Storehouse of heroes

Pakistan’s first-ever comic book store is delighting fans of superheroes, young and old

ISLAMABAD

The Batman light signal located in Islamabad’s busiest shopping area is not a distress call for Batman. This signal is to attract local superhero fans, pointing them to Pakistan’s first comic book store.

Located in the heart of Islamabad’s Jinnah Super Market is the world of fantasy, superheroes and villains. The word of mouth and social media buzz has fascinated many but the reaction of those who unexpectedly come across the shop is priceless. “The Batman signal prompted me to take a look inside, and being a Batman movie fan I am thrilled to see this wonderful store,” said Bilal Hassan, a resident of Islamabad, exploring the merchandise with awe.

The vibrant outlet, that opened in October 2017, is aptly named ‘All Things Superhero’ and offers the latest comic books and superhero merchandise from top publishers and companies for Pakistani pop culture fans.

One-stop shop

It has more than 350 original comic books and nearly 150 figurines, action figures and toys — including graphic novels, huge posters, incredible figurines, minimates, jigsaw puzzles, T-shirts, backpacks and mugs and key chains. Literally, there is something for every fan.

Surrounded by superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman and Hulk, is the ardent fan of the comic books and the owner of the store, Ali Tariq. He spent his childhood absorbed in the extraordinary world of comic book superheroes and villains and as an adult, after working in the corporate world for some time, he quit to make his dream of owning a comic book store a reality.

“I have always loved comic books. The rich characterisation, sharp dialogues and wicked sense of humour in them transports me back to childhood,” Tariq told Gulf News.

Back in the days when children actually read comic books and allowed their imagination to run free, Tariq steeped himself in the world of comic book characters. “I grew up reading stories of these heroes and their fluttering capes, their unstoppable powers and eternal heroism. My favourite characters were Superman and Batman,” said Tariq. He owns hundreds of Superman, Spiderman and Batman issues collected from all across Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

“But this magical world of comic books began to fade away around late 1990s. Thanks to the surge in superhero movies, especially the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, the comic book industry is reviving worldwide,” he said.

He believes that Hollywood’s two major sources of superheroes, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, have reignited interest in comic books, especially among new fans.

With Pakistan catching up with the global trend of superheroes fascination, Tariq decided to open Pakistan’s first ever dedicated comic book store to cater to diehard Pakistani fans as well as introduce the rich and vivid world of comics to the younger generations. “This store is dedicated to the all young and old fans who have ever been inspired by these characters and want to follow their stories full of epic action, fantasy, crime, drama, and everything in between.”

Born and raised in Islamabad, Tariq Ali decided to open the flagship store in his hometown first.

However, he is not closed to the idea of eventually opening stores in Lahore and Karachi. Given the amazing response to his store, he is certain it will be a reality in other cities of the country, he said.

His store enjoys a steady clientele who often request him for a specific comic book “and we order it for them.”

Besides the books and all thing superhero, the shop also features an array of today’s pop culture goods such as Game of Thrones posters and items, Star Wars figures and merchandise based on popular games like Halo, Mass Effect, and anime related products.

From toys to books

One of the reasons his store has become a focal point for the young and old he believes is that with the reading trend being challenged by smart technology platforms, and the irresistible lure of Hollywood franchises, children love to buy the merchandise that comes with the comic book legends. “Kids are more interested in the mini figurines, toys and backpacks — things that make them feel closer to their favourite superheroes,” said Tariq as he assisted a young boy to find the hero figurine of his choice.

Ten-year-old Hamza Khan, who said he has seen all Marvel movies, spoke of his fascination with Spiderman. “I love his super powers. I want to be like him and save the world.” “He owns a Spiderman costume too,” his father added.

Everything at Tariq’s store is imported from the US. “These all are genuine, licensed products from distributors in the US,” said Tariq. Prices of an average comic book ranges from Rs2,500-Rs3,000.

Though on the higher side, the prices are not too daunting for the public because the lure of comic book superheroes is increasing in Pakistan, said Tariq.

Tariq is hoping that the newest comic book heroes’ installment from Hollywood, the much-aniticipated “Avengers: Infinity War” which is the culmination of a decade’s worth of superhero films, is sure to attract both hard-core fans as well as new-comers to the store.

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