Jeff Manes: C.P. man is all business about hobby shop
April 27, 2012 2:58PM
Wade Jessie, 49, of Crown Point, Ind., owns Otaku Hobbies in Schererville, Ind. “I bought my first comic book when I was 10; it was a Monster comic book that cost 15 cents,” he said. “ Now, they cost $4." | Photo provided
At a glance
What: Otaku Hobbies
Where: 2319 U.S. 41, Schererville
More information: Call 322-7477.
Updated: May 30, 2012 8:01AM
Does whatever a spider can.
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies.
Look out! Here comes the Spiderman.”
— From the 1960s cartoon
Wade Jessie, 49, owns Otaku Hobbies in Schererville at 2319 U.S. 41, near The Blue Moon Cafe. He lives in Crown Point and grew up in North Hammond.
Jessie attended Hammond Clark High School for a few years, but graduated from River Forest.
“It means ‘geek’ in Japanese — hobbyist, actually,” he said.
I’ve never known anyone with the surname Jessie.
How long have you been in business?
“Seven years; I worked construction as a water blaster before that.”
You sell a variety of items.
“Yes, Japanese anime toys, comics and action figures are pretty much what we do — collectibles.”
“It’s short for animation. Basically, Japanese import toys that are extremely popular here in America. As you can see, the comic books on this table are written in Japanese. I hand-picked these when I was in Osaka. I also go to Tokyo and Hong Kong. “
And American kids with names like Joey Smith or Tina Brown buy these?
“All the time because they watch these series on TV with subtitles in English.”
Do you have any local competition?
Did you collect comic books as a kid?
“Since 1972. I bought my first comic book when I was 10; it was a Monster comic book that cost 15 cents. Now, they cost $4. By the time I was 12 or 13, I had quite a collection.”
You were kind of ahead of your time, realizing that old comic books would become valuable someday.
“Oh, no. I bought them strictly for enjoyment, whether it was Casper the Friendly Ghost, Little Lotta, Scooby Doo or a Superman comic; I was reading just because it was a comic book.
“In the ’50s, boys collected baseball cards. They’d put them on the spokes of their bikes. They didn’t think that a Mickey Mantle rookie card would be worth anything.”
I know a few guys who still hold grudges against their mothers because they threw away Junior’s shoe box of baseball cards from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
“During World War II, paper drives caused the demise of lot of comic books.”
Action figures as a kid?
“GI Joe came out in 1964; I got my first GI Joe in 1972.”
Wade, remember the African-American action figure that came out in the ’70s?
“Yes, I also had an Action Jackson; they were about six inches in length, where the Joes were 12 inches.”
Do you still have some of your comic books from the ’70s?
“No, I guess you can say I live vicariously through my store. Everybody comes in with collections that I look at, buy or appraise. It’s like going back 40, 50, 60 years at a time.”
So, you do sell some old comic books.
“We sold an Amazing Spiderman No. 1 about five months ago; that was from 1963.”
Hard to believe that’s almost 50 years ago. How much did “Spidey” bring?
“One of my customers really wanted it, so we made a deal. It went for $1,800 cash and $600 in trade for some of his old toys. Bartering might be a dying way of doing business, but not with us.
“We just had somebody come in with the some old albums from the ’50s and ’60s and an old typewriter. I’ll sell or barter stuff like that if I have a market for it.”
What about eBay?
“eBay is a wonderful source; I do that on occasion, but I want my customers to get first pick.”
What were some of the first comic books?
“From 1938 to 1940, comic books basically started coming out with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Then, all of a sudden, super heros existed — Green Lantern. All of a sudden, kids see something besides just cowboys. The ’40s took off in a flash with capes and cowls.”
“Masks. If you remember, in the ’60s, Adam West played Batman. He wore the cape and cowl.”
The TV series “Batman” was the epitome of the word campy.
“It was very campy.”
Did you go to the movies a lot as a kid?
“Yes, one of the most renowned theaters around was in Highland — the Jerry Lewis Theater. I saw ‘Dr. Phibes Rises Again’ there, starring Vincent Price (1972).”
I’ve always despised Jerry Lewis. And maybe it’s just me, but I always thought Vincent Price and Eve Arden could’ve been brother and sister. They both have the same long faces — voices and mannerisms, too.
“Do you remember Old Chicago? It was an amusement park in a shopping mall.”
Yeah, back the ’70s and ’80s, but I never went there. I do have vague memories of Riverview.
“I remember watching the Apollo landing in ’69; I saw it at school. I was bored to tears. All I wanted to do was read comic books or draw or something.”
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
Wade, I have an uncle who, to his day, doesn’t believe it ever happened. He says it was all phoney Buck Rogers stuff. He’s also left-handed.
“I don’t believe it, either. We were in the space race with the Russians and (President John F.) Kennedy. It was just a political game. What difference did it make if we landed on the moon? You can’t live on the moon. Why bother?
“Here’s another thing: The astronauts are not allowed to talk about the landing. Why? They’re public figures. It shouldn’t be top secret. You landed on the moon; tell us about it.”
Operating a hobby shop is something Jessie always wanted to do, and he did it. He informed me that comic books aren’t called comic books in Japan; they are known as manga.
Wade Jessie is an interesting guy and, being one of the younger baby boomers, we share similar childhood memories.
We discussed everything from book censorship to Bugs Bunny.