When Brett Carreras received five long boxes of comics one Christmas, it was a kingly gift for the teen collector. It was made possible only because his local comic book store had recently gone out of business.
Working his way up through Richmond’s sporadic enthusiast tradeshows, Carreras has turned his hobby into a lifetime of entrepreneurship.
After studying business and computer science, he worked through the tech crash of the early 2000s, always with comics as a guide. Attending trade shows on the West Coast, he saw how the comics industry could benefit from a tech revolution. That’s about the time he became involved with Richmond Comicon.
“We’re at this really curious crossroads,” Carreras says. “Anybody who doesn’t recognize the digital medium as being the 800-pound gorilla in the corner is just lying to themselves at this point.”
Richmond Comicon started small 30 years ago. Carreras came on board as the show’s promoter in 2006, using his experience with technology to redesign the marketing and infrastructure. Attendance has grown tenfold, and the show has moved to a larger location at Richmond International Raceway.
Comic fandom is big in Richmond, which Carreras says has one of the highest per-capita rates of comic book stores in the country.
“As much as we’re a beer town and as much as we’re a food town and Chuck Taylors town,” he says — “we’re a comic book town.”
After the convention’s founder retired two years ago, Carreras took over, continuing to modernize the show and giving free tickets to children — a move that’s equal parts nostalgia and economics.
“The future of everything really is children,” Carreras says. “If you can get them excited about anything pop culture, anything comic-book related, then maybe they’re going to pick up a book and read.”
Carreras also has been spearheading a new project — organizing and selling the warehouse of comics left behind by the late, longtime store owner Dave Luebke. The goal is to have his friend’s “retirement plan” out the door in two years. With around 700,000 comics and related ephemera in the warehouse, it’s a daunting task, but a necessary one for Luebke’s family.
“There’s plenty of opportunity here, we just have to find it,” Carreras says. “It feels like making the impossible happen to make good on one of my friends’ dreams.”