Legend Comics & Coffee in Omaha, NE is sponsoring a fantastic fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish foundation this summer. They are sponsoring a drawing with a wide selection of great comics prizes that they will ship anywhere in the world. Participants can potentially win Amazing Spider-Man #127 (1st Punisher), Iron Man #55 (1st Thanos), Avengers #54 (1st Ultron), as well as gift cards, Magic cards, and more. More importantly, all of the money will be going directly to Make-A-Wish, enriching the lives of children with life threatening medical conditions.
It’s a great fundraiser for an even better cause. I’d like to encourage everyone to donate now at this link.
Seriously, go there now and lay down some cash to win a few classic comic books and support this wonderful cause. But come back when you’re done because there’s a story behind this fundraiser that makes it even more special than it already is.
Legend Comics and Coffee is a very special place. Last summer it won the 2014 Eisner Spirit of Retail Award at San Diego Comic Con. I was lucky enough to attend the ceremony on the store’s behalf and accept the award. Giving an acceptance speech in front of a room of creators who awe me came easily though because all I had to do was speak about the store.
It’s an oasis in the middle of Omaha owned, managed, and curated by people who truly love comics. They’ve cultivated a community that represents the very diverse community in which they thrive. A wide variety of both events (e.g. trivia nights, creator’s workshops, and open mic nights) and comics (everything from the Big Two down to small self-published volumes) have ensured it is a destination for people from all backgrounds. The store’s guiding principle is to serve their community as best they can. Legend is, without a doubt, one of the best comic stores in the world.
The store is owned by Dave DeMarco, Jason Dasenbrock, and Wendy Pivonka, and is managed by Joe Patrick. The Make-A-Wish fundraiser originated from an experience in DeMarco’s life, but has been embraced by the entire Legend team.
Dave has been a comics fan his entire life and has been struck by a particularly long love affair with Spider-Man. After his father passed away more than 20 years ago, he decided to complete his run of Amazing Spider-Man with the purchase of Amazing Fantasy #15. It was a big deal at the time, but only marked the beginning of an ever-increasing involvement with comics. Over the next twenty years he partnered up with Jason and Wendy, moving from collector to store owner.
It was around the same time that Dave became a store owner that he also met his niece Alyssa for the very first time. He describes Alyssa at the age of five years old as being a “bright, endlessly positive young woman.” As an outsider, it’s easy to see this as a turning point. In the course of a few years Dave had not only opened a store to share with his city, but gained a whole new family. It was this new family, specifically Alyssa, that would inspire Dave to do even more.
Alyssa had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when she was only five years old. She was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Years later, after beating cancer, she told Dave her story. He recalls that “She talked about how much that wish made a difference. When you spend months in a hospital, especially when you're little, it's easy to lose hope and that wish really helped her keep positive.” Alyssa was then and still is involved with a wide variety of different cancer fighting organizations, sponsoring Dance-A-Thons and volunteering to raise money. She recently graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Non-Profit Management to continue her fight.
After meeting Alyssa, Dave took a lesson from Amazing Fantasy #15 and his hero Spider-Man and decided that with any power he had came the responsibility to use it well. He came up with the idea of using his store as a launching ground for a Make-A-Wish fundraiser, and using his own collection of Amazing Spider-Man to sponsor the event.
The grand prize for the first year was Dave’s beloved copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the very first appearance of Spider-Man. When the winner was drawn at the end of Free Comic Book Day it was revealed to be Charlie, a ten year old Omaha native who just happened to be in the shop. He had walked up not ten minutes before the drawing took place to donate $10, saying “'I know I'm not going to win, I just want to help Make-A-Wish.” Dave handed him the comic, gave him a hug, and created a memory that sounds like something Stan “The Man” Lee himself might write.
Dave plans to keep giving away his collection of Amazing Spider-Man until it’s gone. He says “There are millions of Alyssa's in the world and I really believe that the small acts of kindness we show each other make a huge difference.” Each subsequent year the Legend team has grown the event. This year it is a two-month long fundraiser that kicked off on Free Comic Book Day and will culminate with a drawing on July 25th the store’s8thanniversary and 1st anniversary of winning the Eisner Award.
Legend and their Make-A-Wish fundraiser is an example of the comics community at its absolute best. Our local comic stores are gathering places that bring us together to share in a love of stories, like the campfires around which storytelling first began. They are places where we not only buy and discuss the comics and heroes we love, but learn to care about one another.
This event is as close as we may come to a platonic ideal of the comics community. When I think about why I love comics, I think about Charlie giving his allowance to help support Make-A-Wish and being rewarded with the origin story of a truly amazing hero.
That’s a heroic story, if I’ve ever heard one.