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Purple Earth Comics a staple in the community

On September 12, 2013

Twenty years ago, the notion that a comic book could be regarded as literature was barely considered a valid claim, despite the groundbreaking works of industry giants like Alan Moore and Frank Miller. Things have changed a lot since then, what defines literature now is content, not whether it's framed in boxes and accompanied by drawings.

For 20 years, comic book enthusiasts were there to witness this change.

Purple Earth Comics was there too, and for the shop's owner, John Horst, it was a realization that what started as a hobby, is now a way of life. People who collect comics love Purple Earth because its owner is a collector like them. His collection is just a lot bigger.

“I always knew I was a collector,” Horst said. “It’s something that is in you or it isn't. Something in your world sparks a desire to acquire more of a similar thing that you enjoy owning and assembling.”

Horst said his interest in comics came, as it did for many readers, at a young age, long before the idea of actually owning a store ever surfaced.

“I had to be around eight or nine,” Horst said. “My grandfather would buy comics for me because he was an avid collector of car parts which led him to yard sales, flea markets and the like. He would usually make my day when I couldn’t go with him and bring me back a handful or two of comics.”

After Horst graduated from Marshall University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he started on the path that led to becoming a business owner.

“Understanding early that I was going to have to work hard to make a living, I dug deep into the possible well of jobs in this state,” Horst said. “After graduating from Marshall, I came to the determination that I could pursue a position of helping people or I could put all the blood, sweat and tears I gave to other comic book shops into my own. Some days it reminds me how great it is to be alive and other it makes me want to run out screaming into the street. I take care of it all myself. I guess that's why it's called work.”

Purple Earth Comics, located at 1120 Fourth Avenue, is hard to miss, just look for the purple building. Once inside, visitors might notice that while comics and graphic novels encompass a considerable portion of the store's inventory, its products are not limited to books. It has a wide selection of pop culture items related to television, movies and video games. It also has several toys that, according to Horst, tie into a superhero, science fiction and fantasy aesthetic. However, don't expect to see a lot of kids in there, if any. Many people are still under the impression that comics are primarily geared towards adolescents, when in fact the opposite is true.

“Comics are continuing the trend of being more gritty and mature than ever before,” Horst said. “There are comics devoted to young readers, but not so much the mainstream books anymore. Comics, like pop culture itself, has always changed with the times we live in and reflect where we are and what entertained us at a given point.”

Before visitors even have the opportunity to browse, one thing will become readily apparent: Even though the store has a loyal customer base, newcomers are always graciously welcomed.

“Aside from the New Comic discounts generally given, there are many advantages to becoming a regular, loyal customer,” Horst said. “I give away promo cards, comics, bookmarks and other collectibles all the time to those I recognize.”

However, Purple Earth is not just some place to buy comics and collectibles. To many customers, it is something much more.

“In a nutshell, Purple Earth Comics is a sanctuary for those who like story,” Horst said. “It is a haven for anyone who has ever been seen as a geek or a nerd. It is an alternate earth that is your shade of entertainment. The real mother earth is stunning in its beauty and complexity. It is also overwhelming in its shocking seriousness. Purple Earth is a world far from the one we know.”

Geoffrey Foster can be contacted at

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