Carr D’Angelo ’84: Comic Book Hero

Carr D’Angelo ’84

Courtesy Carr D’Angelo ’84

It might seem like you can’t go to the movies or turn on the TV without seeing a comic book character these days, but Carr D’Angelo ’84 has long been ahead of the pop culture curve. A lifelong comic book fan and owner of popular Los Angeles comic stores Earth-2 Comics, the lessons he learned at the College have stayed with him in his role as comic gatekeeper, he says.

“Comics are a modern mythology,” says D’Angelo on why comics resonate with so many people. “You’ve got gods with different powers, you’ve got fallen angels, villains become heroes and heroes become villains.”

In 2003, D’Angelo opened the first Earth-2 Comics, in Sherman Oaks, and since then it has set the bar for comic stores, winning the 2007 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award (the Eisners are the comic industry’s version of the Academy Awards) and expanding in 2009 with another Earth-2 in L.A.’s Northridge neighborhood. In January 2016, L.A. Weekly named the Northridge Earth-2 in a roundup of the “10 Best L.A. Comic Book Shops to Support Your Habit.” The stores regularly host author and artist autograph signings — for example, a May 7 Free Comic Book day event included Suicide Squad: The New 52 writer Adam Glass and cover artist Ryan Benjamin — as well as theme parties, group discussions and even kids’ art classes.

Fantastic Five

CCT asked Carr D’Angelo ’84 for his top five comic recommendations. Here are his picks.

Watchmen comic

Courtesy DC Comics

1. Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons: “I can read this book a million times and find something new every time.”

Planetary comic

Courtesy DC Comics

2. Planetary, by writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday: It features “archaeologists of the impossible — the ultimate in meta-textual adventure comics.”

Box Office Poison comic

Courtesy Top Shelf Productions

3. Box Office Poison, written and illustrated by Alex Robinson: It “examines love, friendship and betrayal — the unsung graphic novel of the 21st century.”

Nimona comic

Courtesy HarperTeen

4. Nimona, written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson: “A Young Adult fantasy about a misfit monster girl — funny and emotional.”

Starman comic

Courtesy DC Comics

5. Starman, by writer James Robinson and artist Tony Harris: “A sprawling, generational superhero epic.”

Says D’Angelo, “People are coming to us because they want something that’s going to engage the imagination. … You have to keep up your rep. If people just want to buy a book they can go to Amazon but if they want an experience they have to come to us.”

D’Angelo’s love of creating an experience started young. At Columbia, he was a member of the Barnard Film Society, which hosted regular movie screenings each semester. One year, as a club officer, he decided a fun way to start each movie for the year would be to show Batman shorts from the 1940s. To jazz up the 15-minute serials, he did the introductions dressed as Robin: Boy Wonder to fire up the crowd. He notes that even while an undergraduate, he recognized the nostalgic pull of comics. D’Angelo says that when other guys in the dorm saw his comic book collection, it often turned into a group reading as the classic characters drew people in — even those who weren’t regular comic readers.

“What I loved about Columbia was that we were always sitting around talking about ideas,” he says. “Those are the things that lead to human connections — trying to understand the world, trying to understand how people think, trying to understand philosophy. And a good story always contains that.”

After graduation, D’Angelo stayed in New York and wrote for fan magazines such as Starlog, Fangoria and Comics Scene. In 1988, he joined Universal’s story department and by 1994 was a VP of production for films such as Happy Gilmore and The Little Rascals. He later began producing films (for example, 2001’s The Animal and 2002’s The Hot Chick, both starring Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider) before opening Earth-2 Comics in 2003 after his wife, Susan Avallone LS’85, suggested that he focus on his passion for comics with a store. Since then, D’Angelo has been immersed in the comic retail industry, serving on the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, the trade association for comic book retailers, from 2006 to 2016 as well as being a judge for the 2015 Eisner Awards, which he says was a great honor.

Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., a former president and a current member of ComicsPRO, has worked with D’Angelo in the comic retail industry for years. Field says of D’Angelo’s passion for comics and entertainment: “From the moment Carr got into the comic retail business, he’s been highly involved,” going above and beyond to promote the industry. Field adds, “Carr has been one of the strong voices for comic retail,” noting that Earth-2 is a destination for many people in the L.A. community thanks to D’Angelo’s work to make it an inclusive, innovative stop.

Earth-2 Comics is named after the DC Comics alternate version of Earth. D’Angelo says that one of the first superhero comics he read in the ’70s was a Justice League of America (the original Earth-Prime good guys) crossover with the Justice Society of America (the alternate universe Earth-2 good guys); that early reading fostered his love of superheroes. “A lot of the things I’ve done have been about telling stories as a business, whether it’s been writing and editing for magazines or working in the movie business as a development executive and producer and now selling comics,” he says.

“One of the things I learned at Columbia was the ability to identify what the makings of a good story are,” he says, adding that comics are a great medium for telling stories that capture the human experience — an experience he is happy to help readers find in the pages of comics.