While Hollywood uses the most popular characters from comic books to make blockbuster movies, locals experience the stories before they hit the big screen by picking up comic books at 4th World Comics and Toys, a store approaching its 30th anniversary.
“We’ve been around for 30 years – 10 years in St. James, 20 years here in Smithtown,” said Glenn Fischette, owner of the store. “We’re the biggest one on Long Island … there’s no other store that’s this size and carries as much stuff as we do. Most of the guys that go to the city say we’re even bigger than the city stores.”
Fischette, along with his wife Christine, and son Terence – who said his beginnings in the store were in “a crib on the counter,” own and operate the business with manager Chris Cregeen and newest employee Michael Ragosta. A customer-turned-employee, Ragosta has worked at 4th World for roughly a month after touring the country with his former band, Patent Pending.
“I spent years touring the United States in a band and I would go to a comic shop at every single spot. This is my favorite comic book store in the United States,” he said.
Now Ragosta splits his time with the comic book shop and performing with his new band, This Good Robot.
Ragosta isn't the only person raving about the store, located at 33 Route 111, as it has a five-star rating in the Patch directory and numerous satisfied reviews on Yelp.com, one of which states "a better comic store on Long Island, you will not find."
Although the move from pages in a book to the big screen is clear, the comic book audience has also grown in other directions.
“Years ago we would just sell them to customers, now we sell to libraries and schools. Suffolk County [Community College] is doing a whole class on comics, we're selling to all the teachers there,” he said.
Tuesday is actually National Comic Book Day. Not to be confused with the better known Free Comic Book Day held every May, this is a day for people of all ages to celebrate the comic book and graphic novel.
Since the first-ever comic book superhero made his first appearance in 1938, many of the original characters have evolved new looks and some of their storylines have changed completely. In all those years, comic enthusiasts still share their love of their favorite characters, old and new.
While the comic book industry is helping writers and directors make millions off of its beloved characters, Glenn said his customer base has expanded as more comics are made into movies.
“You're getting more and more people seeing the Spiderman movie and on the bottom of the screen it says 'based on the comic book' so they're coming in and buying books like it,” he said. "A lot more people come in and say, 'What would you recommend?'"