SIOUX CITY | When Kevin and Fran McGarry disagree, it has nothing to do with their marriage nor does it have to do with being co-owners of ACME Comics & Collectibles, 1622 Pierce St.
Instead, the husband and wife team argue over television adaptations of some comic book favorites.
Kevin prefers the flashiness of the CW's "The Flash," while Fran prefers the network's relatively straighter "Arrow."
"I guess our lives revolve around our comics," Fran said with a smile.
That's been the case since Apr. 1, 1995, the date the couple first opened their midtown Sioux City comic book store for business.
"Some days it feels like the time has flown away," Fran admitted. "Other days, it really does feel like we've been here for 20 years."
However, she said the comic book industry has changed tremendously over those two decades, especially for women.
"Twenty years ago, I could count the number of women involved in the field on my fingers," Fran said. "Nowadays, women are a major force as artists, store owners and as comic book fans."
Inside a store filled with comics, graphic novels and related collectibles, Fran McGarry reflected upon her 20 years in the comic book business.
Do you remember the first comic book you read?
"I only began reading comics as a way to break into the business. When I was younger, I was strictly into books. The first comic that captured my imagination was (Matt Wagner's long-running series) 'Grendel.' I was impressed by the quality of the art as well as the quality of the writing. Plus the series had strong female characters like (socialite-turned-newspaper-columnist) Regina Anastasi."
Is introducing strong female characters the key to attracting more women into comic books?
"From a fan perspective, creating titles that have both strong writing and strong art attract both male and female readers. From a business perspective, hiring more female employees who know their comics has also helped."
What are the female comic book fans reading nowadays?
"Well, everybody is reading (the black-and-white zombie apocalypse comic book) 'The Walking Dead,' but around 40 percent of those fans happen to be female. I guess women like gore just as much as the guys. Women also like (writer Bill Willingham's) 'Fables.' The series takes characters from fairy tales and show what really happens after they supposedly live happily ever after. If you enjoy TV shows like (ABC's 'Once Upon a Time,' you'll love 'Fables.'"
Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance by asking this, but do people still read superhero comics these days?
"They absolutely do still read 'Spider-Man' and 'Batman' comics. Also, when 'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens' opens later this year, I'm sure they're will be plenty of comics that will tie in."
"Star Wars," notwithstanding, I've been noticing a large number of comic book titles that are being made into TV shows or movies. Is that a new phenomenon?
"Yes it is. In the past, comics would be made based on TV shows. Nowadays, producers are basing their stuff off of comic book titles. One of last year's top-grossing movies was 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' even though it was based on a second-tier Marvel Comics title."
And I'm guessing fans of AMC's "The Walking Dead" TV series are also becoming fans of the comic book series, right?
"Absolutely. Although I think the TV adaptation is done well, it doesn't follow everything that's done in the comic books. In fact, we don't recommend 'The Walking Dead' comic books for children because it tends to be so gory."
What keeps comic books fresh year after year?
"It's simple, really. You've got to have great art plus great writing. You can't have one without the other. At their best, great comic books can be as compelling and as engrossing as any other piece of fiction. Our customers may come as kids but we hope they'll become lifetime comic book fans."