In a business suite on the corner of South Sherwood Forest Boulevard and West Bricksome Avenue lies Louisiana’s Double Play, the last remaining comic book shop in Baton Rouge.
The shop was once known as Mr. Bill’s, and in the beginning was primarily a sports card shop before being purchased by Robert Broussard, who has been the owner for more than 20 years. In those early years, Broussard began to turn his focus from selling sports cards to comics and cards games such as “Magic: The Gathering.”
“We probably have one of the largest selections in the state as far as ‘Magic: The Gathering’ cards goes,” said Otto Zoller, the comic manager of Double Play. “If you’re looking for stuff that’s 15 years old plus to the most current stuff, we got it.”
As far as comics go, Double Play has a wide collection of Silver Age and Golden Age comics, as well as the modern titles with new issues that come out every Wednesday. The store also offers a pull list, where customers can request issues of new comics that come out each week. The initial fee is a one-time $25 for a minimum of 15 selections, and the issues come with bags and boards for storing.
“We’re the last comic book store in Baton Rouge, and there is a reason,” Zoller said. “We like selling to our customers, and we like giving them what they want.”
While Louisiana’s Double Play is currently the only comic store in Baton Rouge, it was not always that way. For Zoller, it is a shame to be the last when there were once five or six shops in the city because it was healthy for the business to have competition.
“I’m not saying I don’t mind the fact that we’re known for getting our product out there to the people who
collect, it’s kind of a good feeling,” he said. “But at the same time it’s kind of wild to think we’re the only business to be successful with it in a metropolitan area.”
For the staff of the store, going out of business has never seemed like a possibility for the mere fact that the comic industry is currently booming. According to Zoller, it’s a big industry that continues to rise as young generations come into the store and pick up a comic for the first time, and older generations return to start collecting once more.
“I hear this more often than not ‘I haven’t picked up a comic in years, and I was wondering if there was anything I could get back into,’” Zoller said. “Our clients are very faithful, and we love having them.”
Recently, the comic book industry has been seeing a boom due to the increase of films focusing on comic storylines from DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics. After seeing a film such as “Captain America: Civil War,” interested parties will then seek out the source material, which can be found at comic shops like Louisiana’s Double Play.
“People come in all the time and say ‘I didn’t know anything about this character, went and saw the movie, and I want to get everything I can about them,’” Zoller said. “Anytime people see it in the media, they’re going to come here and try it out themselves.”
According to Zoller, as far as comic media is concerned, he doesn’t see it dying down anytime soon. One example he used was “The Walking Dead,” which started out as a comic series, and is now a hit television show on AMC.
“We cannot keep the book on the shelves,” Zoller said and explained that “The Walking Dead #1” is very hard to find in good condition as it was a limited print.
According to Zoller, popular series right now are “The Walking Dead,” “Harley Quinn” and anything “Batman.” While the store may sell items such as modern comics, graphic novels and card packs, the most valuable items are an assortment of Silver Age comics that have been collected over the years either from retailers or people selling their collections. The Silver Age of comics ran from 1956 to the early ‘70s and introduced many classic heroes of today such as “Spider-Man,” “the X-Men,” and “the Avengers” as well as updated or new versions of “Superman,” “Batman,” “Flash” and “Green Lantern.” According to Zoller, it is difficult to say currently which comic is the most valuable within the store.
“There are so many that I couldn’t even tell you,” Zoller said. “We have had literally the first six issues of ‘The Incredible Hulk;’ we’ve had copies of ‘Amazing Fantasy #15,’ which is the first appearance of ‘Spider-Man,’ copies of ‘Superman’ from the 1940s, old Action Comics…Robert picks up deals left and right. He knows what’s good and what people are looking for.”
There are also many items that can’t be found elsewhere, including action figures whose quality and craftsmanship can be placed in a museum.
“You’re not going to find these at Wal-Mart,” Zoller said, as he points out a looming figure of Apocalypse. “Once you get them, they’re a collectible item. They don’t make them as toys anymore as collectors have become more serious over the years.”
With a large group of devoted customers, the store also takes part in the national event, Free Comic Book Day. The event is held on the first Saturday in May each year and gives publishers a chance to bring in new readers with different special releases, all available for free. This year saw immense attendance from customers, and according to Zoller, they had a line out the door almost the entire day.
“It’s a really big event for us, and it’s a way for us to give back,” Zoller said.
Also, the use of online stores such as Amazon.com has not affected Louisiana’s Double Play, according to Zoller.
“There’s always the staple of support your local business,” Zoller said. “Let’s face it, you can go to Amazon and click on a button, but nine times out of 10, an adult will come in and bring their kid, and they’ll look at the store and their eyes will just pop. It’s always cool to come in and see what’s available. It’s more fun just to come into a comic shop. There’s never going to be something that replaces the feel of a comic book in your hands.”
Photos by Simone Schmidt.