From teaching history to selling comic books, longtime Free State teacher opens shop in west Lawrence

Former Free State high school history teacher Jason Springer is fond of saying that comic book characters are the modern equivalent of Greek mythology. I’m still unclear on whether that means I should wear my toga to a comic book shop. Regardless, Springer has opened a new west Lawrence shop that caters to collectors and other hard-core comic fans.

“I decided to go after a dream,” Springer said of his decision to give up an 11-year career as a history and social studies teacher at Free State to open Chops Comics in the shopping center at Bob Billings Parkway and Kasold Drive.

Springer was able to purchase a single collection of comic books with more than 13,000 titles from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Springer has since added business partner Todd Soden, and they have added newer titles, including becoming a shop for newly released comics.

“We are a traditional comic book store,” Springer said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Jason Springer, front, and Todd Soden at Chops Comics in west Lawrence.

But if you haven’t picked up a comic book in awhile, you may have to adjust your definition of traditional. Yes, there are still plenty of Batman, Spiderman and Superman tales, but the comic book industry has gone in some new directions, including science fiction and even some historical fiction. And then there are the new takes on the old classics. You may remember Archie and Jughead and that 1940s and ’50s gang who hung out at the diner in Riverdale. Well, that crew now has a horror series, which among other things explains why Jughead has such an insatiable appetite. (I don’t know. I’m afraid to find out.)

Don’t worry, there are still some diner scenes.

“There is probably a vampire there, though,” Soden said.

(Fun trivia: One of the Archie Horror titles — Vampironica — is drawn and written by Lawrence resident Greg Smallwood and his sister Megan Smallwood. The title is from the Archie character Veronica, who is a teenage shopaholic who now has fangs.)

Chops is open to anyone who wants to buy some comics — prices range from 25 cents to $2,600 — but the store does a lot of its business with dealers who then travel the comic book convention circuit reselling the books.

“We have the buyers,” Soden said. “We know a lot of buyers.”

That means the store is always looking to buy private collections. Springer said he’ll even make house calls.

“I’ll go to people’s houses and load them up,” Springer said. “If they don’t want the hassle of moving them, we’ll come and do it.”

Springer said the comic book market is pretty good in Lawrence. He thinks Chops will set itself apart from other shops by remaining almost exclusively focused on comics rather than venturing into board games and other similar products. (The store’s only noncomic line of merchandise is a figurine series called Gundam.)

Springer and Soden said there are plenty of adults in Lawrence drawn to comic books, a fair number of college students, and they also see signs of the kid market picking back up too.

“We get a lot of parents or grandparents who are desperate to get their kids to read, and they come see us,” Soden said.

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