The Double-Life of a Comic Book Store Owner and Modern-Day Superhero

“A little kid came in the other day but he didn’t have much money, so I didn’t sell him anything. When I came home that night, I reflected on what happened and I realized I should have given him something more. I always give stuff away for free but I get surprised and disappointed in myself if I am not more giving. The following day, I was hoping he would come back, but he never did. If someone did that for me as a kid, it would have made my day, and I would remember it even when I grew up. I’ve always wanted this business to be a personal endeavor upon myself to make people happy. That is why one of my main goals is to build up Zumps, my toy line, and then have it tied in with every local hospital, so when I sell Zumps the proceeds go directly to caring for hospitalized children.”

Just like a real superhero, Cal prefers to conceal his identity behind a mask. When he is not operating his comic book store at Newtown, Cal spends his time visiting a children’s hospital to give out free comics and toys. In broad daylight, he tends to his lair of catalogued comic books, action figures, and pop culture apparel. He calls it his sanctuary, his very own Batcave. He said, “I love escapism. I love going to a place and feeling that you are in someplace different. This place is my sanctuary; a place where I can escape to, seven days a week for the rest of my life.”

Superhero Comics is Cal’s creative space. Aside from retailing comic books, he personally hand sculpts funko pops for customers. These toys are suitable for weddings and birthdays because these are created to suit each customer’s personality. Customers are free to request details that reflect their hobbies and interests.

People sometimes think that if you give out your products for charity, it has the collateral effect of degrading its value in the mind of the consumer. However, Cal believes in a contrary phenomenon. If comics and toys are given out for a worthwhile purpose, and if the recipients truly enjoy them, then doesn’t that inflate the value of those things? Since the relationship that operates in charity transcends a quid pro quo arrangement, doesn’t that add substance? Think about it. It is easy to give something for money, but it takes a lot more to give something without expecting anything in return, to those who appreciate it the most.

Cal, just like Spider-Man and Superman, has his own supervillains. But a superhero has to keep cool and composed in tough situations. He narrates, “My most hated ones are those who come in and ask, ‘how do you survive selling comics?’ Or ‘do people actually buy this stuff?’ Those questions really irritate and upset me because it’s as if they’re questioning my livelihood, my business. The kicker is that these people come into my store without a shred of interest in what I am selling.”

Superheroes are human too, but it is how superheroes react to such stimuli that sets them apart. As the age-old adage goes, it is what we do that determines who we are. Funnily enough, that cliché holds true in any superhero story, including this one.

“I try to be diplomatic, even if I am really burning inside. It was around three times a week where I get customers who question how my business is doing in a condescending way, but I’ve learned to control my anger, and just deflect whatever it is that they are saying.”

At the end of the day, Cal focuses on the bigger things that he could do for ailing hospitalized children. Amidst their appreciative and youthful smiles, it is easy to forget the short-sighted comments of his critics. He created Zumps especially for children confined at local hospitals. Zumps are adorable little alien beings who escaped to Earth from their home planet after being attacked by a mysterious antagonist. He published his own comic series and personally handcrafts toys based on Zumps.

He hopes, one day, that Zumps will land in the hands of kids not only in Sydney, but in different children’s hospitals all around the world.

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