NEW HARTFORD — Once upon a time, a young Clinton boy bought his very first comic book at longtime local comic shop Ravenswood off Seneca Turnpike. That was the start of Frank Albertine’s comics collection.
Now, at age 30, Albertine has been running his own comic book shop only a few miles away. The 4th Wall comics and pop culture shop has been in business at the New Hartford Shopping Center since 2017.
“Comics and collecting have always been a passion of mine. I thought the area could use another store,” Albertine said.
“If you’re into collecting, you can come in here and find something. We have something for everyone.”
The 4th Wall specializes in “anything pop culture related,” Albertine said, not just comics. A major part of the store is in selling collectible Funko figurines, which are a seemingly endless series of 4-inch tall figurines that cover all brands and genres of pop culture, from Star Wars to The Big Bang Theory to Disney movies and beyond.
Albertine said The 4th Wall also likely has the largest collection of rare and discontinued Funko figurines in the state.
“We’ve been growing steadily for the past few years,” he stated. “We do a lot of stuff with the younger kids that come in, getting them into comics and collecting.”
The 4th Wall also features board games, novelty items and even some sports memorabilia. Albertine said he started collecting sports gear at a young age, then moved on to comics. He said they have autographed items from Stan Lee to Mariano Rivera and everyone in between.
The store is also used for entertainment events throughout the week, and is available for rent. Albertine said the back half of the shop is used for video game tournaments every Friday, and is open for birthday parties and game nights, including Dungeons & Dragons.
“We cater to all of that,” he noted, adding that he’s also working to get some celebrity appearances into the shop. Actor Bruce Campbell did a meet and greet event at The 4th Wall in October.
The biggest day of the year for comic book shops is Free Comic Book Day, which will take place on Saturday, May 2. Both The 4th Wall and Ravenswood will be participating, as both shops do every year.
“What the industry does is a lot of the major publishers, they publish special editions,” explained Al Dorante, store manager at Ravenswood on Seneca Turnpike.
Almost all major comic book companies produce a special issue that comic shops can give away for free to shoppers on Free Comic Book Day. This often coincides with sales at the comic shops themselves. Dorante said Ravenswood gave away 1,500 comics last year.
“You have these compelling stories about good vs. evil, and then you combine that with great art and you have a good comic book,” Dorante said of the lasting appeal of comic books.
“It’s a great way to push the idea of comic books being an opportunity for literature and art to come together.”
Ravenswood as been in business since 1984, serving as one of the only comic book shops in Central New York outside of Syracuse. Owned by Janine Valeriano, Ravenswood specializes in new and old comics, including several higher priced rare and unique issues.
“A lot of people remember comics when they were everywhere, and that’s not the way it is anymore. They’re only available in comic shops, and what’s where we come into play,” Dorante said.
“I like to tell people there’s a comic book for everybody.”
Along with superhero comics, Dorante said there are comics for fans of horror, sci-fi, romance, history and more. Though when it comes to the best sellers, he said that has stayed the same for decades.
“You’ve got your Batman and Spider-Man, and everybody else is second fiddle.”