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Queens Chronicle

Comic Book Heaven to close its doors

Sunnyside store going out of biz after 26 years on Skillman Avenue

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:17 am, Thu Jul 25, 2013.

Superman and Batman will have to find another home base.

After 26 years Comic Book Heaven at 48-14 Skillman Ave. in Sunnyside will shut its doors within the next few months.

“The comic book business did very well in the ’90s, but it’s been going downhill for years,” owner Joseph Leisner said. “Kids stopped having the attention span to collect.”

Leisner said at the height of the business 13,000 comic book stores dotted the nation’s main streets, but now he estimates only 2,000 have survived.

The shop doesn’t have the glamour of a Hollywood superhero movie.

A tan landline with a curly cord sits on a desk in the back with a stack of hand-written business cards and a few trinkets, but no credit card machine. The voice of his wife of 47 years, who passed away from cancer a while back, still takes messages on the store’s answering machine.

A few Beanie Babies and other collectibles fill some glass cases around the room. There’s no life-size comic book characters or brightly colored walls, just cement and boxes upon boxes of thin, two- and four-dollar books — lots of Marvel and DC stories from the last couple decades.

He might not know where everything lives exactly and won’t spend time schlepping through the stacks for a customer, but he does know what he has and doesn’t have.

Ralph, a lifelong comic book collector, came from Westchester to look for deals. All books are on sale to prepare for going out of business, which was advertised anonymously by one of Leisner’s patrons.

Ralph asks where he should look for certain books and Leisner tells him not to waste his time.

“I talk to them a little rough and gruff,” Leisner said with a grin.

It seems that’s his approach to most things — cranky but sweet. He says he doesn’t “give a crap” about comic books, but knows the difference between a black- cover Spiderman and more generic editions and when pressed he said he likes many comic tales that “aren’t soap operas” like “Thor” and the “Punisher.”

“I like violence against evil people,” he said.

“Everyone online says he’s a really nice guy,” Ralph said. (Which they all do, except for one who calls him a jerk.)

And in real life he seems to have many people who enjoy his company from the postman to other shop owners who stop by to chat.

Leisner’s a jokester. He has a sign out front that advertises — well, himself — “Wanted: Girlfriend, 35-60 attractive, educated, interesting for an old-geezer who is educated, interesting, conversationalist, handsome, kind, fun guy. Apply inside.”

Over the next few months, because “I like to move slow” Leisner will clear out his rented space and put most of the comics in storage.

Maybe he’ll hit some of the trade shows, but probably not eBay. He struck gold there one time when he sold a bunch of comic books where Elektra’s breast was exposed in the last frame.

“They sold for $12 each,” Leisner said. “They said it was a mistake, which was crap.”

But the 80-year-old isn’t banking on more comic book faux pas for his retirement. Instead “I’ll be running after women,” he said with a laugh.

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