First Aid Comics Inks Edgar For Superhero Team
Words and Images by Cardell Phillips
I stopped by my friendly neighborhood comic book store the other day just to browse and hangout a little. I like the store’s friendly atmosphere and enjoy listening to the witty repartee that goes on between James Nurss, the owner of First Aid Comics, and his customers.
As climbed the stairs to the loft to check out the graphic novels I saw something at the top of the stairs that stopped me in my tracks. There was a life-sized image of First Aid’s Igor- like mascot spray painted on the wall. He caught my eye and pointed up. “Just a few more steps master,” he seemed to say, “the heroes are waiting for you in the loft – may I recommend Iron Man, Stark Resilient master?”
Cool! I thought, very cool, they should tell people about this guy. So, I got together with Terrance Curtis, the artist, and James to get the story behind First Aid Comics and their very cool mascot.
A: The name First Aid Comics is a play on my last name which is Nurss. It’s a medical theme…it’s good for advertising.
My mom wanted me to read so she bought me comics. When I was about 13, I worked for a comic book store. From there I just kept working in the retailing of comics. I left for a while and did other things before I decided to open up my own shop.
When I was a kid my mom went to Erickson’s Institute which at the time was in the Hyde Park bank building and she’d drag me down and we’d go to the book stores…we’d go to Dr. Wax and I’d ask, “where’s the comic book shop mom?” And she’d say “there isn’t one.” So when I started thinking about opening up my own shop it was always in the back of my mind that Hyde Park should have a comic book shop. It’s a nice neighborhood.
Q: How long have you been open?
A: This is our fourth year. We were on 53rd Street. We’ve been in this location (1617 E. 55th Street) since May 2011.
A: We’re a full service comic shop focused on the reader. We have clearance books, fifty cent books, lots of graphic novels and the latest releases. We also have collector books, but we sell those mostly at trade shows, so we’re definitely a reader shop not a collector shop.
Why Hyde Park?
A: People at comics conventions told me a store wouldn’t work on the South Side. But I had a sneaking suspicion from working in shops on the North Side and seeing how many South Siders were coming in that we were going to pull a lot of them and that’s been the case.
It’s been a lot of fun. I get young kids, old-time readers, collectors, poor, rich; it’s fun because I get to order a little bit of everything for all kinds of readers.
A: I’m a graphic artist working for retailers in Hyde Park as well as doing my own thing with air brushing and mural illustrations. I worked with Reggie’s Rock Club and a few other places…Christian Fields Style Bar, I did the logo for them and I pretty much did the logo for Reggie’s and a few other places…etcetera…etcetera
(James) Where’s that at?
A: I’ve been drawing since I was three.
Q: You’ve been drawing since your were three.
(James) He just wanted to show off to say he’s been doing it 10 years longer than me.
Q: How did you get into illustration work?
A: I had a love for comics since I was a kid. It was very similar to James in the sense that my mom wanted me to read more especially when she found out I could draw. She encouraged me and gave me comics, magazines and books to read.
In high school, (DuSable) I was in the advanced studio drawing program and guys from the art Institute would come in and do presentations. One of the guys who came through was a fashion Illustrator named Craig Perry, he taught fashion Illustration at the Art Institute and he invited me to his class after he saw the stuff I was doing.
A: (Terrance) I think I talked James into it.
Q: Tell me about that.
When I first saw Jame’s store on 53rd Street, I came in and just started harassing him and stuff. He was real patient, but I could tell by the look on his face he was thinking ‘OK,’ what’s going on with this dude? Is he for real? We became cool once he realized that I was Kramer to his Seinfeld.
(James) (mumbling) Seinfeld!?
(Terrance) One day, I realized that with the concept of First Aid James could really push the envelope by creating a mascot for his store, something kids would like.
I had a couple of ideas and they all dealt with the fifties. I guess the reason for that is because it’s the kind of stuff that me and James grew up watching. The old fifties monster movies, Dr. Frankenstein type stuff with Igor, his little henchman helper, and I thought maybe we could do something cool along those lines. That’s how Edgar came along…To be Continued.
