HARLINGEN — Captain America charged across the comic book cover, wrapped in a steely blue-gray costume, wielding his shield and grimacing as he confronts evil.
The Pink Panther lay nearby, as did Grumpy Cats, the Avengers and the Suicide Squad. The owner and employees of Arkham Comics had spread the colorful comic books across a long table for its monthly “Free Comic Book Day.”
Visitors to the store at 1003 W. Harrison Ave. could pick up two comic books free of charge. Some other comic books were selling for 25 percent off. The first 25 customers who entered the store were given a packet of collection cards. The cards were turbo-charged with action figures and bold colors.
David Garza, 40, had brought his daughter Abby to the event. They both love comics. They’d started their shopping at the front of the store and worked their way back.
“I want to get this issue of Rom,” he said, grasping a large slick comic revealing a silver-clad crusader jetting across the universe.
Several visitors had expressed interest in Rom the Space Knight, a popular action figure in the 1970s. The IDW Publishing website says it was out of commission for more than 30 years, but the character would return the first Saturday in May.
Garza seemed delighted to get the first issue of Rom’s return.
“It’s a character I used to read,” he said. “When I saw there was a new issue coming out, I had to get it.”
His daughter Abby Garza, 9, had found her own favorites, one of them being DC SuperHero Girls.
“I like that they are including girls in super heroes,” she said.
Patricia Saenz recently became the store’s owner after her uncle, Andy Alexander, decided to step down. He’d owned the store for years and she’d been helping him, so she already knew the business very well.
“We have been in the comic book business over 28 years,” Saenz said. “I didn’t want to let go of that.”
Alexander now serves as a broker and a consultant.
Comic book aficionados also took advantage of the “Free Comic Book Day” to shop in the rest of the store.
Will Ledesma and his three children browsed through the comic books near the front of the store. Will Ledesma said his all-time favorite comic book character is Spider-Man. He’s been a fan since he was a child.
“I think it was the fact that I could relate to the character,” he said. “Growing up, I had a huge interest in science. Peter Parker was a science geek and I related to that.”
He’s now a network engineer.
His son Matthew, 13, had picked up a couple of comic books, as had his brother Brandon and sister Lauren.
“I like Grumpy Cat and the Simpsons,” said Lauren, 9.
The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat is a relatively recent arrival on the comic book scene, featuring a chocolate brown cat with thick fur and an extremely sour expression.
“He’s really funny,” she said.
Matthew’s favorite character is Iron Man.
“He’s like really strong and really fast with the rockets coming out of his boots,” he said.
The figures in these stories provide a welcome escape from overwhelming forces we are often helpless to defeat. Action heroes bear a power we all wish we had, the ability to confront any enemy with unflinching courage.