Nerd fandom can be intimidating, but fortunately you won’t find anyone like The Simpsons’ snobby Comic Book Guy at Ann Arbor’s Vault of Midnight. Everything about this place is downright accessible — prime real estate on Main Street, bright interior décor, and easy-to-peruse shelves make for a friendly, warm environment, made all the more friendly by a geeked-out sales staff.
One such employee, Marcus Schwimmer, says we’re in a new Golden Age of comics, with an unprecedented diversity of titles that now includes Japanese manga, graphic novels, and art books. Schwimmer says last month was their distributor’s largest comic sales month in history. That could be thanks to Marvel’s novel idea to actually start making superhero movies that are fun again — titles such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers are injecting a much-needed breath of fresh air in a genre hitherto dominated by post-9/11 super-serious incarnations of Batman and X-Men.
The store has a basement level where patrons will find local books as well as a large collection of board games, which Schwimmer says are increasing in popularity. We’re not talking Monopoly here — we’re talking, say, Settlers of Catan. The store has even recently hosted International TableTop Days, where you can demo new board games, and a release party and demo for the new fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons is planned for Aug. 23 as well.
College students, especially those from small towns that don’t have a comic book stores, will find much to love about the Vault of Midnight. Schwimmer says they get plenty of townie clients as well as visitors from all across Michigan, and the store recently opened a second location in Grand Rapids. As for Wayne County nerds, rejoice: There is no firm date, but owner Curtis Sullivan says they are looking for a building to open a third location in downtown Detroit.