book lovers, assemble!
Kowabunga Comics ownership change saves the day for comics
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
May 7, 2015
James Bula manning the counter
at Kowabunga Comics, 102 N. Main St.
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff
OCONOMOWOC — Look up
in the sky. It’s a bird, a plane, no it’s Kowabunga
Comics and it’s here to stay.
The cornerstone of Main and Wisconsin was in grave
danger last year when the former owner planned to
retire, leaving the fate of the store at 102 N. Main St.
up in the air.
A bat signal cut through the cloudy night and the old
owner sold to a new group of comic book loving people,
who have big plans for the store.
The Enterprise spoke to Owner James Bula about the
changes to the store, plans for the future and the
current comic book scene after the explosion of comic
book movies and television shows.
ENTERPRISE: How has the store changed since you
BULA: Since purchasing the store last October, we
have made a great deal of significant changes. We’ve
tripled our open hours, and just rolled out our new
summer hours as well (which can be found on our
website). We’ve added and expanded many new product
lines, including Games Workshop products like Warhammer
40K, used and new video games which we both buy and
sell, anything from Atari and the Nintendo Entertainment
System to PS4. We’ve added over 30,000 back issues of
comics, and continue to buy new collections every week,
including lots of older and collectible high dollar
To coincide with our increased hours and product line we
have also added extra demo events at night to teach new
customers how to play many of the games we offer.
Sundays are board game day, Monday nights are open
format Magic, Tuesday nights we have Warhammer demos,
and Wednesday nights we host Munchkin, all of which are
free to play and join our existing lineup of Thursday
night D&D, Friday Night Magic, and Saturday Pokmon CCG.
ENTERPRISE: What would you say the future has in
store for Kowabunga?
BULA: Our plans for expansion in the near future
include records which we will be rolling out this month,
both buying and selling, with a focus on rock and metal.
We’ve purchased several large comic collections in the
last month which we’ll be putting out in the near future
as well, including many high dollar key issues. We’ll
also be doubling our toy and action figure line as well
as expanding our children’s book and toy section. We’re
working with several game developers to bring lots of
new board and card games into the store and we’ll be
offering demo copies of each game that will be available
for free play in the store. We’re most excited about
some of our upcoming comic and pop culture figures that
will be making appearances in the store. We’ll be
announcing names and times later this month after we
cross our T’s and dot our I’s.
ENTERPRISE: Are there any events planned for the
BULA: This summer we’ll be working with several
local libraries both at the store and at their
locations. As we said earlier, we’ll be having some
signings and appearances in store that we’ll be
announcing very soon. We’ll also be setting up at
several MightyCon locations, including Madison and
Milwaukee along with some other area comic cons. We
partnered with Rogers Memorial for Free Comic Book Day
and offered several raffle bundles with all proceeds
donated to the hospital, and we have more raffles
planned for this summer.
ENTERPRISE: With the rise in popularity of comic book
movies how has the comic book business changed?
BULA: Comic book movies have done a great deal to
both legitimize the hobby of comic collecting and to
drive sales for stores. There is growth in the comic
market that we have not seen in going on 25 years. How
we see that growth reflected is in two areas: Trade
paperbacks (collected editions of individual books) and
graphic novels and key back issues. The collected
editions sell very well to casual readers that tend to
lean less toward the collecting side and want to learn
more about the characters they’ve just discovered. Key
back issues, such as the first appearance of a character
that has a movie or TV show coming out, tend to increase
in value as speculation over that character’s longevity
can often lead to demand far outpacing supply. There are
many comics in the last few years that, had you
purchased them in 2010 or 11, would have given you a
better return than the Dow Jones.
ENTERPRISE: Are there e-comics? Do they reflect a
growing market? How do traditional comics hold up?
BULA: There are lots of digital comics, in fact,
most companies offer their entire physical range
digitally, often released the same day. The advantage
being the (ebooks) take up less space as files on an
iPad than in a box in your office, but the disadvantages
are that they’re obviously not collectible, hold no
value, and often times cost the same price as a physical
copy. Some companies, like Marvel, offer free digital
codes inside the physical copy, giving a better
incentive to purchase the real thing.
ENTERPRISE: How is Kowabunga received in Oconomowoc?
BULA: Kowabunga has been received incredibly well by
Oconomowoc since the re-launch last October. Our store
traffic is easily over triple the old average, and we’re
happy to be able to say that we have a large amount of
new weekly regulars who had never been to the store
until we reopened. Working with Rogers Memorial, the
libraries, and hosting student art galleries, as we did
a few weeks ago, brings us that much closer to our goal
of being a community fixture in addition to a fun place
to shop and hang out.
ENTERPRISE: If there was one thing you’d want everyone
to know about your store what would that be?
BULA: One thing we want to really put out there is
that we’re always buying collections of just about any
kind. We buy comic collections both great and small, and
have had people bring us their collection in a box truck
or a shoe box. Anything we sell in the store we buy, for
cash or store credit, including video games and systems
of all eras, action figures, board games, card games,
and even records. In a few cases, we’ve even gone to
people’s houses to look at collections. Buying new
collections is one of the ways we are able to keep
expanding our inventory and offer cool and unique
ENTERPRISE: What would your advice be for someone who
wanted to get into comics?
BULA: For someone wanting to get into comics,
especially someone whose only exposure to a franchise or
character may be a movie or TV show, we’d encourage you
to stop in and talk to us. We can get you started on the
right foot with ease whether you want to become a casual
reader or a collector. If you decide you want to start
getting monthly books, we can get you a subscription box
and will pull your books for you every week so you don’t
miss anything — we also offer discounts for subscribers
as well as coupons and exclusive sales! We have a Staff
Picks section in the store as well that can highlight
great new books or personal favorites. Our hours are
Monday through Friday: 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10
a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.