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Downtown SLO just got cooler by getting geekier

click to enlarge THE DOCTOR IS IN :  Reid Cain is convinced that he can convert non-comic book fans through his new shop in downtown SLO. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • THE DOCTOR IS IN : Reid Cain is convinced that he can convert non-comic book fans through his new shop in downtown SLO.

What makes a good comic book? According to Reid Cain, owner of Dr. Cain’s Comics and Games, the key to a good comic is the creator’s ability to balance elements of art and literature.

“It’s not like a book; if the writer is good, that’s great, but if the art is terrible, it’s tough,” he said. “It makes it more difficult to create a classic story in comics because of that.”

Now 36 years old, Cain grew up with the comic book industry. As it ages, so does its target audience, paving the way for acceptance into mainstream society and media. Several of the top grossing blockbuster films of the last 10 years and many of today’s video games were originally comics.

While most of the original plotlines featured G-rated stories of straight-laced, hyper-masculine heroes routinely saving civilians from evil villains, comics of today contain more complex, adult story lines and are riddled with eye-popping artwork. 

 Cain suspects that people who think they dislike comics might now reconsider.

“There is crime, indie, romance, horror,” he said. “If people come in and tell me what kind of book they are reading, I can usually tell them what kind of comic they would like.”

Cain, a comic book enthusiast for more than a decade, originally studied graphic and architectural design in college. After graduation he began working in architectural design, but soon discovered his calling was elsewhere. In the summer of 2010, he began to develop a business plan that would allow him to open a comic book store in downtown SLO. Finding a small location downtown to start his first retail business was relatively easy.

“There has been a lot available in the downtown area in the last couple years,” he explained, “and I think that it is opening up the opportunity for small businesses to come back into town, after the giant chains kind of cleared out downtown a few years ago.”

Cain found an ideal location across the street from Claassen Gallery at 778 Marsh St. The shop’s atmosphere is far from the dark, grungy nerd den many might envision when they picture a comic book store. Aside from a long wooden bench in the middle of the room that Cain built himself, the floor plan is open and inviting. Glossy, vibrant colors and images of the comic books that fill the bright white shelves seem to grab your corneas and suck you in.

 Unlike hands-off stores, here you can flip through the pages and decide if you want to buy a comic without having to tear through the shrink-wrap.

The store also carries fantasy role-playing games such as Call of Cthulhu. Cain is still developing this aspect of his shop, he said.

“I’m trying to work with Poly-Con [a Cal Poly games convention] to get the stuff they are into,” he said.

Cain has also been able to use his shop to showcase local artists.

“I am going to have some revolving artists, mostly just friends of mine,” he said. “I kind of opt for more pop art in here, but I’m not trying to compete with my buddy [Jeff Claassen] across the street.”

Check out Dr. Cain’s Comics and Games on Facebook or contact Cain by e-mail at

Fast facts

The Jewish community and several local partners are raising funds to provide warm, heavy-duty coats for the homeless population as part of their Coats for Christmas Day program. The groups will buy coats from San Luis Obispo Camp N’ Pack, which is providing an extensive discount. Coats range in price from $25 to $57. The goal is to raise enough funds to provide nearly 250 coats to the local homeless population. The coats will be distributed at the annual holiday dinner for the homeless on Dec. 25. …

The Exploration Station (867 Ramona Ave., Grover Beach, 473-1421) is partnering with the Girl Scouts to hold a Secret Santa Store on Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The store will be open at the Exploration Station during and after the Grover Beach Holiday Parade. One room will be transformed into a Secret Santa Shop where children and families can shop with the Girl Scouts. All proceeds benefit children’s programs at the Exploration Station. Also, become a money savvy kid on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the station. Designed for children ages 6 to 12, “Money Savvy Kids” is a starting point to teach a child how to get smart about money. Leading the way is the interactive Money Savvy Pig piggy bank, which helps parents and children explore such topics as the history of money, and four basic money management choices: save, spend, donate, and invest.

Intern Jack Johnson compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to

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