Joe Kruger has fond memories of his father allowing him to go downtown to buy comic books.
“I was 8 years old,” recalls Kruger. “My dad would give me some money and I would walk to the store on Kalamazoo Street that sold comics.”
It was 34 years ago.
Fast forward to 2021 and the little downtown comic book store is long gone. But Joe’s memories of collecting quick stories of his favorite action heroes still linger.
These memories, along with Hollywood’s rekindled interest in comic book heroes over the past 15 years, led Kruger to open his own comic book shop.
Kruger Comics opened its doors a few weeks ago at 1635 Phoenix St. in Locker Plaza. It offers an inventory of over 5,000 new and used comic books, as well as a wide variety of action figures, games, and other products related to comic book characters.
“For our grand opening, we had Catherine Sutherland, ‘Cat’ the Pink Ranger from ‘Power Rangers,’ here,” Kruger said. “I reached out to her and she got back to me and said she would be happy to be here for our grand opening.”
Kruger opened the comic book store with two friends – Colin Rouse and Lynn Oliver.
“We all have other jobs,” said Kruger, who is a shift manager for McDonald’s in South Haven. “We juggle our time to help manage the shifts here.”
The store’s motto is “Helping you discover the hero with-in”.
“We came up with the tagline because you can find your comic book hero inside the store and find your own hero inside yourself,” Kruger said.
The search for heroes at the start of a new millennium may have sparked a renewed interest in comic book heroes among Hollywood filmmakers, as well as a new generation of comic book collectors.
The films, as well as a series of television series, have attracted not only long-time comic book fans, but also new generations of viewers unfamiliar with lesser-known characters such as Black Panther, Wolverine, Supergirl, Captain America and Iron Man. .
“With movies and TV shows, comic book characters are portrayed as real people,” Kruger said. “Mixing that with your imagination makes people feel like they could be that hero.”
People young and old have been visiting the new South Haven comic book store since it opened, according to Kruger, who believes interest in comic books will never fade.
“People love the ‘hero’ aspect of comics,” he said. “Heroes fight the bad things in the world and win. It makes people think, “It’s hard to do, but it can be done.”