COLUMBUS — Gib Bickel is the manager, and former owner, of The Laughing Ogre, a comic book store in Clintonville, a neighborhood in Columbus situated near the campus of Ohio State University. Bickel graduated from Greenville High School in 1979, and still frequently wears a “Green Wave” t-shirt, including in a photo for a recent profile in The Columbus Dispatch.
“I wear them all the time,” Bickel said of his collection of Green Wave tees. “You wouldn’t believe how many people come into the store and see that shirt and say, ‘Wow! I’m from Greenville too!’”
Bickel gets the shirts from his sister, who still lives in Greenville, on his infrequent trips back to his hometown.
“I’m usually home about two or three times a year,” Bickel said. “I have to come back for a Maid Rite, or a tenderloin at Vint’s!”
Bickel moved to Columbus as a young man to attend O.S.U. After 12 years working in management at Wendy’s, he founded The Laughing Ogre with two friends, Daryn Guarino and Rodney Phillips, in 1994.
“I had worked for a friend at a comic book store called The Wizard,” Bickel said. “Daryn, Rodney, and I were all customers there, and I worked a few hours on my days off from Wendy’s. So one day we were sitting around talking, and I said, ‘Man, I miss The Wizard. I’d love to open a place like that.’”
Opening a comic book shop was not that far removed from a dream Bickel had when he was younger.
“Before I even knew there were comic book stores, I always thought I’d retire and go back to Greenville and open a used book store one day,” Bickel said.
Bickel sold the store in 2006 and did a five-year stint at Carmax, then returned as manager in 2011. The shop is currently owned by a businessman named Chris Lloyd, who owns a handful of similar stores in other states.
Interacting with other recreational readers, according to Bickel, is the most rewarding aspect of working in a place like The Ogre.
“Everybody that comes in here reads for pleasure,” Bickel said. “That’s just a different kind of person. People like going to Carmax, but they don’t love it. When people come here, it’s like it’s their release for the week.”
Bickel said the comic store industry hasn’t changed significantly, despite the success of the Avengers films and other franchises in recent years.
“Movie fans are movie fans,” Bickel said. “They’re not readers generally. Rather than bringing new fans to the comics, I think what these movies do, mostly, is rekindle the interest people may have had when when they were younger.”
Bickel’s favorite part of working in a comic book store, he said, is having the ability to share the comics that he loves with others.
“I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than recommending a book to a fellow reader, and having them come back and say they loved it too,” Bickel said. “That’s a great feeling. Every day we get to share the best of what’s going on in comics with everyone that comes in.”
The Laughing Ogre is located at 4258 N. High St. in Clintonville, Ohio.
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