Comic book store marks 30 years in UNLV area

By Annabel Rochal | January 30th, 2017
Photo courtesy of Andrew Rigney

Inside Pioneer Plaza on Maryland Parkway and Flamingo Road stands one of Las Vegas’ hidden gems.

In contrast to the city’s traditionally earth-toned aesthetic, Alternate Reality Comics offers a vivid and colorful atmosphere as soon as you open the door.

Owner Ralph Mathieu arranged his shop like a library; the comics organized by genre with an emphasis on cover art and graphics. His products, which are restocked every Wednesday, consist of hundreds of comic books, graphic novels and other related memorabilia.

With genres ranging from classic superhero comics to horror and historical narratives, Mathieu ensures there is something that appeals to all of his customers.

“Any type of story can be told in comic book form,” Mathieu said.

This becomes apparent with a quick walk through the store.

For readers interested in social issues, “RESIST!” is a comic created by different artists in response to current political events and the Women’s March on Washington. The 40-page newspaper-like comic offers a collection of comic strips and political cartoons. A few copies are still available at Alternate Reality Comics.

For readers who prefer a spin-off on old-school comics, “Afterlife with Archie” is a series that provides a combination of horror and nostalgia. It is based on the classic Archie comics, which originated in the 1940s, but provides a new narrative featuring the original characters with a zombie twist.

Mathieu’s personal favorites include Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s “The Vision,” and anything created by Alan Moore, the mastermind behind “V for Vendetta.”

“He’s definitely a writer with a capital W,” he said.

Alternate Reality has undergone significant changes since it first opened in 1987.

Before Mathieu purchased the store in 1995, the business had two previous owners. Originally named Dungeon Comics, Mathieu changed the store’s name to Alternate Reality to better fit the vision he had for his store.

“I chose Alternate Reality to allude to the other world that many comics are often set in. Also, [I chose] alternate to suggest there’s other things going on in comics, more than just what you read,” Mathieu said.

The store was originally located on Maryland Parkway next to Stake Out Bar & Grill before it changed locations in 2010 and doubled its size to approximately 2,200 square feet.

The added space allows for more merchandise and events to be hosted there. Alternate Reality hosts a local artists spotlight every first Wednesday of the month. The store will feature artist David Quiles during the free event on Feb. 1 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mathieu encourages the community to attend and display their artwork at his store.

“It doesn’t have to be superhero art. Come in here, show me what you do, and I’ll look at our calendar,” Mathieu said.

Even with the gradual shift of people spending more time reading online rather than reading printed publications, Mathieu says the future of the industry seems promising.

The popularity of Marvel superhero movies and shows like “The Walking Dead” are continuing narratives that originated in the comic book/graphic novel world. This is a drastic shift from when his fandom began 42 years ago.

“It’s almost like nerd and geek culture has become chic. Growing up you had to be a closet comic book fan because it wasn’t accepted,” he said.

Mathieu’s knowledge of the industry and passion for what he does is apparent when talking to him. With such a wide variety of titles, everyone can surely find an interesting read at Alternate Reality Comics.

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