If you've ever been to a comic or game store, you know it's more than just a place to buy things. You'll see the store manager arguing with the Annoying Guy (about an unknown movie with dead actors). There's the teenagers in the back who are always too loud and don't really buy anything. Then there's the person with the nice job, who would rather spend more time in the store, instead. Comic book stores are community anchors. Each grows the other. It's a good deal.
As such, its surprising that Sri Lanka developed a comic book culture, at all. Comics at regular book retailers have always been expensive, and with limited selection. Marvel and DC movies mainstreamed comic book IPs, but not reading them. Piracy created access, but also consumers who didn't like paying.
Could a comic book store start in Sri Lanka, and succeed?
Sulakshana Soysa, founder of Red Dot Geek, thought so.
"We Should Start this in Sri Lanka"
"I love comics," said Sulakshana. "I love the blockbuster superheroes. But, if you want to get to know their characters, you've got to read the comics." As a comic book reader, Sulakshana didn't much care for the challenges involved. "They were hard to find, and always expensive," he said. "The latest comics weren't available, at any cost."
Like many readers, Sulakshana would have to buy his comics online, or go abroad. In a comic book store on one such trip, the idea came to him and his partner. "We thought 'wow, we need this. We should start this in Sri Lanka.' "
They discussed the idea between themselves, and did their research. In 2016, they saw their moment. "DC Rebirth was about to happen," said Sulakshana. "The reboot of the DC universe. It was now or never."
And so Red Dot Geek was launched.
Overwhelming Community Support
One of the first thing that strikes you about Red Dot Geek is how popular they are in the community. Here's their satisfaction score, on Facebook:
Even the trolls are nice to them. If you read the testimonials, you can see why.
Early this year, Red Dot Geek took another big chance, and brought Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) to Sri Lanka. Community members volunteered at their booth, and they invited Lanka Comic Con to coordinate activities with them. with them.
"We're still taking risks," said Sulakshana. "But we think it's worth it because so many people are helping us. We're always thankful."
A Brick and Mortar Store
Sulaksana's biggest priority is opening a brick and mortar, retail store, in Colombo. Him and his partner (who has asked to remain anonymous) are also planning more FCBD-style giveaways, like Halloween Comic Fest.
Red Dot Geek has also broadened it's range to action figures, board games, and posters. You can meet Sulakshana and the rest of the Red Dot team, at the Asus Lanka Comic Con 2017.