With a digital colorist promoting a new comic book, cosplay enthusiasts looking as if they stepped out of a fantasy calendar, Beta testing of a table-top role-playing game up front, and tournaments of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Star War's X-Wing in back, Galactic Comics & Games' grand opening at its new location became a mini fan convention.
The big event was Saturday, but Galactic had moved in Dec. 2 from its old digs on Sielbald Street to the new location at 20 East Vine St. Measuring roughly 6,000 square feet, including almost 3,000 in the showroom, the new place doubles the usable shopping and play space for a business that seems as much an activity center as a store.
"Before, your favorite book or your favorite game may have been buried," said Galactic Comics & Games owner Keith Brown. "Now it really feels a lot more comfortable, and people love to look around."
Aisles are wider, despite the addition of some shelves and a few spinner racks that Galactic never quite had room for at its former location. A wall has become a dedicated display of high-dollar comic books, such as classic Captain America, Fantastic Four, Spider Man and X-Men editions, shielded literally by wall-mount transparent boxes and figuratively by Captain America's shield, beside Iron Man's mask, as a decorative centerpiece.
Where the old showroom had grown crowded and eclectic, the new one has some defined display areas, including those for board games, now expanded to three full rows, and miniature war games.
Behind the showroom, two activity rooms have been put in play and another has yet to be finished. The center room is set up for collectible-card games, such as the Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments held twice a month and the Pokemon games played by a league of trainers who meet almost every Saturday.
While these games draw more children and teens, the tabletop war miniature and board games played in the room to the right have an adult following.
"It's actually a hobby in addition to being a game, and that covers everything from historical - the Civil War, the Napoleonic wars, all the way back to when Romans invaded Britannia - plus also sci-fi and fantasy," Brown said.
Hobbyists assemble, paint and customize model kits and design scenery from scratch for some of these games. A selection of scenery, with features such as castles and forts and Hobbit houses, waits in large cubbies along a wall of this room. They're available free for play on an honor system that says if you break it, you at least try to fix it.
Thursday night is usually the big night for these games.
A third back room will be dedicated to role-playing games, but is awaiting renovation, including artwork by a Georgia Southern University fine arts student.
From Gallop to Galactic
The new location is the latest move for the business that has its roots in the late Andrew Gallop's purchase of a pawnshop in the Statesboro Mall decades ago. After Gallop built a new pawnshop near the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds in 1988, his son, Ted Gallop, added comic books and sports cards in 1990, and grew these into a separate business.
Brown, who had been a Navy nuclear engineer for nine years, serving aboard submarines, came to work at Galactic. When Gallop wanted out, Brown bought the business in 2005, and they moved it to Siebald Street in 2006.
Gallop left, but returned after a year and a half, and he, his daughter Shaina, and Brown are the store's only employees, keeping it open Tuesday through Sunday.
With the previous move, Gallop Comics & Games became Galactic Comics & Games, it remained on the same page in the phonebook.
In his 25 years in the business, Gallop saw comic books rise in popularity with new "graphic novel" forms, then fade, only to hold their own again in recent years with classic comic book heroes back in the movies.
"But we made it through," Gallop said.
"A lot of stores didn't," said Brown.
Games and community
Both acknowledge that games have grown to be the larger part of the business. But the two aspects mesh, as illustrated by Saturday's grand opening, when Gallop estimates that 400 people visited the store.
Michael McElveen, a graphic artist and digital colorist, brought copies of the first edition of "Curse of the Vessel." Michael Leal wrote the storyline, with Mike Wilson as graphic artist and McElveen as colorist. They are now working on a second edition.
Reflecting one mottled border area between comics and games, several people appeared in cosplay garb. "Cosplay" means "costume play," in which game players dress as favorite characters.
Brown and Gallop had attended the first Jekyll Comic Con, held at Jekyll Island in December. Now, two women dressed as personalities from that that event's "Killer Dames" calendar came to the Galactic grand opening to sell the calendar and promote the 2015 Jekyll Comic Con. Another area convention, Retromega Comic Con, to be held in Pooler April 24-26, was also represented.
Some members of the Shire of Drakenmere, the area Society for Creative Anachronism chapter, which specializes in bringing medieval clothing and practices into the present, turned out.
Meanwhile, a group of players, most in ordinary 21st century clothes, surrounded a table near the storefront window for a play test of Ultimum RPG conducted by two of the role-playing game's developers, Amber and Jay Rodriguez from Jacksonville, Fla.
Play tests are used to work out any revisions to new games being introduced to the market.
One thing Galactic isn't into - this will surprise some people - is computer games.
"When you sit around with friends, sit down with new friends playing a board game, having a good time, you start to develop an entire community of players," Brown said.
So at Galactic, "games" means those that people meet in person to play.
Except for fees for tournaments or leagues that offer prizes, playing at the store is free. The business makes its money from selling the supplies, and the social interaction helps promote sales and customer loyalty.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.