Big Brother is reading

Kenny Russell

SN&R Photo By Anne Stokes

Remember the box that the old Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set used to come in? What is “Earth-616”? Should I get my stomach tattoo in an Old English font? These and other seemingly random questions can be answered simply by keeping an open ear to the conversations at Big Brother Comics. Located at 1722 J Street, just east of the Bread Store, Kenny Russell’s comic-book shop is that rare place where even the most reserved of comics and RPG fans don’t feel compelled to speak in hushed tones about their interests. Seven days a week, comic-book fans can drop in, talk up a myriad of topics with Kenny or either of his two employees, while they bag up the new comics and rotate in the newest issues.

Big Brother’s display racks are loaded with monthly titles, graphic novels and special editions from all of the major comic-book producers—from DC and Marvel, to Dark Horse and Image. And what they don’t have, they’ll certainly try to find for you, should your tastes run toward the more obscure titles and back issues. Or maybe you’re in the market for a Captain America T-shirt or a Hellboy action figure. In that case, Big Brother carries comic book and fantasy gaming paraphernalia in addition to the books—shirts, cards, figures or dice.

Kenny saved up to open the store by playing poker and working part time as “the guy who answers phones” at Bonehead Tattoos. His original shop was at 7th and K streets, but when the words “eminent domain” began floating around lower K Street last year, Kenny started looking for new digs.

For more information about the store, call Big Brother Comics at (916) 441-6461 or visit them online at

So, how is business?

Business is great. So far, it’s been way better than on K Street. I was stressed for a while. I started with such little money, I was worried about finding a new shop where I could afford the rent. I had to cut a bunch of corners, but I had a lot of friends who helped me out with both shops. So, now I’ve moved up to J Street and I’m loving it. No more fear of closing after 6 p.m. It’s all better here.

Does Sacramento have a big pool of comic-book readers?

Sure. Sacramento needs a comics shop in Midtown. It just seems to fit.

You’re open seven days a week. How many employees do you have?

It’s just me and two friends. They’re a huge help.

Have you been into comic books all your life?

Weirdly enough, no. It’s only been about seven years. I was more into the board and card games that comics shops had to offer. When I got a job at Comics and Comix, I actually thought comics were lame and for kids. Boy, was I wrong. Now, I’m more into the comics than the games. I know a lot of people that thought the way I did, but once I get them to read the books, they always change their mind. I think comics are really more for people ages 16 to 60, rather than 8 to 15.

What do you think draws people to comic books?

It’s definitely the stories.

Comic books certainly appeal to people with artistic personalities and hobbies. Are you an artist yourself?

If strategy is an art, then yes. I’m a huge fan of strategy.

Like in role-playing games?

Yeah. I seem to have a knack for it. As for drawing, painting—or even spelling—I’m a 5 year old.

Do you have a favorite title or character?

Oh, yeah. Fables is a great book. I can’t believe how well it’s done. I’ve given people money-back guarantees on Fables and they never return it. They always come back, but to pick up the next book. As for a favorite character, I have two: Captain America and the Hulk.

Favorite artist or writer?

I’m more into the writing. I like Bill Willingham, the writer of Fables, and Ed Brubaker of Gotham Central and Daredevil.

Would you say that most of your customers are collectors or just casual readers?

Readers or collectors, either way they’re collecting what they like in the stories, and I don’t sell much that people don’t read.

Films based on comic books have become the big thing in Hollywood. In your opinion, is this a good or a bad thing for comics and their readers?

Some are well done, like Spider Man, and others are just really bad—Daredevil, Electra. But I think [the trend] is great for the industry. I mean, it gets people excited about comics. It gets them reading.

Would you like to weigh in on the old-school debate: Marvel or DC Comics?

I’m sorry Superman, I’m going with Marvel.