Three decades of Dolly
Dolly Russell, 73, is a household name in the comic book culture in Chico. She can hardly go anywhere in town without hearing, “Hey, Dolly!” from somebody stopping her on the street to chat about the latest goings on in the world of comics. This year Russell is celebrating her 30th year as a comic book store owner in the Chico community. Her first store, Russell’s Comics and Stuff, opened Nov. 25, 1979, in downtown Chico above House of Rice. Over the past three decades her store has changed locations and names, and is now called Fantasy Game World, on the corner of El Paso Way and East Avenue. She runs the shop out of her home with her 45-year-old son, Scott.
How did you get interested in opening a comic book store?
My two sons were comic book readers and I used to have to go down to Sacramento to get them comic books. So I figured I would open my own store in Chico. I call it my sanity. I never really made a lot of money, but it kept me busy.
Do you still have some of the same customers you had 30 years ago?
Yes, I do. Now they bring in their children. One kid came in and said, “My dad said I should come in here because he used to come in here when he was younger.” No matter where I go, I always hear someone say, “Hey, Dolly!” I don’t know how they recognize me because I don’t look the same.
As a store owner, what changes have you seen in the comic book industry during the past 30 years?
The companies, especially Marvel, like to overdo it like, “Let’s do two covers,” or “Let’s do a miniseries.” They up the prices and they need to go back to using cheaper paper. Comics are definitely slowing down. No kid wants to buy a comic book for $3.99 when they can play video games. When I first started reading comic books in the 1940s they were 10 cents. The role-playing games are more popular now.
How do you think your store has affected the Chico community?
One time a man in Oroville recognized me and said, “Are you Dolly? I want to thank you for letting me and my brother sit in the corner and read comic books. It kept us out of trouble.” I thought that was really neat. And just last night I had guys in here playing Dungeons and Dragons until midnight by candlelight because the power went out. It’s really neat to see things like that.
If you could be any comic book character, who would you be?
Wonder Woman. I just thought she was awesome with the invisible helicopter and the lasso that made you tell the truth.