Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Bosco’s has evolved into a hub for comics, cards and games culture

Owner John Weddleton has been at the famed Spenard store for 37 for those years.

As Alaska’s financial outlook headed south in the mid-1980s, so did John Weddleton.

Unable to find work as an economist during the recession, he moved from Fairbanks to Anchorage in 1987 to work at Randy Ramuglia’s tiny comics store located in a shoe repair shop until he could find something else in his field.

Although the store — Bosco’s — has called multiple locations home along Spenard Road, Weddleton never left.

In the succeeding 37 years, Bosco’s has evolved into a vital resource for customers and a hub for activity in the world of comics, cards, collectibles and games.

The store, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, is an unequivocal Anchorage success story, notable for both its longevity and prosperity. With a store in Dimond Center and a vastly larger Spenard headquarters, Weddleton, who is now the sole owner, employs around 30 people.

But despite the tens of thousands of pieces of memorabilia and merchandise that line the walls and aisles at the Spenard store, Weddleton maintains Bosco’s is chiefly in the people business.

“Our motto in the store is listen to our customers,” he said. “We get what they want, sell it and repeat. You’ve got to listen your customers and when they start asking for stuff, you better make note.”

That approach has served the store well in the realm of games and collectibles, where trends can ignite at the snap of a finger but also burn out just as quickly. When Magic the Gathering and Pokemon started gained popularity, Bosco’s was listening.


“Having staff that people can talk to comfortably about what they’re passionate about,” store manager Eric Helmick said. “Being a communal focal point for those people to talk about their different nerd fandoms. We’re here on the frontlines when those people ask about stuff.”

With an immensity of individual items packed from wall to wall, the store can be overwhelming to navigate without a roadmap. What started as a comic store quickly adopted sports cards. And as the trends and preferences changed so did the store, adding board games, anime, table top games like Dungeons and Dragons, graphic novels, Manga and more.

But with so many options, there is still a connective tissue that ties together customers of different stripes.

“The through line is the passion,” said Bosco’s employee Vonnalet Mykham.You might not understand anything about Magic, but you can relate to it in a way that someone can relate to loving comic books.”

It was a love for comic books that brought Jordan Whitethorn and Glen Lopez to the store on Wednesday. Bosco’s is a place for them to explore, relate and debate.

“There’s something that led everyone here if you’re a comics person, or a sports card person or board gamer or card gamer,” Whitethorn said. ”You get to talking to someone about the thing you like and maybe they give that a chance or you find a third thing you both like.”

“It’s such a valuable place for any fandom to have to centralize and start an argument.”

It’s a fandom that David Harper is deeply familiar with. Harper has a website SKTCHD as well as a podcast called “Off Panel” devoted to the world of comics. He worked at the store as a teenager and has been a customer for 35 of his 40 years.

“It’s home for a lot of people who love very specialized things that they wouldn’t find otherwise,” Harper said. “You come in and you see a whole bunch of people who are excited about the same things as you are. ... It’s an essential part of Anchorage and Anchorage’s collective of nerds.”

Nerd culture has gained broader acceptance in recent years with the popularity of superhero movies and other franchises that have hit the mainstream. But that hasn’t always been the case.

The original store had posters in the window, but when Bosco’s changed locations in 1987, Weddleton opted for clear windows and a brighter, more lively environment. But a customer appealed to Weddleton to put the posters back up, saying he didn’t want to be spotted shopping in the store.

“This was ‘87, people were embarrassed to be comic readers and now, not at all,” he said.


With acceptance has come increasing quality. “Line of Sight,” a current exhibition at the Anchorage Museum, features the art of Alaska comic illustrators David Brame, Dimi Macheras and Nathan Shafer.

“It’s incredible to think back 40 years that this museum connected with the Smithsonian has this major display on our local comic creators,” Weddleton said.

A big part of the store’s success, Weddleton said, is its willingness to engage with its customers. Sometimes that means playing along. “The Death of Superman” in 1992 was a landmark moment in the comics industry and piqued the interest of readers, collectors and even the general public.

The store organized a memorial for Superman at Dimond Center with Weddleton performing a eulogy of sorts for the fallen superhero. The event was complete with plants in the audience, who gave impassioned testimonials to his great deeds. “He saved my baby,” Weddleton emoted, repeating a line from an actor in the crowd.

The store has also joined outraged customers in protesting the cancellation of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which had a very popular accompanying comic. They’ve even petitioned the municipality to change the name of Anchorage road Lois Drive to Lois Lane, after Superman’s love interest.

“It’s really important,” Weddleton said. “For one, it makes it more fun to do this crazy stuff. I mean, how many businesses can you do something like that?”


The store has also engrained itself into Anchorage’s collective consciousness with well-known ads, touting the claim that “not just comics, Bosco’s has it all.”

Many of the Bosco’s employees have been with the store for decades, developing connections and institutional knowledge. Helmick started working at the store in 1992 when he was still in college and Mykham has been there since before Bosco’s moved into its current location in 2015.

“I’m seeing people that I used to sell comics 20 years ago, they’re coming in with kids,” Helmick said.

Weddleton credits his staff for much of the evolution of the store done over the years.

“We reinvent ourselves constantly,” Weddleton said. “If they have an idea to do something my answer is, ‘Let me know how it goes. Let me know what you need from me.’ They’re smart. If you don’t try things, then you don’t innovate. You get stale.”

Part of that innovation an expanded events room that allows the store to host swap meets and game competitions.

“It’s fun for us to host events,” Weddleton said. “Our staff and I are gamers and collectors and so these are our people. And for a lot of our customers it’s a big part of their life to come here, meet with their friends and play this game. To offer that to people is really amazing. It’s so cool.”

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Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.