Who would win, Batman or Spider-Man? At Hillsboro's only comicbook shop, those questions abound
Charlie Foran has saved the world countless times. He has fought aliens, stopped doomsday weapons and been hurled back and forth through time.
And he has never had to leave the office.
Foran is co-owner of The Longbox, Hillsboro's only comicbook shop, which opened this month off Northwest Cornelius Pass Road.
"There's a thing that happens when you walk through the door of a real comic shop," Foran said. "There's a smell of ink and paper. There's an atmosphere."
It's that feeling that Foran and business partners Mark and Laura Newman are hoping to create in their shop, located at 7598 N.E. Shaleen St.
"Anybody can go to Powell's Books and buy comics, but I like the feeling of an old comicbook shop," said Foran. "You don't know what you'll find, and you can get into conversations about who would win in a fight, Spider-Man or The Hulk.
"That's how shops were when I was growing up, and a lot of that has gotten lost."
Racks of comicbooks line one wall of the shop. Along another are a few rows of tables, where Foran and the Newmans plan to host Magic, Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh card game tournaments in the coming months.
But the store's pride and joy are the tables of long white boxes, each filled with hundreds of comicbooks, which take up the center of the store.
"I'd like to have as many long boxes as I can, filled to the brim that people can spend hours digging through," Foran said. "That's what I love as a comicbook fan; digging around and finding that hidden gem."
The Longbox is the only comicbook shop in western Washington County. The county's only other dedicated comicbook store, Things From Another World, is located in Beaverton.
For Foran, who grew up in the small town of Banks west of Hillsboro, that's too far to drive to catch up on the adventures of Batman or The Avengers.
"As much as I love their store, that's a long drive, or you have to drive even farther into Portland. What can we give for the kids out here?" Foran said. "We built the shop to avoid forcing people to drive into Portland."
The Longbox opened quietly earlier this month, but Mark Newman said he hopes it will become a local hotspot for self-proclaimed nerds and geeks from across the county.
"There's a feeling when you walk into a comicbook store that everyone in there is one of your people," Foran said. "We're all here for the same purpose, even if we're reading different books, or argue about what's 'canon.' We're here because we love it, too. I miss that and that's what I want here."
Check it out
What: The Longbox comicbook shop
Where: 7598 N.E. Shaleen St., Hillsboro
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More info: http://thelongbox.us
An escape from reality
Once relegated to the fringes of popular culture, comicbooks have gone mainstream in the past two decades, with several successful TV shows and summer blockbusters released each year. Many comicbook characters who were never popular with traditional audiences — such as Dr. Strange, Ant-Man and Thor — have been major commercial hits in the past few years.
"It's snowballing," Newman said. "The shows I had as a kid, like 'The Incredible Hulk,' they weren't done that well, but that was all we had. What we have today is mind-blowing."
Over the decades, Comics have evolved from primarily kid-friendly adventure stories to more adult themed tales. Both Foran and Newman started reading comics as kids, and Foran said he wants to make sure young children are still able to pick up the hobby.
"For us it's really important to make this as family-friendly as possible," Foran said. "I don't want people to feel uncomfortable or put off by anything in the shop. There's definitely still a place for kids in a comic shop. Comics are meant to be an escape from reality, and there is always a place for kids here."
Foran turned to comics as a way to help him learn to read, he said.
"When I was in first grade I was put into a special reading class. It just wasn't working out for me," Foran recalled. "My grandmother suggested I start reading comics to get me going, and it really did. I latched onto it and never let it go."
That love has turned into a 30-year obsession with collecting comics, Foran said.
"If you want to be happy, pick a job that doesn't feel like you're going to work every day," Foran said. "That's what we're doing."
Have old comics you want to sell? Foran and Newman said their store will buy old comics to help bolster their inventory. The store's current inventory comes largely from the owners' personal collections.
"There aren't a lot of shops that actively buy comics anymore," Foran said. "We'll make you an offer."
By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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