A few years back, I chose to embark on one of my favorite childhood hobbies: collecting comic books. I researched and discovered the closest one to me to be Comics Universe. Filled with excitement and unsure of what to expect, I called the store to get a schedule, so I could make sure attend on a slow day. I wanted to take my time to skim over the entire store and converse with an employee just in case I wanted this special place to be my new safe haven.
Upon arrival, I was met by Rethal Miller, owner of Comics Universe, who, to my delightful surprise, reminded me an awful lot of my grandmother. With that being said, I felt right at home.
“Yeah, I know, I am a woman,” Rethel laughed as she began our tour. “Most new customers are shocked that I would be the one standing here.”
I’ve been a fan and customer ever since.
She may not be equipped with the superpowers the thousands of books lining her shop boast, but her Southern charm and wit are something to behold—and her strong knowledge about comic books will completely blow you away.
Rethel and her husband Carl Miller moved from McNairy County to Jackson in 1969, just newlyweds then. Soon enough, along came their son Alan, and that’s when the comic book journey began.
Alan, like any good American boy, was enthralled with comic books, a treasure only accessible in Memphis at the time. In 1987, Carl and Rethel decided it was time for Jackson to have a comic shop of it’s own.
“Carl spent $300 on comic books on Alan, and he felt like this would be a great investment to have our own,” says Rethel. “We wanted to own a business, it was worth a try. Plus Alan was happy.”
With twenty-nine years of experience in the comic book business, Miller has gained a diverse array of customers throughout the years from young children to seasoned adults.
Like any business, the beginning was difficult, but in 1989, the release of Batman helped their business tremendously. Coverage from radio stations to local newspaper boosted their clientele within days.
“I am truly blessed. I have such loyal and great customers,” Rethel claims. “I love watching their children grow up, and they bring them to introduce me and the shop. It becomes a family affair. After Carl passed, they are still allowing me to help them with their comic book needs.”
Speaking of her husband, Rethel’s face lights up, proud to continue thirty years of surprising entrepreneurial success.
“Because I am a woman some people don’t think I can run this shop, but I’ve been doing it for the past twenty years and loving every minute of it.”
The store is open Tuesday through Saturday, but Wednesdays are a fan’s favorite day because of the new releases. Rethel comments on how her regular customers are lined up before the shop is open, on a mission to find their particular comic.
But do take caution when you refer to those fictional supernatural spirits that reanimates a dead body I mistakenly called “zombies.” As a serious fan, Rethel politely corrected me: “We call them walkers, not zombies.”
Not only is The Walking Dead Rethel’s favorite comic book, along with the TV series, but it is also one of the biggest sellers at the shop. She has had the joy of attending comic book conventions with her granddaughter and meeting characters from the show.
This beloved mother and grandmother has brought joy to so many customers not only for supplying them with their comic book needs but because of her genuine warmth and care as a business owner.
“I have a wonderful family, amazing customers, and a business that has been really good to me. All I can say that I am truly blessed and happy.”
Asanta Brooks is an author and freelance writer. Her passion for writing stemmed from creating and illustrating comic strips as a child, which lead to her becoming involved with the high school paper and excelling as a feature writer for her college paper. She resides in Brownsville, Tennessee, with her adorably energetic two-year-old son, Alex.
Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, photographer Katie Howerton moved to Jackson in 2011 to study Graphic Design and Drawing at Union University. She discovered Our Jackson Home in January 2015 and used it as a guinea pig for her senior design project, creating the first issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine. After graduating she was given leadership over Our Jackson Home at theCO, where she now runs the blog, designs the magazine, and coordinates events. She and her husband Jordan live in Midtown and are active members of City Fellowship Baptist Church.