We recently received a kind email from Dr. Scott McNamara, who drove all the way from Washington D.C. to visit and sit in his grandfather's booth from McNamara's Drug Store. When we posted the photo of him sitting in the booth on OCPL's social media, we received a lot of nice comments. One stood out.
David Campiti commented: “If it weren't for the comics racks and selection at McNamara's Drugstore in Warwood, I would not have been inspired to have a 40+ year career writing, editing, publishing comics! It's been a great life, a wonderful career. (Thank you, Alice!).”
So naturally, we asked for more information. David was kind enough to share. His full story follows.
It's amazing the things we take for granted. It's amazing how early experiences in long gone places can shape people's lives. For David, McNamara's wasn't just a cool corner store with cherry Cokes and comic books. It was a place where dreams were born and life goals were inspired.
I discovered comic books as a child and started buying them (with my own money from chores, mowing lawns, shoveling snow) at nine years old in 1967 at McNamara's Drug Store. I learned that the local distributor dropped off comics there every Monday and Wednesday, so I went every Tuesday and Thursday. Alice was the sweet lady who racked the books, and she'd tell me when everything was out. I remember the milkshakes she made at the soda fountain; I only had them a couple of times, sitting in a booth in the back, because a milkshake was temporary and owning a comic could be permanent, so it was better to spend the 12 cents -- then 15 cents -- then more -- on the comic I could re-read. I remember Mr. McNamara always sitting in his wooden chair in the space right in front of the magazine racks. I recall how extensive it was: Two comics racks each with 40 pockets, holding Marvel and DC Comics, plus a large wooden shelving unit to the left that racked the Gold Key and Dell and Harvey and Classics Illustrated and all the rest.
Some kids just read comics. I truly loved them.
Y'see, comics weren't "just" a medium for kids. I realized early on you could tell ANY type of story in comics -- a unique form different from novels or short stories or radio or TV or film. I grew up wanting to write comics, to work with Marvel creator Stan Lee, and by extension work in animation and do voices for cartoons.
All begun, all inspired by that lovely little place McNamara's Drug Store.
I moved out of Wheeling for a few years around 1982 and, that same year, I broke into writing comic books. Sure, I was already employed as a copywriter at WKWK and later WANJ-FM radio, but I moved away to be a writer for L.G. Balfour company and, later, the United Way. But I soon became a book packager. After moving back to Wheeling a few years later, I founded a comic book company of my own, Innovation, where I published licensed adaptations and tie-ins to TV shows, films, and novels. Beauty and the Beast, Dark Shadows, Lost in Space, Quantum Leap, Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat, Stephen King projects, and more were part of my work from 1988 - 1993.
Sadly, McNamara's was closed by then...and because I couldn't recall Alice's last name, I couldn't track down and tell her I was working in the industry she'd helped me discover.
After Innovation, I launched Glass House Graphics, which represented artists and animators all over the world. We ended up drawing thousands of comic books across the next 30+ years, for Marvel, DC, Simon & Schuster, and so many others.
I continued writing comics, of course, everything from Superman, THUNDER Agents, and Pandora's Blogs, to young readers' graphic novels like Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Moon Base Alpha. I worked on and off with Stan Lee for 20+ years; wrote many thousands of pages of comics and supplied artists for tens of thousands more; got to voice animated cartoons; and produced animation for Hulu and Netflix and more, with our animated project Grubbs Christmas Special coming to television Holiday season 2024.
I look back and realize that I achieved every one of my childhood goals, all of which started thanks to Alice and the comic racks in the back of McNamara's Drug Store.
My animation website is: www.ghsanimation.com
And the publishing services site is: www.glasshousegraphics.com
You can also reach David on Facebook.