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Local store thrives as comics go mainstream
January 11, 2019

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If you asked the average adult who Iron Man was 15 years ago, they would have had no idea, today they could tell you every blockbuster movie the character has been in. No Cape Coral businessman welcomes the shift of comic book characters into the mainstream more than Tom Lotz, owner of Cool Comics and Games.

Lotz became a superhero fan as a child after an uncle gave him a collection of comics which included a copy of Iron Man issue No. 5. He remained an avid collector and reader through college, buying and selling valuable issues, and hoping to one day be able to turn the hobby into a business.

In 2004, Lotz got his chance, buying a local comic book store in Cape Coral and rebranding it Cool Comics and Games. Originally the plan was to gain some experience and then open a store in Naples, but Lotz found that Cape Coral had the right demographic mix to make the business a success.

At the time, movies based on comic book heroes had not yet taken the world by storm, and so the entrepreneur adopted a strategy of selling a mix of comic books, collectables and competitive tabletop games in order to bring in enough customers.

"I noticed that trying to do just comic books was a struggle, " said Lotz. "The gaming helps turn the profit, hybridizing the store is definitely worth it."

Games are still a big part of the business, as Cool Comics regularly holds competitive tournaments for popular strategy card games like Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, and Yugioh. The store also offers a variety of niche board games you won't find at your local big box store, and collectables for those who want to take their love of comic book characters to the next level. The rise of superhero movies has introduced a whole new type of clientele to the Cool Comics

"You'll see a lot new faces, people go see these movies and they'll ask about those specific characters," Lotz said.

The staff at Cool Comics now makes sure to plan around the release of new superhero movies, ordering extra issues and merchandise featuring characters who are about to become popular. The extra attention on comic books also allows customers who would have never set foot inside a local game store to get involved.

"It helps pull a lot of new people into the scene," said Lotz. "They come in here for one specific thing, and then you can say, 'Hey have you tried this?" You can cross promote a lot this stuff," said Lotz.

The superhero craze has also allowed the store to cross promote with local movie theaters. Cool Comics employees will often attend a movie premiere with local enthusiasts dressed up in elaborate character costumes, know as cosplayers, handing out free comics. The business has also been able to expand into the community, regularly sponsoring local high school sports teams and yearbooks, as well as holding charity events like tournaments that require canned food donations as entry.

Many comic book stores have come and gone in Southwest Florida, but after more than a decade in Cape Coral, Cool Comics and Games continues to grow. Lotz said that the store is about to expand and remodel, adding additional space for tabletop gaming and merchandise.

When it seems like every month bring a new superhero blockbuster to the big screen, it pays to be in the comic book business.

Cool Comics and Games is at 311 Del Prado Blvd., S., #10, Cape Coral, FL 33990. Contact the store at 239-573-7468.

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