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Billings comic shop owner passes down keys and cowls to childhood customers

Posted at 8:13 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 13:04:42-04

BILLINGS — Just ahead of Saturday's Free Comic Book Day celebration, Scott Phelps, former owner of Splash Page comics in Billings and Missoula, handed over the keys in April following 30 years of business.

“I don’t have children, but I used to joke that I have hundreds of kids," said Phelps. "Some of the kids came in when we were first here – they’re 40 now.”

Over the years, a handful of the kids who have frequented Phelps's shops have grown to work in the stores.

“At the end of the day, us, and teachers, and librarians, we’re all in the same boat where we’re trying to get kids into reading," said Kyndra Millar, the manager of the Splash Page, Billings, a childhood customer who described Phelps as a father figure.

Free Comic Book Day is said by comic store owners and organizers to emphasize the importance of childhood literacy.

“(Kids are) learning how to read, so (they are) not proficient readers yet. So, it’s hard for (them) to take those words and imagine them in (their) own heads," said Jason Benner, Splash Page's new owner, who started shopping at the store 30 years ago, when it first opened.

Phelps's own fascination with superheroes began while he was completing graduate school in San Diego, California, where his friend, Russell Walks, an illustrator, introduced him to Frank Millar's "The Dark Knight Returns."

“To me, it was more of a really well written book that just happened to have pictures," said Phelps.

While comic books have served as a centerpiece to his life, those around Phelps said what stands out most is his kind and giving heart.

“It was less about comics and more about life," said Art Haugan, a friend and regular customer of Phelps.

His friends and former employees likened Phelps to Bruce Banner (the alias of the Hulk) because of his intelligence, Superman because of his good nature, Batman because of his confidence, and Alfred, the Batman father figure butler, because of his dependability and wisdom.

“Whatever he decides to do, it will involve making someone else’s life better," said Walks.