Current Kowabunga Comics owner Chris Keefe, left,
will soon turn over ownership of the local comics
store to James Bula, right, and a group of silent
Ryan Billingham/Enterprise Staff
OCONOMOWOC - It’s a good time to be a
American popular culture is riding a wave of
comics-inspired entertainment that embraces zombies, fantasy
epics and muscular do-gooders in colorful underpants.
And now, there’s a local underdog to root for.
The intrepid pop culture gurus at Kowabunga Comics have returned
from the Phantom Zone with renewed vigor. They’re now supported
by a secret cabal of local investors willing to help hatch
Kowabunga’s latest plan for world comics domination.
It may as well be a plot line ripped from pages
of a comic book - complete with a crusading mayor and a ragtag
group of sidekicks - but rest assured citizens, this is the
real deal according to current Kowabunga owner and co-founder
Chris Keefe who recently exclaimed via the store’s website it
will soon be open “permanently, conclusively, enduringly,
forever, for good, for keeps.”
leadership, expanded mission
The store’s ownership will be transferred to
James Bula and a group of silent partners this month, with Keefe
staying on for a few months to help with the transition.
Bula, a bespectacled, mild-mannered man from
Merton, has long been a regular at Kowabunga. But now, with an
assist from Oconomowoc Mayor Jim Daley, he hopes to expand the
Kowabunga universe with an eye toward drawing in state and
Bula said as a regular he and Keefe would often
talk about the store, but rather than dish about card games and
comics, he would discuss the business side of running the store.
“I would look at things with a different
perspective,” Bula said. “I would look at certain industry
numbers - a business perspective.”
Those discussions led to Bula sitting in on some
of the earlier ideas for keeping the store open, which included
a Kickstarter campaign. They weren’t ideal for Bula, but when
Daley helped connect Keefe with some new investors, he changed
“It felt right this time,” Bula said.
Daley said he and Keefe had become friends over
the years through both Keefe’s involvement in the downtown
business community and Daley’s own patronage of the store and
wanted to ensure that Keefe’s “dream was able to live” even if
it meant he would no longer be a part of it.
“I reached into my inner nerdiness and tried to
think of people who were fellow nerds from the area who might
have an interest in having Kowabunga continue,” Daley said.
Bula said the store will focus on becoming a
destination for local and regional customers by offering an
expanded inventory and new products like video games and premium
collectibles, including toys and sports memorabilia.
At the same time, Bula said, he wants to ensure
the core group of gamers and comics fans that comprise the
store’s longtime customer base have reason to keep coming.
“We want to have constant product coming in as
well as expand the gaming groups (that meet at the store),” Bula
He has already purchased new back issues
including some older titles from comics’ Silver and Golden ages,
an aspect of the new model that he feels is essential to drawing
larger crowds. He also plans on offering a discount to new
Social media will play a large role in drawing in
customers, Bula said. He has brought in a new tech specialist to
build a better website that will act as a catalog of current
products available in store and for special order.
The store is open now with limited hours but
those will expand on Oct. 25 when the store opens officially
under the new ownership.
For current store hours and information, go to
the store’s Facebook page or its website at
or call 262-569-9999.