By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — In the looming battle between paper comic books and digital ones, the owners of Midtown Comics aren’t waiting for a superhero to rescue them.
Rather, Manhattan’s largest comic book shop is launching a preemptive strike by opening a new outpost on Fulton Street.
"Everyone fears the digital age,” said Thor Parker, 29, Midtown Comics’ assistant marketing director. "We’re pushing through the only we know how: We’re going to prove that comics aren’t dead and the print medium still has life.”
At more than 3,500 square feet, the new store opening this fall on Fulton Street near Broadway will be the retailer’s biggest, with more room for signings and the crowds of aficionados who rush in to pick up the new releases every Wednesday. The second-floor space will hold tens of thousands of new and vintage comic books, plus DVDs, figurines, collectibles and apparel.
Parker declined to disclose the address of the new store, but he said Midtown Comics has already signed a lease.
Founded in 1997, Midtown Comics already has shops in Times Square and Grand Central, plus a bustling business online.
But digital comic books, sold by the individual publishing houses, threaten to encroach on Midtown’s business. On the same day Midtown Comics announced its expansion last week, DC Comics, publisher of Batman and Superman, began offering digital versions for iPhone and iPad customers.
Since the digital business is so new, Parker said there is still plenty of demand for print, and his customers seem to agree.
"Something you can own in your hand is much better than downloading,” said Nils Nilsson, 33, a Bronx resident who was browsing in Midtown Comics’ Times Square location this week.
Nilsson said many small comic book shops in the city have closed since the 1980s and ’90s, so he was glad to see Midtown Comics expanding.
Even Victor Colon, 52, manager at Chameleon Comics and Cards on Maiden Lane, said Midtown’s growth was a good sign.
Colon said he was not worried about competition from the new shop just a couple blocks away from Chameleon, which has been downtown for 19 years.
"We need more stores for the public,” Colon said. "The public will love it, so I’m down with that. We wish them the best.”