Memory Over Matter: Local Comic Book Store Continues Spreading the Word

Written by: Katelynn Watkins | Photography by: Arthur Green

As technology grows more prevalent in our world, medical advances, tools that benefit teachers and students, and countless breakthroughs on all fronts move forward at breakneck speed. But some, Jake Motsinger of Memory Lane Comics included, can still see the benefit of returning to the basics: namely to a good book.

“It’s no longer bad to be a geek,” Motsinger, the store’s co-owner, says. “When I was in high school, it used to be uncool and I got picked on for wearing superhero t-shirts. Now everyone plays video games, everyone wears the shirts, and anybody can read a comic book or graphic novel for fun.”

Memory Lane Comics, which made the move from Market Street to its downtown location on Princess Street in April, has been the passion project of both Jake and his brother, Ben, even since before the two became its co-owners. Fascinated by the superhero genre and “nerd culture,” the brothers shopped at Memory Lane Comics as children, worked there as teenagers, and then bought the place in 2009. As for the building the store now occupies, Motsinger says that moving there has felt like coming home.

“If I could have drawn up the blueprints for our ideal building,” he says, “it would have looked just like this. We’re surrounded by boutiques and cool places that people from all walks of life can just stop in and see what we have to offer.” 

Over the decades, Motsinger has watched their stock grow and change with what is popular, but also to meet the goals and ideals he and his brother cultivated for the shop. And while they do tend to accumulate commemorative memorabilia and collectibles, the brothers say they definitely prefer to gear their store towards the readers of both major and minor publishers: whether they lean toward sealed commodities or everyday reads from Marvel, DC, Indie, or any other publishers.

“No matter what, we try to keep the best stuff lining the shelves,” he says.

Among the benefits of the relocation to a more accessible locale, Motsinger says, is the foot traffic that lends to the wide array of new and returning customers popping in on a daily basis. Their typical clientele, which Motsinger estimates once more closely reflected the quintessential crowd of thirty-five-year-old males and a few teenagers, has lately expanded to kids and families as well.

Even before the influx of superhero blockbusters and television specials, Motsinger says he saw more and more teachers in Memory Lane Comics who would at first peruse the shelves in the hopes of finding something for their less engaged students. It would often start with one or two purchases, but the co-owner says that many of the instructors and parents alike continually returned for comic books and graphic novels (a compilation of comics assembled in one more substantial book) as they saw results.

“It’s taken awhile, but diversification is here,” he says. “I see parents come in and say things like ‘I don’t care, I’ll buy my kid a comic book if it means they’ll read from time to time.’ They really can be a gateway to consistent reading habits, even if it starts because a kid liked the pictures.”

There have been increasingly more in-depth studies regarding the possible benefits and drawbacks to the consumption of comic books and graphic novels in and out of the classroom at all age levels. One examination conducted by Philip Charles Crawford in “A Novel Approach: Using Graphic Novels to Attract Reluctant Readers and Promote Literacy,” found through surveys that one of the things attracting less interested teenagers to the world of comics and graphic novels, along with the vivid depictions, was the variety as far as subject matter and reading level. As such, Crawford says in his 2004 publication that comics are an “invaluable tool for motivating reluctant readers” of many ages.

“It’s almost fool proof when you think about it,” he muses. “There are the visuals, sure, but then there are also the many voices being represented in these stories, just like in any other book. The comics got more popular, so teachers kept coming back, and the kids started reading enough to make parents and teachers happy.”

Memory Lane Comics – which celebrated its 34th anniversary and Princess Street location grand opening Saturday, June 3rd with special events dedicated to Wonder Woman in honor of the new film’s release – continues to encourage this trend by carrying its variety of reading material, and Motsinger says he is optimistic that the growing popularity of his store’s stock and “nerd culture” can help provide the means for younger Wilmington residents to enjoy reading in the long run.

But in the meantime, Memory Lane Comics’ co-owners and staff will keep doing what they do best: finding and supplying the city’s denizens with a good book or two.