At midnight on April 30th, one of the most anticipated movies of 2015 will debut. Avengers: Age of Ultron will open on screen nation-wide, marking the official take-over of Nerd Culture.
But hot on the heels of Age of Ultron comes Free Comic Book Day, celebrated on the first Saturday of May every year. This year the Lawrenceville Galactic Quest, one of two stores owned by Kyle Puttkammer, will give away over 900 pounds of free comic books to celebrate the day.
Puttkammer, who’s owned Galactic Quest since the 1990’s, when the store was on Gwinnett Drive, just completed a massive move to his new space on the Square in Lawrenceville. The space, which includes a first level sales floor as well as several rooms for gaming and events, officially belongs to him.
“Just signed the papers on it the other day,” Puttkammer said. “I’m excited to have a space that my daughters can one day own.”
The new store is fabulous, even as Puttkammer and his manager, Jami Jones, work to get the shelves arranged and stocked. Rows of comics, graphic novels, action figures, gaming paraphernalia, and other comic related items stand prepared for visitors. Posters advertising FREE COMIC BOOK DAY adorn the front door and one of the store’s many shelves. The same image is featured on the front of Puttkammer’s and Jones’ t-shirts.
As the pair navigate through the final touches of set-up, Puttkammer explains what Galactic Quest – both the Lawrenceville store and its Buford sister – will have going on Saturday.
“The day will start at 9:00 AM, and we’ll have plenty of special guests,” said Puttkammer. “We’ll have Laura Martin, who is the colorist on the Star Wars books here in Lawrenceville, and we’ll also have Omaka Schultz, who worked on Hero Cats. In Buford we’ll have Ryan Sellars, also one of the artists for Hero Cats.”
The Lawrenceville store will have a definite party atmosphere, with live music to go along with the signings. Puttkammer said that was a tradition that usually carries past closing time.
“This year we’ll have Radio Cult, No Comment, and Southeast Yukers playing in the store that evening. And, we’ll have Tracy Yardley driving up from Savannah to join us. Yardley is the artist for the Sonic the Hedgehog book, and he just recently agreed to draw our own Hero Cats.”
Hero Cats is something else unique to Galactic Quest. The kid-friendly comic is Puttkammer’s brain child, along with another book titled Galaxy Man. Both books have become a hit on the trade circuit, with Puttkammer selling out his entire stock at the recent C2CE conference and show. The books are lusciously drawn and brilliantly written, and they are on prominent display near the counter in the Galactic Quest store.
Puttkammer will have free issues of both books available on Saturday, in addition to the free books being offered by industry titans Marvel and DC, along with other comic imprints. Puttkammer anticipates a large crowd, thanks in part to the rise of comics within mainstream culture.
“Overseas, they make comics and comic culture such a large part of their lives, while here in America, it’s been this subset of our culture. Even though we created comics, we haven’t fully embraced them – but I think with Avengers, and the new DC movies, we’re seeing people wake up to the fact that these creations are more than entertainment. They’re art.”
Puttkammer is an unabashed fan of comics. His store has migrated all over Lawrenceville – beginning at Britt’s Flea Market, then moving to the Railroad Depot, then to Gwinnett Drive, then to the location on Pike Street. The Crogan Street location is the final stop; each move has brought more space, which in turn has brought more customers.
In fact, many of Puttkammer’s customers have children of their own now, and he is proud to see the families come into his store.
“We have great customers,” he said. “It’s so amazing to see them come back with their kids and introduce them to a world they loved when they were younger. I have two daughters who’ve grown up in this world, and they love it. I love it.”
In addition to the comics and gaming, Puttkammer hopes to bring some of his art classes back under his roof. For the past ten years the entrepreneur has partnered with libraries in Gwinnett and all over the nation to teach comic art classes to adults and children. This summer, Puttkammer will visit over 50 libraries to teach his classes.
“The partnership with the libraries has been great, and it’s been amazing to reach out to the community through them,” he said. “But the new store offers so much space for games and anything else we can think of – bringing the art classes back is a real possibility.”
Free Comic Book Day will be celebrated by the Crogan Street Galactic Quest and the Buford store. You can find out more about the store online via their website, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also follow Hero Cats on Facebook or visit the official Hero Cats website.