Jay Kirkman’s first year of ownership of Moonlite Comics in Frankfort, Ky., has been an eventful one, one that has seen the once-small business expand from a place to buy comics, action figures and cards to a high-tech, well-organized LCS open a respectable number of hours during the day (and night!) featuring celebrity signings, locally made movies and talents, and gaming nights that are swiftly becoming legend. (Wait for it.) Dary.
This weekend, Jay and his store are making their first trip to the Lexington Comic and Toy Con. At first, Jay admits he was a tad irked that his booth was a little off the beaten path. Then he found out who his neighbor is: William Shatner, from a little show called Star Trek in the ‘60s. You may have heard of it?
The first Lexington Comic Con debuted in 2012 at the Lexington Convention Center and was much smaller than the event it has since become in such a short time. That first event saw a draw of about 4,000 visitors, with the next year drawing nearly 10,000.
Event founder Jarrod Greer has credited the booking of several original Power Rangers cast members as one of the key factors in the con’s growth.
Aside from Shatner, this year’s con features guests as diverse as the aforementioned Power Rangers, WWE legend and New York Times best-selling author Mick Foley, comic legends Jim Steranko and Denny O’Neil, and many others.
Who has Jay seen thus far?
“Who haven't we seen?” he said. “It's almost surreal seeing so many people you've seen on the screen in real life all at once. Since we're stationed right across from William Shatner, we've been able to watch him interact with his fans. I never knew so many people were into The Negotiator! It will be interesting to see if he capitalizes on this breakout role.
“We saw George Takei give a great big hug to one of his fans in line, and the line for Melissa McBride has been impressive. A slow-mover, too, as she gives every fan a nice long interaction. Nichelle Nichols, Lou Ferrigno, Bryan Sanders, and you can't go ten feet without seeing a Power Ranger.
“Personal favorite? Larry Elmore, whose gorgeous and iconic art helped define role-playing for a generation. It was a delight to share some time and words with him; he was a gracious host.”
Appearing at a con is an understood gamble for any LCS. But Jay considers the move an investment in his business.
“Yes, certainly [coming to the con was a good move],” he said. “We easily hit our break-even point relatively early on, so with that bit of relief it's been all wonderful from there! It's important for us too to raise our profile -- a lot of folks still don't know we're so close, even as [the store has] been a fixture in Frankfort for over 20 years.”
And how has the reaction been to Moonlite’s merch?
“Good! We've done quite well, while being able to identify opportunities for improvement next time around. The emphasis has been more on our ‘geek culture’ merchandise well over any actual comics, which was a little surprising (this being my first con and all). We also were able to move a lot of the statuettes and busts that haven't been as popular in our shop, but thrived with the massively increased customer base!”
Jay’s two wisest decisions since taking over the store, though, were, in this writer’s opinion, doing a spotlight on Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer in the first edition of his cyber newsletter and each week thereafter including a special “Byron’s Pick of the Week” for comic books.
The Lexington con continues through Sunday.