With special powers attained through a classic liberal arts degree and a devotion to service, his mission is to get more kids reading comics and recast the role of the classic comic book store.
He’s even got a not-so-secret headquarters in Lima, Ohio (named after the city but pronounced like the bean). The store’s name: Alter Ego comics. It’s family friendly, clean and well-lit. Inside you’ll find comics for all ages and tastes, graphic novels and an abundance of action figures. It’s filled with “the world’s finest pop culture collectibles,” although it also includes one collectible Bowker is not about to part with—his 2013 Small Business of the Year Award.
“It was kind of a shock,” Bowker says, “to be recognized by your peers in business when you’re a newer comic book store as opposed to an established business that’s been in existence for generations.”
His work ethic surfaced early. His first job came at age 11 delivering papers, followed by a second job (while keeping the paper route) at age 14 as a bag boy at Kroger. He graduated up through the ranks and eventually became a cashier.
Comics were always his calling, though.
“I was a Marvel guy. My first favorite comic was the Secret Wars series. I grew up with ‘Super Friends’ on TV and ‘Star Wars’ at the movies.”
He grew up in the 1980s a true child of pop culture. “I never grew out of comics and kept reading them in high school, but I didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want to be considered a nerd.”
Bowker met his wife at Xavier and they eventually settled in Lima, her hometown.
Then, bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, he was endowed with super retail power. And, just like any other friendly neighborhood Spiderman, he started on the web.
“I started online first because it was safer. Many people would have been satisfied with that. But I really wanted to have a physical presence in the community, and to improve the image of what a comic book store and comic books were.”
Now Alter Ego’s online presence is “brimming with geek goodness” and offers a nice balance to the bricks-and-mortar store that is celebrating nine years devoted to reading and enjoying comics. Still, there’s more to do. Bowker is now focused on helping others.
“I’m working with a mentoring program for small business; there are a lot of mom-and-pop shops out there struggling to survive.”
This looks like a job for Comic Store Man.