Bayside comic shop a place for kids to ‘battle’

John Managan stands in front of an array of baseball cards on sale at Who's on First. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Every year children salivate over new iterations of video or computer games, but for two decades a small shop in Bayside has been providing youngsters with low-tech entertainment that a clerk hopes will not become obsolete any time soon.

Who’s on First is a comic book and sports memorabilia store on the corner of 34th Street and Francis Lewis Boulevard where kids can go off the grid to immerse themselves in the fantastic realms of superheroes or compete in otherworldly card games.

“It’s all a little bit of an escape from what’s going on,” said John Mangan, a clerk at the store.

Mangan was perched at the front counter, the gatekeeper to a wall of baseball cards behind him.

Children and adults alike come in on a daily basis, pick out a pack of cards and often immediately assess their value using an almanac in the store.

Near the door, a spinning rack holds the latest comics, while older issues sit in boxes on sale for $1.

The walls are bedecked with effigies to baseball greats and action figures.

Lots of action figures.

Miniature versions of professional wrestlers, sports figures and comic book characters are stacked to the ceiling.

Some figures, like vintage characters from the original “Star Trek” series, are actually attached to the ceiling.

Aside from the identities of the players and characters, the essence of the store‘s offerings have not changed much since “Star Trek” was a new show in the 1960s.

But fantasy card games are what give the store its character.

Each day after school, part of the store becomes a kiddie card parlor of sorts, where youngsters hash out a never-ending battle at a card table set up for the card games Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering.

In each game, the players use the characters on the cards to theoretically fight each other.

“It‘s very serious to them,” Mangan said.

The games are popular, but comic stores like Who’s on First are a dying breed, according to Mangan.

“In the general vicinity, there are not many of us around,” he said, noting that the handful of similar stores in northeast Queens is an anomaly.

Big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart sell comics, action figures and cards as well and have dedicated scouts to sniff out what is popular, he said.

“It’s hard to compete with that,” Mangan said.

The shop instead must rely on the children to find out what is the new, popular item.

But more importantly, the store provides a meeting place where youngsters can discuss their purchases, haggle and barter for different items and just hang around.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Reader Feedback

Eva from Bayside says:
For years, there has been no other place she has begged to go to as often; when she was young it was for the Webkinz, and now for Pokemon. It was the first place that, earlier this year, she was allowed to walk to from our house alone.

When I was young, we had the corner candy store that sold egg creams and penny candy and comic books; my father had the candy store and the malt shop. These establishments that hold special places in older generation's memories are gone forever.

A wholesome neighborhood store like Who's On First is a treasure. I want to thank Joe Managan for providing a space and a venue that my daughter will have fond memories of for all her life.
Dec. 14, 2011, 11:05 am

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