INVASION OF PRIVACY: Juvenescent Joe Watkins keeps town spirit alive with comics

It was almost four years ago that Joe Watkins turned his love of comic books into a business, Joe's Comics on Main Street, thereby acquiring the largest and most diverse collection of comic books he had ever owned.

Watkins was born in the village of Attica, N.Y., and has always been a resident of the Rochester area. After graduating high school, he served in the Army for four years and did a 16-month stint as part of a motor pool in Korea.

Watkins never meant to be in the Army permanently, but used the opportunity to earn money for college. He couldn't help but express his deep reverence for the soldiers who are currently serving in the U.S. Army. "What we were doing was nothing compared to what those guys are experiencing today … I have so much respect for them," Watkins said.

After his time in the Army, Watkins attended Genesee Community College for several semesters and then moved on to Geneseo where he received a bachelor's degree in computer science. He worked as a computer consultant for several years until he and a silent partner decided to open the dual business of Joe's Comics and the Auction It for Cash store.

One day, Watkins walked into a comic book store in Ithaca, N.Y. and his love for comics was suddenly rekindled, along with a desire to open his own comic book store. Initially, the Auction It for Cash store and Joe's Comics started out as equal parts of the dual business, but Watkins' love of comics eventually took over.

Although he cannot recall the first time he picked up a comic book, Watkins fondly remembers the days of his youth when he spent hours sitting on the floor of his town's comic book store reading. When he was younger, he started reading "Casper the Friendly Ghost" and "Richie Rich." From there he progressed to "Archie" and "Jughead" and finally became a fan of the classic superhero comics.

He admitted that there was a time in his life where he moved away from comic books, but he said the best thing about comics is that "they are compelling enough to bring fans back, over and over again." In Watkins' opinion, comics are currently at their artistic peak. He said, "Today's comics have beautiful art and the writing is better than ever."

Watkins said he is proud to be a purveyor of one of the two art forms ever to originate in America, one being comic books and the other jazz. It is only recently that comics broke out of the stereotype of being children's books. According to Watkins, "Comics have expanded worldwide, and in places like Japan they have comics for everyone from 60-year-old men to five-year-old girls."

Watkins said that Wednesday is his favorite day of the week because it is the day when the new shipments of comic books come into the store. "A comic book store was a perfect fit for me," he said. "I love being able to read everything and appraise all the old comics that come in."

Although Watkins has no comic book collection of his own, only keeping a few books for sentimental value, he said, "Having this store is like having a giant collection of my own."