Local bookshop and pop culture lair keeps fans happy
By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette
Oiltown Comics is the sort of place Corsicana kids would have done anything for in the 1980s and 1990s.
At that time, there wasn’t a dedicated comic book shop in Corsicana. Most readers had to make do with Hashop’s or Waldenbooks. In the 1990s, there was Lost Horizon Adventures, or if you needed more, there was Good Time Charlie’s in Ennis or the shops in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But since 2016, Oiltown Comics, located at 520 W. First Avenue, has kept the fans local with a variety of comics, books, toys, games, and collectibles. Nic Davidson jokingly calls it his “Cool nerd stuff.”
The shop occupies the space where the old Thurston Automotive used to reside, where an old sign still greets customers at checkout. Upon entering, Davidson, owner of Oiltown Comics, welcomes visitors. Also helping Davidson run the store is Davidson’s mother, Cindy Miller, and his youngest brother, Parker. The family is always glad to answer questions or deliver weekly pull lists from weekly subscriptions.
Originally, Davidson grew up in Nacogdoches while living with his father, who ran his own restaurant businesses. Like most kids, he passed his free time with games, television shows and video games. At age 13, however, things changed for Davidson after his father passed away. He moved to Rice to live with Cindy and his step-father.
Davidson attended school in Rice from Eighth grade to his high school graduation. After school, he went to Winter Park, Florida to attend Full Sail University in order to pursue his interests in gaming and digital art. It was here where he would discover and explore the world of comic books from a little shop just across the street from his college.
Within two years, Davidson earned his bachelors degree in video game art, looking to become an environment artist for games, creating backgrounds and scenery for game. Moving back to Corsicana, Davidson worked a series of small jobs for about a year until Full Sail University contacted him to let him know about a job opportunity for 3D animation in California.
Davidson found work in the industry, but his work was contract-based. Once a project completed, he would need to find his next gig.
“It was off and on contract labor,” Davidson said. “I was there for a little over two years, but it was kind of like feast or famine.”
Davidson was frequently brought in and released from work on a constantly rotating schedule. While one studio wanted to offer him a position in Canada, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to make that move. The decision to stay worked out for the best as Davidson was released from his current project shortly after.
“I enjoyed working there, and the teams, and the people that I worked with, but it was kind of stressful there,” Davidson said. “There was a lot of crunch time, there was a lot of overtime, the pay was okay for the amount of work I was doing, but it wasn’t very good.”
Wanting to find something more stable and long-term, the digital artist returned to Texas, moving back to Corsicana. Inspired by his father’s work ethic and running a business of his own, the young artist decided that he wanted to start his own comic book shop.
“Since I grew up here in high school, I knew what it was like to want the type of stuff that I was able to easily get when I lived in Florida and the Orlando area, and the San Diego area in California,” Davidson said. “It was easy to go to a comic book store, or a video game store, or a hobby shop, or whatever. Moving back here, it just reminded me of being back in high school. Corsicana and Ennis are great towns and have a lot of history and a lot of great historical shops, but they don’t have a lot of that kind of stuff.”
While Davidson could have opened a store in the Dallas area, he knew there were people locally that shared his interests. So he decided to bring those experiences here, funded part from his savings and money his father had left him.
“I wanted to invest in something that would hopefully grow in the future,” Davidson said.
But Davidson knew that he would not only be serving the pop culture fans of Corsicana, but for the market of surrounding towns within a 30-mile radius as well.
Davidson has found growing out his business sometimes stressful with adapting to the needs of a new business, but overall remains a fun experience.
“When you give that person their first comic book and they enjoy it, that’s a lot of fun for me,” Davidson said.
Being Corsicana’s only bookstore has been rewarding for the store owner, as he says the community has been appreciative and supportive of the local business. Davidson knows he fills a need that people depend on him for.
But past the challenges of a small business coming into its own, 2020 brought changes no business owner could be prepared.
The comics industry at large was not prepared for the impact of COVID-19 as it progressively became a global pandemic and forced businesses to close. The comics industry was hit particularly hard as the industry halted production for the first time in almost a century. Publishing giants like DC and Marvel Comics paused their businesses, and regular titles from Batman to Spider-Man were delayed for months as the industry waited to reopen. For the comic book shops that rely on weekly inventories, there was no new product to sell during the hiatus.
As the world has learned to improvise through the effects of COVID-19, so have the businesses. Plexiglass separates the counterspace. A masked Yoda stands near a dispenser of hand sanitizer. There is a limit for the amount of people coming in the store. But there have been benefits as well, such as Jason David Frank’s appearance to promote his industry-helping “Power Ranger Protection Program.”
As the current climate of the world (including the comics industry) changes and evolves, so will Oiltown Comics. While the comic industry’s future is presently uncertain, Davidson will provide comics, toys, and games to meet his customer’s needs. One day in the future, the store owner plans to have a “Gamer’s Lounge” where people can hang out and play games like Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering together.
While Davidson is hesitant to commit to a timeline for the lounge just yet, he plans to do it right the first time to ensure a quality experience for his customers.