Nerdy Night Out
Comic Shop Is a ‘Paradox’ Among Downtown Fargo Bars
BY ANDY WESTON
Tomes filled with stories of spandex-clad heroes and tabletops where warlocks and warriors clash in epic battles can be happened upon regularly in downtown Fargo.
Behind a storefront adorned with neon-lit Batman and Superman symbols lies a labyrinth of comic books, graphic novels and sculptures of costume-adorned gods. Winding through this maze of collectibles will lead patrons to a gladiatorial arena of tabletops and fold-out chairs where fantastical adventures play out. This storefront is known to travelers far and wide as Paradox Comics-N-Cards.
This small nerd haven is the only comic shop in downtown Fargo and one of only two comic shops in the city.
And the store is aptly named when you look at what surrounds it. On any given weekend you can walk through downtown Fargo and find bars filled with loud sociable people. But if you go just a bit further down Roberts Street you will find a place where people meet to have tempered debates about their favorite superheroes or hold a quiet and calculated duel with the trading card game Magic: The Gathering.
This distinct meeting spot for everything nerd related was started in 1993 by Richard Early and has been growing in size and popularity ever since. But within the last few years the shop has experienced an increased rate of growth due to the acceptance of nerd culture through mainstream media.
“People are definitely digging what’s going on in the nerd world right now,” said Alex Early, who has worked at Paradox 12 years and is Richard’s brother. “When ‘The Big Bang Theory’ show came out there were tons of people that were finally acknowledging that they liked nerd stuff.”
The acceptance of nerd culture and its increase in popularity is part of the reason Paradox expanded the store.
“It was probably about six years ago, I want to say, that we started putting more of an emphasis onto boardgames,” said Early. “All of our expansion stuff started when we knocked down the wall (on the north side) to get more space for tables.”
The extra space for gaming has turned out to be a good investment as Paradox now hosts several gaming events every month. The events have caused warriors and diplomats from all kingdoms to walk through Paradox’s gates.
“I found out about Paradox because it was the location to play Pathfinder,” said Courtnie Dritz, who recently moved to Fargo from Minneapolis and has been coming to Paradox to play the fantasy set Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Dritz continues to find her way back to Paradox because of the community that has gathered there.
“It’s really friendly,” said Dritz. “People are fairly open to talking … you’re able to come in and just talk about games.”
But Paradox isn’t only a place where denizens can become warriors on a tabletop battlefield. The store also has opportunities for patrons to become life-size action figures or dress as galactic heroes.
Last year during Free Comic Book Day, an annual nationwide event held on the first Saturday in May, Paradox set up a giant action-figure display box that customers could step into and take pictures. It’s also not uncommon during special events for new movies like Star Wars or the next big superhero blockbuster to find patrons dressing up as their favorite characters from the respective movie.
The inclusive nature of Paradox is one of the main tenets behind how the store is run and why it’s such a great place for people to hang out.
“It’s one of the few types of stores you can be at where you can kind of hang out and it’s not weird or socially unacceptable,” said Early.
So, whether you’re a nerd novice or an established grandmaster, there is a sanctuary to be found among the bustling pubs of the village, and its name is Paradox.
(Andy Weston is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at MSUM. He hopes to one day end the hashtag and bring back the pound sign. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)