One of the newest businesses in Downtown Arlington’s Urban Union -- Wild West Comics and Games -- can trace its roots back to the days when Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins topped the charts; when neon and scrunchies met for the first time; and when Indian Jones was having his Last Crusade. That was 1989, the same year Elaine Powell joined the team at Lone Star Comics. At that point in its history, Lone Star Comics was at its zenith. Originally established as a mail order company in 1961 by fanzine publisher Jake "Buddy" Saunders, Lone Star opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 1977. Eventually Buddy operated a chain of nine retail outlets throughout North Texas. During her tenure with Lone Star, Elaine worked in positions ranging from store manager to the chain’s general manager and then as a buyer for several departments. In the early 2000s, the company began returning to its mail order roots, focusing this time on online subscriptions and back-issue service. Then, as the economy began to contract in 2008, the company began selling its storefronts. With over 20 years in the business under her belt, Elaine knew a great opportunity when she saw it. She and her husband Matt bought the last two locations of the Lone Star Comics chain – Fort Worth and Central Arlington – and reopened them in 2013 as Wild West Comics and Games. At that time, the Arlington store was located on South Cooper Street, just south of the UTA campus. Six years later, the couple moved Wild West to its new Urban Union home. Downtown Arlington recently chatted with Elaine about the business, one that not only holds fond memories for generations of comic enthusiasts but has found new life in next gen fans.
DA: Welcome to Downtown Arlington! What prompted you to move from your Cooper Street location to your new location in Urban Union?
EP: The old location served us well, but it had a great deal of wasted space from its prior lives as a pool hall and night club – and somehow no parking to speak of! Our new Urban Union location is smaller, but the layout allows us to use the space better. It’s bright, airy and far more energy efficient – but most importantly, it has all the parking we could ever want. In our old space, during special events like Free Comic Book Day, we were always under pressure to find room for everyone to park. That won’t be an issue now.
DA: Tell us about the range of products you carry.
EP: We carry a broad range of products primarily in the comic, board game and role-playing game world. In Arlington, we have the longest comic wall in the city – more than 60 feet of shelves of new comics and almost as much shelf space dedicated to graphic novels. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is having a resurgence in popularity, and we keep hundreds of miniatures in stock at all times along with all the books for players and dungeon masters. Our Fort Worth store is much smaller, but somehow we manage to fit in just as many comics!
DA: How has the nature of your business changed over the years? How has it stayed the same?
EP: It has largely stayed the same, but the product mix shifts based on trends. In comics, for instance, one year Marvel is hotter than DC, then they reverse for a year, then back again.
DA: Tell us about any special events, upcoming promotions, or meet-ups.
EP: Our biggest event of the year is on May 2nd, which is Free Comic Book Day. It’s a nationwide event for comic shops to give away special books we can purchase from publishers. The books usually highlight new storylines and initiatives that will be coming from the publishers later in the summer. We also hold weekly D&D events and open gaming times, plus one Saturday every month we host a special kids-only Dungeons and Dragons session with a fantastic volunteer Dungeon Master.
DA: How else is Wild West Comics and Games involved in building community?
EP: Twice a year, during Free Comic Book Day and at the holidays, we run canned food drives for Mission Arlington. Over the years we’ve also partnered with different shelters and animal rescue groups to come in and set up for pet adoption events. This year, it looks like we’ll be able to host the Grand Prairie Waggin’ Wagon several times.
DA: With all the online/mobile comic and gaming options available today, why do you think print comics and board games endure?
P: Many customers still prefer getting their books as a physical copy. They also like to come in and talk about their favorite character or book. The same applies to RPG and boardgames. You can’t go online and have someone explain how the game looks or plays, and nothing can replace the experience of coming in to the store and playing the game in community with other people.
Wild West Comics and Games wildwestcomics.com 400 E Division St Suite 11 Arlington, TX 76011 (817) 265-0491 5429 S. Hulen St. Fort Worth, TX 76123 (817) 346-7773
About Downtown Arlington
Designated by the State of Texas as the Arlington Cultural District, Downtown Arlington is where creativity, authenticity, and hometown pride thrive and drive what's next. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to a top tier public research university, prolific visual and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate. Stay in the know by subscribing to our e-newsletter and by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.