dragons
Comic Book Quiz with Robert Royal
Favorite Comic Book Series: I personally thought it was one of most ingenious moves they could have done. I liked Gail Simone’s “Wonder Woman.” I thought she took her and made her a strong, powerful woman without making her too bagged down with junk.
Favorite Marvel Hero: Colossus. “I always loved him. You can turn your body to steel? How awesome is that? He’s underestimated all the time.”
Favorite Superhero Team: Alpha Flight. “They got a Yeti on the team. How can you not love that?”
Favorite DC Villain: “I grew up in a time right after Barry bit the dust in 'Crisis' and Wally took over as Flash. It’s going to be Captain Cold.”
Favorite Marvel Villain: Galactus
For or against death of Superman?: For. “My favorite of the four, if I could have taken one of them and replace Superman with one of them and had his powers, it would have been Steel.”
Favorite Comic Book Artist: Alex Ross “I love the realism he brings to stuff.”
Worst Comic Character of All Time: Rainbow Raider (DC Comics, first appearance The Flash #286, June 1980)