Blog: Dan Merritt

In the comics, as in life, actions speak louder than words. From toughing out road construction projects to the digitizing of print, Green Brain Comics co-owner Dan Merritt covers the survival of the superhero of American art forms, the comic book.

Post 4: No Comic Book Store is an Island

East Downtown Dearborn is a unique neighborhood in the urban landscape of metro Detroit. Once a thriving shopping district in the mid 20th century, it has evolved with the local manufacturing base over the last several decades into a mix of retail, restaurants and a growing segment of health services. It now strives to accommodate the shifting demographics of the area, along with the change in socio-economic conditions.

Over the last few years, I have become more intimately acquainted with the businesses in this area. After participating in a few committees organized by the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority (EDDDA) it became apparent that I had a role and a responsibility to become more involved with the work of this small part of the Dearborn City government. The DDA advocates, directs and manages revitalization and economic growth and acts to support and promote the district businesses. Kind of a no brainer for an owner-operator such as myself to get involved.

In 2008, I was appointed to be on the board of directors for the EDDDA. Within my first few years, we had set up an annual free concert series, Jazz on the Ave, in City Hall Park featuring several local jazz acts, the Taste of Dearborn East restaurant crawl, and are now working with the nation's leading nonprofit real estate developer for the arts, Artspace, to create affordable live/work space for area artists and and arts organizations. In 2010 I was appointed vice-chair of the EDDDA and continue to serve the district and to promote the idea of East Downtown Dearborn as a dynamic and unique destination.

With this experience under my belt and a strengthened sense of community responsibility, I now participate in an equally lively, but much looser organization of Detroit area comic book retailers. Our goals are simpler as well: to promote the culture of comic book stores by networking, sharing ideas and pooling our resources for promotions for seasonal promotions and coordinated events.

And our most ambitious collaboration is with a non profit organization called Kids Read Comics with fellow organizers Edith Burney (Youth librarian, Chelsea District Library), Jerzy Drozd (teaching artist, cartoonist and artist in residence at CDL), and Dan Mishkin (veteran comic writer and creator of characters like Blue Devil and Amethyst). Our mission is to promote kid friendly comic books within schools and libraries and to teach kids the tools to create comic books of their own. So far this has manifested itself in two annual Kids Read Comics Festivals, with another coming up in downtown Chelsea, Michigan, on June 18th & 19th. It has also spawned a library workshop tour led by Jerzy. Our long term goals include creating a database of teaching artists in Michigan to be used by schools and libraries and the continuation of annual Kids Read Comics Festivals around the state.

Through each of these relationships we strengthen our ties to the respective communities and in turn further empower those communities by our contributions.