In the summer of 1988, a fresh graduate of middle school, my family picked up and moved a couple hundred miles from the Atlanta area to Augusta, Georgia. My dad had recently finished college, had a great new job and it was time for us to go into a new adventure.
At this point in my life, my nerd credentials were coming on quite strong. My friend Stevie had introduced me to the world of role playing games, and many battles had been done in the FASERIP world, AD&D and Car Wars.
Through that, I learned about comics, comic characters and discovered the comic shop near my dad’s college. (You know the teacher workdays that kids get off from school? When both your parents are hustling college students who work real jobs, you get to visit campus.) And while I had been to that shop a couple times, it wasn’t mine. It was a place to visit.
When we moved to Augusta, I was miserable. The apartment complex that should have been flooded with young families felt like there were way too many old people. While I met a couple people, on the whole, the summer after my 8th grade year was me admiring my 1988 state quiz bowl trophy and being amazed that I could listen to the television on my radio. (The local ABC affiliate broadcast their signal on a FM signal for some reason.)
My First Comic Shop
Then one day, my mom took me to the Augusta Book Exchange.
When you are a struggling 14-year-old, it is important that you find the place you fit in. And this was my place.
The Front Door: When you walked into the front door, you were met with the holy grails of longbox upon longbox of back issues. Everything you could want to read as a kid trying to understand the backstory of your new favorite characters.
To the Right: To the right were all the new floppies and I learned for the first time that they came out weekly, not just the random times they had showed up on the spinner rack at the Eckerd’s pharmacy where I had been buying them.
Along the Back Wall: And on the back wall was a burgeoning role playing games. Modules for my favorite games. Books like the Children of the Atom in addition to the FASERIP book, the Oriental AD&D book and more. Here is where I bought my first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG that would suck up several years of my life by the time I laid it down.
Sure, the store’s main business was buying and selling paperback books and I am not sure that it would survive on just the comic business. But it didn’t matter. The Washington Road shop was my place.
When we bought a house a year later, we actually moved closer. And I learned how to ride my bike through many, many parking lots to make it to the shop, where they would halfheartedly chastise me for reading the comics, knowing that every spare dollar I could raise, find or beg was already in their hands. At times, I was their best salesman, helping the clueless girl friend who wanted a special issue for her man’s birthday and all she knew was Wolverine. (Some Fort Gordon soldier still owes me a thank you note for the $1 mint Wolverine 4-issue miniseries that I pushed on her.)
When I got my license, the first place I went was the shop and when I got a job, I proudly opened my own pull list, closing it a year later only because I got too busy with trying to be a teenaged grown-up.
The Washington Road shop closed eventually. The Book Exchange still exists but it is way on the other side of town from my shop and all my family has moved away. But it will always hold a special place for me.
I live in Nashville now, which has a great comics scene. The Great Escapes in town are an excellent mix of records, comics, movies. McKay’s is a nerd’s warehouse paradise and their trades and graphic novels section is amazing. And though it is far from me, Rick’s Comic City is a phenomenal store.
But, you always remember your first love. So ‘thank you’ to the Augusta Book Exchange, my first comics shop, I’ll never forget you.