It’s difficult to focus on just one thing when entering comic book store Gotham City Limits; with the massive wall of comics, the flashing pinball machines to the left, the detailed mural of Spider-Man foes Venom and Carnage on the wall. If anything does grab your attention, though, it will likely be a warm and animated greeting from the shop’s owner Ben Kingsbury. Despite broad economic trends and the proliferation of digitally available periodicals, books, and comics, Kingsbury says he confident in his business’s ability to thrive.

Ben Kingsbury, owner of Kingsbury of Gotham City Limits on Jacksonville’s Southside.

 

Kingsbury has only owned the Southside shop for a few months now, but he’s quickly cultivated a loyal customer base and more importantly to him, a relationship with the community.

“I like the personal touch [of the business],” Kingsbury says. He likens the experience to working as a bartender, his past job, where he prided himself in knowing everyone and their specific orders. At his new shop, he learns everyone’s names quickly and even greets anyone he recognizes on caller-ID.

“You can go get alcohol anywhere, why come to my bar? Same thing with a comic book shop.”

In a digital age where Spotify and Netflix are preferred over CD’s and Blu Rays, comics still thrive, and Kingsbury thinks he knows why. According to Kingsbury, holding the physical copy is the only way to fully appreciate the work and the art. Because of this, he’s confident that comics and his store will survive the digital wave, despite comics being readily available online. He says that he and other comic buyers are reverent of the history of comic books. He points to the latest issue of Action Comics, the comic that introduced Superman, on the wall; issue 1000.

“People that really like [comics] like the collectibility of them,” he says. “There’s just not a lot of things that last that long.”

Jax comic enthusiasts might recognize the store as one of the oldest stores in the beaches area, but after it closed in December, Kingsbury took over and gave it a huge makeover. He moved the store down the street, added a more interactive feel, with games and kids summer camps planned. He has some pretty big goals for the future, too. Kingsbury says he is working to create a space to rent out in the store to play virtual reality video games.

“More than anything, I want it to be more than just a comic book store.”