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April 8, 2019

Law School Alum Holds Essay Contest to Give Away Comic Store

University of Chicago Law School alum Carmelo Chimera (J.D. ’13) will be giving away the Oak Lawn branch of his comic book store, Chimera’s Comics, to the winner of an essay contest. Contestants submitted 500-word essays describing what makes a great comic book store.

In addition to running his two comic book stores and working as a lawyer, Chimera has organized several Kickstarter campaigns and published his own graphic novel, Magnificent.

He said that after making the decision to leave one of his stores, he considered selling it, but none of the possible ways to do so “really made me happy,” until he decided to hold the essay contest. “When I had the idea to give it away, it just kind of came to me. It was a Friday, and the next Tuesday I made the public announcement.”

The application closed on February 5, with 720 submissions.

“In that first early stage, I didn’t know what I was looking for,” he said. “There was no right answer to the question. I was hoping to find the answer among the essays.”

After about a week he narrowed the pool down to about 170, and then asked an informal committee for advice. “I looked at their feedback and from there narrowed it down to 50. That took 10–14 days to get their feedback, then I spent a week with their notes.” Last Friday, he had narrowed it down again to 10 essays from which he plans to choose the winner.

Chimera said that after he contacts the winner, he will first “try to talk them out of it.” Then, once all the legal work is “down on paper,” the store will make a public announcement.

He also plans on turning his remaining store into a franchise.

“I think I’ll offer my winner the chance to be the first store of the franchise, but they don’t have to. I’m going to leave it up to them.”

Chimera’s Comics opened its first branch in 2011 while Chimera was a first-year student at the Law School. A friend had suggested the idea to him while they were collaborating on an early draft of Chimera’s graphic novel Magnificent. They opened the store on Free Comic Book Day, an industry-wide event that happens in early May each year.

Chimera said in an interview with The Maroon that they had both worked at a comic book store in high school and were disappointed by how it had changed.

“He said to me, ‘Why don’t we open our own store?’ and I’m not the kind of guy to turn that down without looking into if it was possible, and it was possible.”

By the end of his third year at the Law School, he opened a second branch of the store in Oak Lawn. “At the time, it was like, ‘Everything’s going well, so why not?’”

But Chimera still had his studies to attend to. “I remember studying for the Bar Exam in the back of my store.”

He decided to give away one of his Chimera’s Comics stores to someone who could dedicate more time and energy into it, he told The Maroon.

“Looking back on it, maybe I was never the right guy to do the job,” he said, referencing how he used to study for law school while at the stores.

He said that in addition to working on his own comics, he will also focus on the distribution of comic books to vendors other than comic book stores, but he said that the past few months have affected the way he views the industry.

“This whole experience has been really humbling to see what comic books mean to people and what the store means to people,” he said. “I wish everyone could see what I see.”

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