January 26, 2008 in HandleX

New shop focuses on all things comics

Jacob Livingston The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

Tim Boal stands in his comic book shop, Lightning Comics, in Coeur d’Alene.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

Lightning Comics is in the Northern Lights Mall at 411 W. Haycraft Ave., just off U.S. Highway 95. Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 667-2400.

COEUR d’ALENE – One thing is obvious when Tim Boal welcomes the inquisitive customers into his new Coeur d’Alene shop: He’s as animated and ardent on the subject of his business as the tales of the hand-drawn heroes, heroines and villains that line the store’s shelves.

As each individual entered Boal’s Lightning Comics store, the owner took a moment to not only welcome them, but also delve into their favorite character’s back-story if the customer offered. For Boal, a lifelong fan of such comics as Batman and the Justice League, those exchanges are just some of the many reasons he opened the 3,000-square-foot shop at the start of the New Year.

“I like the interaction with people, setting up events and getting new comics every week. It’s like Christmas every Thursday,” Boal said about his store, which he said will host card tournaments and artist- and creator-signing parties once all the products have been received and put in place.

Located in the Northern Lights Mall on Haycraft Avenue, the store’s aisles and an extended wall display offer everything from several hundred different comic books – both new and collectible back issues – and collectible card games, to comic book clothes, art, toys, statues and games. The store even has a Lightning League comic club that holds onto selected issues for its members.

While the Lake City store is the first Boal’s opened in the area, it’s the third comics business he’s started since getting into the trade almost 15 years ago.

With the initial experience he attained while managing a Diamond Comic Distributors center on the West Coast, Boal ventured over to the retail side after having moved to Las Vegas. There, he owned and operated two comics stores until three years ago, when he made the decision to sell the stores and move to the more outdoor-oriented environment in North Idaho.

“I’m an active outdoorsman, and I love North Idaho,” Boal explained, adding the idea was propelled by a trip to visit family in Spokane a few years ago. Once in the area, Boal took a position as a sales manager at Koerner’s Furniture, all the while keeping an active interest in the epic accounts found in the Marvel, DC and other action-packed universes. It wasn’t until he noticed a lack of a pure comic and collectible store in the area that Boal set out to start his own.

“This town didn’t have a really good comic store,” he said.

With a focus on all things related to comic books and card collecting, including unique and hard-to-find items such as gold and silver age comics from the 1930s through the 1950s and collectibles worth hundreds of dollars, Boal said he plans on his shop “being unlike anything else in the Northwest.”

For North Idaho fans of the colorful characters on display in Lightning Comics, the store is a welcome addition to the community.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Aaron Lynn on his first visit to the store. As an avid Superman comic book collector for the past few years, Lynn said that he’s been hoping for a place like Lightning since moving to Coeur d’Alene. “Actually, when I first moved here a few months ago, there was nothing like it. Spokane was the closest place. So when I heard this was coming in here, I was pretty excited.”

On her fourth trip to check out the store’s updated inventory, Liz Heinig said she’s glad Boal has created an atmosphere that welcomes all tastes, from anime fans to action figure collectors. “I’ve been waiting for this to open for a long time,” she said. “I really like it. I think Tim is a really great guy, and I like that he’s making it family-friendly.”

As an owner who revels in knowing his customers as well as the stories that bring them together, Boal believes Lightning Comics will become a crossroads for both. “It’s what I love to do,” he said.

Comic books also have a way of evoking nostalgia, Boal explained, where classics such as “The Death of Superman” storyline might bring back memories of what was going on in your life at that time, and can kick off great discussions in the store.

“It’s when you hear stories like that that I’m glad I (opened the store). I know I’m in what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said.

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