That’s Entertainment: Fandom at its Finest
By Alex MacDougall
When it comes to buying comic books, video games and rare collectible items, few places are better to shop at than That’s Entertainment, located right here in Worcester on the corner of Park Ave and Lois Lane. You read that correctly —Lois Lane. The shop has become so successful that they have been able to petition the name of the street they are located on to match the name of Superman’s main love interest.
Founded in 1980, That’s Entertainment has been recognized as one of the most prestigious comic book shops in all of North America, having won the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award from the San Diego Comic-Con International in 1997.
That’s Entertainment attracts fans and collectors from all across New England of all ages, from kids below the age of eight, to adults over the age of seventy. Walking in, it’s easy to see why —you’ll see long lines of shelves with nothing but the latest comics, and boxes chock-full of vintage classics from yesteryear. You’ll also find cases displaying some of the most wanted cards from the latest “Magic: The Gathering” set, and replicas of the Master Sword from “The Legend of Zelda”.
In the age of online shopping, downloadable comics, and eBay, That’s Entertainment has been able to survive as a brick-and-mortar institution by having an extremely diverse array of pop culture goods. While it began as a comic book shop, it transformed over time and currently boasts impressive collections of video games, DVDs, vinyl records, board games, trading cards, action figures and other related merchandise.
The store operates under a philosophy of taking things in or buying them from sellers, and then giving it a reasonable price so it will sell as quickly as possible. This way, you’ll find many deals such as “buy two, get two free!” or “get 20% off!”
Ken Carson has been the manager of That’s Entertainment for the past 13 years, and he has been a regular shopper at the store since the 1980s. He has seen the store’s transformation from a small shop to the pop-culture emporium that it has become today.
“In 1992, we moved to a space many times larger than the old one, which enabled us to really develop product lines that run the gamut of pop culture,” says Carson. “The board games department is the latest to experience an explosion of interest. One department that completely disappeared but then returned is the vinyl music area. It’s interesting that a format once given up for dead is now so popular with old and young people alike. Even with the evolution, we’ve held to the same old basic philosophy of fair dealing and friendly service.”
It also doesn’t hurt that comic books, the original product of That’s Entertainment, has seen an explosion of interest recently. Movies based on comics heroes such as “The Dark Knight” and “The Avengers” have grossed billions of dollars at the box office, and comics are continuing to find more diverse audiences – as evidenced by the popularity of Afro-Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales, and the Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan.
Comic Books have also expanded beyond the genre of superheroes into other diverse topics, such as romance and adventure. “There’s more variety on the racks then ever before. That the market can sustain such diversity, and that the medium attracts writers who are especially accomplished in other areas – novels, film, television – these are good signs. In a hectic world, comics have the opportunity to gain fans and attract the best creators” says Carson.
That’s Entertainment also hosts several events, such as “Tabletop Game Day”, where people can test out the newest board games, and Record Store Day, which features limited edition releases of vinyl music. Several tournaments are also hosted for games like “Heroclix and Magic: The Gathering”. Perhaps the biggest event though is held on May 2, known across North America as Free Comic Book Day, where comic book retailers give away free comics to anyone who walks into their stores.
The best part about That’s Entertainment is it’s welcoming and authentic atmosphere. The retailers at the store are also experts in their respective fields, and any newcomer will find themselves surrounded by people who truly care about their comics.
“We all love to talk comics and we’ll first want to know what kinds of stories in general you enjoy,” says Carson. “Then we can tailor our recommendations to your tastes.”