By DENNIS D. CRUZ
For nearly five decades the Allen family of Modesto has provided pop culture fans with their merchandise needs. In 1973, Bill and Lillian Allen opened Bonanza Books in Modesto where they specialized in paperback books.
“An original customer by the name of Delwayn Doyle requested comic books. So we began supplying them and it went over great. I started with the basics, Superman, Batman and things like that,” Bill Allen said. He also added that his son Terry enjoyed comics as a boy and was one of the other reasons they began selling comics in the store.
“When we first started selling comics, we had one rack. It was probably 20 to 30 comics. Our youngest son Terry knew what people liked so we started selling them and have not looked back,” Lillian Allen said of the first set of comics that came into the store.
Today, there are over 3,000 comics in the store and hundreds of paperback books still on the shelves as well.
For years, the store has been a top comic book destination in the 209 area. Today, the store is run by not only Bill and Lillian, but their oldest son Jeff as well. Bonanza Books and Comics has moved three times in Modesto, but has thrived at their current location at 2308 McHenry Ave., where they have been since 1999. Over the years the family-owned store has brought in many fans, and still is a destination for some of the original customers from back in the early 1970s.
“I brought my wife, my first wife that is, here on our first date. I have been a comic book fan my whole life and I enjoy coming in here over the years,” said Antone Perry, an original customer from when the store first opened in 1973.
Another local comic book enthusiast, Erik Green, was recently in the shop as well perusing comic books. Green has been a loyal customer at Bonanza Books and Comics.
“I come in every week. The people here are amazing. It’s family run and the Allens treat us like family. They make us feel like a part of their family,” Green explained. “Everyone is welcomed here and it truly is a special atmosphere. Bonanza has a wide variety of comics too and people come in here and look for hours. ”
Another big fan of the store is comic book legend Stan Lee himself. Lee has visited Bonanza multiple times and has an autographed picture framed on the wall.
“Stan came in here years ago and signed autographs for the customers. He is a great guy and very kind,” Bill Allen said of the Marvel legend.
Bonanza has something for all ages. The standard DC Comics, Marvel, Dark Horse, Harvey, Disney and even local artists’ comics can be found on the racks and shelves. Superhero classics like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, The Avengers, Green Lantern and other nostalgic classics are on display for everyone. Kids can find appropriate comic books as well featuring Donald Duck, Archie, Casper the Friendly Ghost and more. For mature comic book and graphic novel fans, there are selections such as The Walking Dead.
“Comics are such a big part of pop culture today. Superheroes and villains can be seen everywhere. Hollywood brought them back on the big screen; there are television shows on almost every night that are based on comics. Action figures are still a top seller as well,” Lillian said.
Bonanza’s annual Free Comic Book Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 6. Fans can come in and get a free comic while meeting some of their favorite superheroes and other pop culture icons. Scheduled to appear this year are Sonic the Hedgehog, Batman, Captain America, Darth Vader, Harley Quinn and many more.
“It’s a great big event. We give out free comics to everyone, and it is a wide variety that we have out for them to choose from. We also have local artists come out and sign autographs and do illustrations for the fans — that draws a big crowd,” Lillian noted. “We also have special appearances by many fan favorites and the kids love it.”
Later in the year, the store will host its annual Halloween Comicfest and Batman Day.
If You Go
Bonanza Books & Comics is located at 2308 McHenry Ave., in Modesto
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday;
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday; and closed Sunday and Monday
For more information, visit www.bonanzabooks.net or call 209-529-0415