ON THE PICTURE : Arsenal Comics and Games owner Timmy Heague (left) is joined by Spider-Man cosplayer Peter Norton in Ventura on Telegraph Road. Photo by Catlin Smith
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
He’s the likeable New York neighborhood Spider-Man, but the heroic web slinger has taken a break from crime-fighting to visit the West Coast and do odd jobs of a different kind. Yes, Spidey answered the call from the Central Coast to star in a promotional cover for local comic book store Arsenal Comics and Games. How very Hollywood (or Hollywood adjacent, at least).
The cover, which was revealed on Arsenal Comics social media on May 4, just days before Free Comic Book Day on May 7, shows Spider-Man swinging next to the blue gum eucalyptus that rest on the ridge above Barlow Canyon – the hilltop long known as Two Trees in Ventura – with the Ventura Pier visible in the background.
But he is not alone.
Groot, a sentient alien tree, is also there, as the physical embodiment of the spirit of the second eucalyptus that gave the local landmark its name, though it was felled by high winds in October 2017.
“Two Trees lives on Groot,” says Arsenal Comics owner Timmy Heague.
swing in history
Spider-Man was created 60 years ago for Marvel Comics by the legends Stan Lee (1922-2018) and Steve Ditko (1927-2018) during an era known as the Silver Age of Comic Books. Across countless publications, television shows, and motion pictures, Peter Parker’s spider-enhanced, wisdom-crunching alter ego has swept across the world as we know it, as well as time and space. (as in the wonderful and popular 2018 animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
For most of his existence, Groot’s popularity paled in comparison to Spidey’s, but he actually predates the web slinger. Lee created Groot in 1960 with Jack Kirby (yet another comic book legend) and Larry Lieber, and the character first appeared as a hostile alien invader. He was reimagined as a noble force for good in 2006, and he rose to fame in 2014 as Rocket Raccoon’s memorable sidekick, scene-stealer and, at times, lovable in film. guardians of the galaxy— the 10th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This limited edition blanket is the first visit to Ventura for both superheroes.
Extremely successful exclusives
It’s not uncommon for a comic book edition to have variant covers, and some are more popular or rare (and expensive) than others. But in this case, the Ventura-centric #900 cover, which will be released on July 6, is exclusive to Arsenal Comics. A total of 6,000 copies will be printed – 4,000 with the Marvel logo and cover text, 2,000 “blank” editions featuring just the cover artwork. Some are signed by the artist and framed. All are currently available for pre-order, in a variety of options and price points, starting at $19.99 at arsenalcomicsgames.bigcartel.com/products. Around 25% have already been sold and Heague expects all 6,000 issues to be sold out before their release date.
The Amazing Spider-Man is owned, published and controlled by Marvel, and this limited edition #900 cover was generated by the company, with the final design created by comic book artist Todd Nauck. (Fun fact: Nauck also designed the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #583 in 2009, featuring newly elected President Barack Obama.) But the idea originally came from Heague himself.
“It’s my idea and my concept. Arsenal is the only store that will have it. I wanted something to support Free Comic Book Day,” he says, adding that he offered “the sketch, layouts, reference photos of Two Trees and the pier, and then gave it all away. at Marvel. . . This is the result of approximately 150 email exchanges with Marvel.
According to Heague, the limited edition, exclusive covers like these are not unheard of, but they are rare. A comic book store or distributor makes a deal with the publishing company, who signs all the artwork and ultimately handles the design in-house. But the printing costs are borne by the retailer.
“It’s a huge investment,” confirms Heague. “you have to have a hit for it to do [financial] meaning.”
amazing spider man #900 isn’t Arsenal’s first foray into exclusive coverage territory.
“It will be by my third,” Heague says. “I have three more planned for 2022.”
Other exclusive or shared exclusive covers worn by Arsenal include Incredible Hulk and Wolverine (by artist Larry Houston), Hawkeye with dog (by Kate Bishop, with part of the proceeds benefiting the Camarillo Animal Shelter) and the Green Hornet . There is also a special edition of AfterShock Comics Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burnin #3, featuring a cover designed by Ventura artist Ryan Carr.
It is neither cheap nor easy to have an exclusive cover printed. Did he succeed?
“Extremely,” Heague says emphatically. “And [Spider-Man] is my best exclusive so far.
“Comics are for everyone”
Heague, from Ventura, was just 22 when he opened Arsenal Comics and Games in Newbury Park in 2014. In 2018, he added a second location in downtown Ventura on Telegraph Road across from from the Ventura Transit Center. While many businesses have struggled over the past couple of years, Heague says that “at the end of 2020, it was my busiest year ever.” This despite a break-in during the first weeks of the pandemic. “I’m proud of my resilience.”
“It’s been a dream to open up and thrive in Ventura,” he continues. “I appreciate the beautiful weather outside and the beautiful city we live in.”
The hill still known as Two Trees can be seen from his shop. A photo he took from the hill one day at work inspired the exclusive Spider-Man cover.
“Spider-Man is my favorite comic book hero,” Heague says. “I was supposed to put Spider-Man with both trees, which I can see from my store. But wait, we lost one of the trees! And I chose Groot as the second tree for Two Trees.
Ventura Pier was added later, to further celebrate his hometown.
Comic book fans and collectors account for many sales of exclusive Arsenal covers, but Heague is also hoping to attract non-traditional customers.
“Comics are for everyone,” he says. “I want everyone, regardless of age and demographic, to read and collect comics.” And with the amazing spider man #900, “I wanted to create something that would be a comic buy for people who had never bought a comic before.”
Heague continues, “It was really exciting to showcase my hometown while honoring one of my favorite superheroes.”
Amazing Spider-Man #900 with Ventura cover is available exclusively from Arsenal Comics and Games, 1610-1 Newbury Road, Newbury Park, 805-499-6197; and 3431 Telegraph Road, Ventura, 805-620-0543. Pre-order online at arsenalcomicsgames.bigcartel.com/products or contact the store for more information.