The world of comic books is always full of surprises. A hero could die and come back, a villain could give up their wicked ways and join the good guys, an iconic character could get married and have a baby, or an Illinois-based businessman could simply give away a legitimate comics shop for free. Wait, what was that last one?
Carmelo Chimera, owner of two comic storefronts in La Grange (opened in 2011) and Oak Lawn (opened in 2015), is like a modern day Willy Wonka or James Halliday, planning to pass on the Oak Lawn location to a worthy new owner.
Why? As a full-time attorney, a part-time graphic novel writer (his first book back out last March), and a newly-married individual, he simply doesn't have the time run it anymore.
"My comic book store deserves better," Chimera (who has one of the coolest last names ever) tells SYFY WIRE. "My customers deserve better. And when I got the idea to give it away rather than sell it, I realized I had the chance to do something truly inspirational. I can give one person a once-in-a-lifetime head start at their dream job, and to everyone else I could spread a little more hope and optimism."
Unlike Wonka, however, Chimera won't be sending out golden tickets in special issues of X-Men and Suicide Squad. Instead, hopeful owners must submit $25 and answer the question of "What makes a good comic book store?" Think of it as writing an essay for college or an internship.
"I am looking for passion, creativity, and work ethic," adds Chimera. "To do this job excellently is going to require energy and excitement, because that’s what customers are really looking for. And it will be work, hard work, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a dream job, but it’s still a job. I want to be clear because I think it is still a fantastic opportunity, but I also want applicants to know what they’re signing up for."
Should you take over, you'll be inheriting a number of Silver Age back issues that while not worth millions, could still fetch you a pretty penny or two.
"There are a lot of valuable books in there," Carmelo continues, also offering up his thoughts on Ms. Marvel, the MCU, and the DCEU. In that order, Kamala Khan is one of his favorite characters from the last few years, the MCU is "a masterpiece," and the DCEU "lacks vision," but he's still "someone who enjoys DC’s movies far more than my friends and colleagues do."
If you think you've got what it takes to run your own comic book shop, you can submit your "application" here. Seriously, though, don't submit your name if you aren't serious. Taking over a brick and mortar building filled with comic books comes with a lot of responsibility. It won't just be hanging out with Oompa Loompas and eating candy.
Even so, Chimera is a big fan of the chocolate factory juxtaposition:
"I absolutely love the Willy Wonka comparison," he says. "The whole point of Wonka was that he was looking for someone pure of heart, not necessarily with the fattest wallet, to take over his business. That’s what this competition allows me to do. And like Wonka, I want to spread the idea that the world is a more fantastic place than you realize. When you’re open to opportunities, when you’re open to imagination, the world is a place of endless possibilities."