First Aid Comics Inks Edgar For Superhero Team – Part II
A: (Terrance) Yeah, James came up with the name.
(James) After Edgar Allen Poe
Q: How long as Edgar been around?
(James) It was pretty shortly after I opened, so it’s like three years old. It hasn’t been a huge image with us until we moved to this spot and then it really took off for us.
Q: So when Terrance came up with the idea for a mascot what did you think?
A: (James) I thought it was great. You want recognizable things. When we go to a (trade) shows people remember our booth because we’re wearing a lab coats and because of our logo. The same thing with Edgar, you brand things so people will remember your shop.
It’s partly because in this industry where all the shops are mom and pop shops and they’re all kind of cobbled together and they kinda look the same. So if we can make ourselves look distinctive it helps them remember which mom and pop shop they went to and that’s a really good thing.
Branding is particularly important because this industry is growing so much right now into the mainstream with all the properties being so huge. Most of our newest customers are used to regular retail stores and they want to come in and feel comfortable and know where they’re at. A shop that’s dark and dingy and just kind of piled together doesn’t work so well with today’s customer for comics – as much as I like those kinds of shops.
A: (Terrance) I definitely feel that Edgar has a personality. If you need to find where something is he’d hold the burning torch and have you come along with him and he’d show you which way to go… “this way! The Dr. is out but I’ll show you where that book is.” It’s not a reflection on the people who work for James – It’s just in a mascot sense.
(James) And I think his personality is still developing. He’s going to evolve with us.
(Terrence) Thanks for helping me out there.
(James) No, I don’t disagree with your, but he’s going to evolve with us as we figure out who we are and as we use more of Terrance’s images.
(Terrance) We’re thinking of using image on the website and maybe as a character for First Aid’s comic strip. In the future, I see someone wearing an Edgar mask at trade shows to walk around to draw attention to the store. It has endless potential.
One of the reasons I’m into what James is doing here is because you want kids from this area code to have access to comic books.
Q: What was James’s input into the creation of Edgar?
A: (Terrance) Well, we agreed that he was going to be like a fifties tales from the crypt type character
(James) When Terrance asked me ‘do you want a mascot?’ I said yeah, give me a mascot, and he said this is what I’m thinking about, and I said yeah do it. It’s my assumption that the more freedom I can give him the better the product. So he came up with it. It’s pretty strongly Terrance.
A: (James) Well it’s pretty easy to be synced when somebody’s producing good work.
(Terrance) You’re just going to make a black man blush.
A: (James) I find that artistic people tend to do better if they can go and create first and when they come back you can say ok, but I need this.
A: (James) I said this is perfect…yeah. The only thing we discussed is putting bandages on his forehead.
(Terrance) He’s kind of like a mummy wrapped in bandages and also some kind of medical doctor.
A: (James) The piece on the wall gets a lot of reaction because it looks so good and it’s so much bigger. People ask ‘has this always been here?’ you can’t help but see it and react to it.
Q: So what’s next for First Aid Comics?
A: (James) The probability of a second location on the South Side. But we haven’t announced where. It was supposed to come early this year and it hasn’t happened but by the end of this year we hope that it’s opened.
A: It will be further south. That’s all I’m saying.
(Terrance) Awww, it must be a cool one. Will it have a roller coaster Mr. Nurss?
(James) It’s going to have a roller coaster.
Q: What’s next for you Terrance?
A: Very soon I want to do a book signing here at First Aid Comics of my own book. I’m in production trying to get it together now. I’m also working on a mural for this wall (in the loft).
Q: What’s the mural going be about?
A: (Terrance) It’s pretty much going to be a bunch of super heroes and super villains tearing up Hyde Park. Edgar’s going to be there. So right now we’re putting together the concepts and in about a month it should be up there and looking good and beamin.’
Q: Anything else? Anybody?
A: (Terrance) Oh! And I’m a Leo and looking for a Sagittarius, naw, I’m good.
A: (James) Thank you.
Cardell Phillips is a blogger, writer and photographer who resides in Hyde Park. You can visit his blog about people, places and things in Chicago at http://talesofthewindycity.wordpress.com