Comic shop guy
Trent Walsh, owner of BaT Comics, situated at 127 Main St. in downtown Chico, didn’t start out wanting to own a comic book shop. Growing up, he indulged in the occasional comic book or two like most kids. But it was while Walsh was at college that the casual perusal of a friend’s comics produced the epiphany that these things weren’t just for kids anymore.
Why a comic shop?
Originally I did it because I wanted some business experience. I graduated from Chico State with a business degree, and I wanted to see if some of the theories they taught us were practical in the real world. And I thought [comics] would be something that would be fun to do for a year or two. It’s now been nine.
Are you from Chico originally?
No. Like so many people, I came up here for college, got used to the lifestyle and have been here ever since.
There are booms and busts, like a lot of niche markets. Right now, with [last summer’s] Spider-Man movie, the [current] X-Men movie, and the Hulk movie coming out soon, comics are doing pretty good because people want to know what they’re all about. But five or six years ago, there weren’t as many cool things happening, and [sales] were pretty poor. We have good years and we have bad years.
What is it about comics now?
Comics, like most pop-culture stuff, stay current with their times. Comics have expanded. It used to be that they were predominantly for boys, say, 8 to 16 [years old]. Now there is just an explosion of genres—you have comics that are for boys, for girls, for college-aged people, for adults. There are also retro titles that appeal to people who remember comics from when they were kids. So comics have expanded. They have really nice art, and you’re getting award-winning writers, writers who make the New York Times Top 20 List. And [film director] Kevin Smith. And J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, he’s writing several titles, and they’re all in the top 10 comics. And the guy who just finished [a stint writing] Green Arrow, he’s a detective crime novelist, and every novel he writes gets on the New York Times bestsellers list. He’d never written comics before and thought it would be fun to write a couple of story arcs.
And Neil Gaiman, obviously. An extremely popular novelist. Yeah, you’re getting people who make their names in other genres coming into comics, and they bring their following with them. And that just exposes more people to the medium.