From fanboy to being top man

By CHRISTINA COSDON, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007

The first time Pat Potter walked into Steve Geppi's Comic World store in 1982, he was smitten.

"I had this 'Oh wow!' look on my face," he recalled. "Never before had I seen anything like this place."

A comic book fan since age 4, he was fascinated by the rows and rows of shelves stacked with comic books. He was 19.

Potter began hanging out at the Keene Plaza store, often sitting in for wholesaler Chuck Zepp, who opened the business for Geppi and represented Geppi's Baltimore-based company, Diamond Distributors, the largest U.S. comic book distributor.

"Zepp began teaching me the particulars of grading old comics," Potter said.

By 1983, he was the manager and Zepp had returned to Baltimore. In 1992, he became the owner.

The comic book industry is healthier than ever, said Potter, who grew up in Largo and currently is remodeling his family home.

What keeps the industry attractive, Potter said, is that DC Comics, the publisher synonymous with Batman and Wonder Woman, and Marvel Comics, famous for Spider-Man, the X-Men and Fantastic Four, have been creating new series that are more involved, better written and feature top-notch art work.

But Potter's favorite character is strictly old school: Superman.

Comic World celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, making it the oldest comic book specialty store in Pinellas County, Potter said.

The 1,500-square-foot store offers old and new comics for children to adults ranging from 50 cents to $400. It also sells pulp fiction, action and game figures, trading card games, hard-to-find movies and TV shows, framed posters, paperbacks and books.

Customers include "kids to guys in their 60s," Potter said.

John Simms, a Clearwater native and family law attorney, has been doing business at Comic World since he was a teenager.

"The store is unique in Pinellas County in that it offers not only a wide variety of merchandise related to comics, but that the level of service, its continuity, is very rare in any business," Simms said.

Potter, Simms said, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the industry.

"I collect comic books, original art work and have dabbled in statues, trading cards and action figures over the years," Simms said, "and he's always been able to help me find what I'm looking for."

Fast facts

World of fun

Comic World is in Keene Plaza at 2132 East Bay Drive, Largo. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.