Get a piece of American culture at Free Comic Book Day, May 6 in Minturn | VailDaily.com

Get a piece of American culture at Free Comic Book Day, May 6 in Minturn

A common theme in this day and age is that small business owners are real-life superheroes in a community. And with a small business that actually sells superhero art and memorabilia, Tom Robbins, of Eagle Valley Music & Comics, embodies that slogan.

Once upon a time, comic book shops were commonplace in communities across the United States. An industry crash in the mid-90s is estimated to have closed about two-thirds of the shops across the country, and the digital revolution and subsequent collapse of the magazine industry that followed in the next decade was the final nail in the coffin for many of your favorite comic book stores. These days, true comic book shops are as rare as the phone booths Clark Kent used to visit.

But such as baby Superman fleeing from a doomed planet Krypton, Eagle Valley Music & Comics survived. Through a move from the Crossroads in Vail Village, then a move to West Vail, then a move to Minturn, the shop persisted.

And on Saturday, Eagle Valley Music & Comics will flourish, celebrating you, the customer and fan, with the closest thing the industry has to a national holiday — Free Comic Book Day.

"I've been unpacking everything all week, we have some great titles for fans of all ages," Robbins said. "Everyone who comes in will get a free comic or two, and there's more free swag for people who make a purchase while they're here."

FAMILY EXPERIENCE

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Despite the fragile nature of what he's selling, the shop is one of the best places for children in the Vail Valley to experience a classic slice of American culture.

Eagle Valley Music & Comics is packed full of great stuff and quarters get cramped quickly. If you get too rowdy, then you will be kicked out. If you're not rowdy enough, then Robbins will razz you. The happy medium between the two is showing up in full costume, then gently browsing through the titles, being careful not to bend the books along the spine.

Robbins remembers visiting comic book shops as a child with his own family; his mother also developed a fondness for the experiences and still helps out at the shop to this day.

"We would visit the Cinderella City mall in Englewood, there was a cool comic book shop in the basement, Cinder Alley," Robbins recalls.

The Cinderella City mall closed in 1999.

"Going there, as a family, it was a social experience, a way of life for many people at the time," Robbins said.

During those years, comic books could be found on spinning racks at nearly every drug store in the country. The spinning racks damaged the comics, causing them to bend along the spine and were eventually phased out. When the Rucksack in Vail closed, Robbins received their spinning racks just in case. He never ended up using them in his shops.

"I bought Giant X Men number one off a spinner in Breckenridge in 1975," Robbins recalls. "We were on a family vacation."

At that time, the Robbins family was living in Nebraska. The drug store in Robbins' home town sold comics, not off of a spinner but in a glass display which kept them in perfect condition. Before moving to Vail in 1977, Robbins bought 10 copies of Star Wars No. 1 from that shop.

"The lady said to me, 'you know these are all the same, right?'" Robbins recalls.

Today, Giant X Men No. 1 sells for thousands of dollars on eBay, and the original Star Wars No. 1 sells for hundreds. Make a special request, and Robbins will sell you both on Saturday.

"A lot of my best books, along with those old (spinning racks), I have in storage," he said. "But sometimes the right buyer comes along and I dig them out."

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

Some days, comic book collectors will come into Eagle Valley Music & Comics and spend hundreds. On other days, he doesn't sell a single book.

The Minturn location, right on Main Street, picks up random traffic from passers by.

Moving to the East Coast from California, Philip Muzzy noticed the shop while driving down Highway 24 on Wednesday. He stopped in and bought a copy of Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" trade paperback.

"It's a great shop, it's pretty amazing they've stayed around for so long," Muzzy said after receiving a brief history of the shop's existence. "I'm sure it was a wild ride over the last 30 years."

Robbins said while much of his business is passers by, such as Muzzy, it's the regular customers who keep the lights on.

"I have a few regular customers who have been loyal to the shop for 25 years," Robbins said. "We get new comics in on Wednesdays and some people come by every week."

Robbins said while he's not in a shopping mall, when the regular customers come by and talk comics, the shop takes on that same social environment he found back in Cinder Alley.

"It kind of makes you wonder if the Internet is really worth it," he said.

Free Comic Book Day starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and runs until 8 p.m. Eagle Valley Music & Comics is located on 211 Main St. in Minturn.

IF YOU GO

• Free Comic Book Day

• Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Eagle Valley Music & Comics, 211 Main St. in Minturn

• Everyone gets a comic or two, make a purchase and you’ll get more

• Dress up in costume and post pictures using #FCBD2017 or #FCBD