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John Dolmayan opens high-end comic book shop in Las Vegas

Posted at 3:12 AM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 17:04:26-04

Here's a fun fact about John Dolmayan: before joining System of a Down as a drummer and selling 40 million records worldwide, he sold comic books for a living. And he was really good at it

Now with plenty of experience under his belt, the rock star opened a new store called Torpedo Comics near Tenaya Way and Arroyo Crossing Parkway.

Decked out with life-sized superheroes and an AT-AT that completely fills the room, the store specializes in high-end comic books that you can't find anywhere else. There's even a "Bank of Gotham" vault that holds comics worth tens of thousands of dollars. 

Comics are usually independently graded by professionals on a scale of 0.5 to 10. The higher the number, the more pristine the comic. But even comics in poor condition can command a high price if they're rare enough.

"This 1.5 [grade] Pep Comics 22 is the first appearance of a character named Archie," Dolmayan explained, pointing to one of the comics in the vault. "And that particular copy - even at a 1.5 - is worth $45,000."

It's a seemingly risky move to open a physical shop considering that brick-and-mortar stores from other industries are shutting down as consumers turn their attention toward online shopping.

But the comic book industry seems resistant to this trend. In 2015, comic books made about $1.03 billion in North America, and only $90 million of those sales came from digital marketplaces. 

Dolmayan believes that fans love the look and feel of an actual comic book, as opposed to digital books that are viewed on a computer screen. Moreover, collectors seldom buy digital books because they can be easily replicated, and thus won't increase in value over time.

"When it comes to something like a real comic book, it's produced once and that's it," said Dolmayan, pointing to one of his more valuable books. "If you wanted that copy of Fantastic Four #3, you had to buy it either when it came out, or in the market afterward for a premium."

Ultimately Dolmayan hopes that his shop will become a destination for locals and tourists who are looking to spice up their collection or discover new titles.

"There isn't anything like [Torpedo Comics]," he said. "Not only in Las Vegas, but anywhere in the country."