Aquaman may be the king of Atlantis, but he doesn’t have the kind of awe-inspiring abilities other superheroes do. Sure, he can command sea life, but he doesn’t have the infinite power of Superman or the unlimited money of Batman.
But that doesn’t stop him from trying to help people, and that is what makes him Travis Schenck’s favorite superhero.
“He’s an underrated hero. He’s trying to help people. He can’t help that his powers don’t work on land,” said Schenck, owner of Off Center Comics.
Schenck, a self-confessed lover of geeky things, has been reading comic books since his youth. Growing up in a remote town in southern Alaska, he turned to comic books after he wore out the local library.
“After I read through most of the library, I wanted something more so I could continue the story and the adventure,” Schenck said.
Years later, after moving to town to run the Museum of Moab, he got a chance to turn his passion into a business.
In 2008 Reggie Denny opened Wizards of the Desert, Moab’s first comic book shop, in the building where Sabaku Sushi now sits. It was a bit of a hard start for Denny because many people don’t see comics as legitimate entertainment, Schenck said.
“Even though people will go see Spiderman, they are not interested in reading the comic behind the movie,” he said.
But business steadily increased. When Denny offered to sell Schenck the store a year and a half ago, he agreed to take it over.
The shop moved to 61 N. and 100 W. and now is run by Travis and his wife, Heather, whom Travis converted to comics when they started dating at BYU.
“We met in the Medieval Club, Travis was the president. When we started dating he got me into Dungeons and Dragons,” Heather Schenck said.
Heather Schneck was a biology major and never thought she would find herself behind the desk at a comic book shop.
The majority of the comics that Off Center sells are to the European tourists that drop into the store. Many of these Continentals, who come in to see a piece of classic American culture, end up buying comic books to help teach their children English. The Schencks also pride themselves on listening to customer’s interests and helping them to decide what comic or game they would most enjoy.
Though comics are still an important part of the store, the biggest sellers are the card games. And although Off Center can help you decide on and order nearly any comic or card game you can imagine, they do not sell video games.
“We want to encourage face-to-face gaming; analog gaming,” Schenck said. “We want to provide a fun, safe alternative for kids and adults in the winter.”
To this end Off Center offers weekly Magic tournaments on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. They also encourage anyone to come in and use their space to run a game.
“They are great about teaching us new games,” said Tim Val, a customer and fellow Magic and Dungeons and Dragons lover.
The comic shop also has several events that they host throughout the year for the community. There is a free comic book day in May, when anyone can come in and pick out a comic to take home, and a Halloween Comic Fest, where people dress up and come into the store to have their picture taken, uploaded and voted on online. The winners have the chance of winning prizes from the broader comic book and gaming community.
At the end of the day, though the Schencks love comic books, they want Off Center to be about more than that.
“I think everyone should have a hero, real-life or comic book. One big part of the shop is that we encourage people to be heroes and to be better than themselves,” Schenck said.