by Brian Lamar
For young William Carpenter life has been a tough road to travel.
Dealing with a crippling disease that required more than 20 surgeries as a child and missing about six total years of school, William wasn’t slowed down much as he wore wheelchair shaped grooves in the road of life as he made his destiny bend to his will.
On two wheels, William burned rubber and caught up with his classmates after physically missing half of his schooling.
“William was brilliant. He was extremely smart and hard working. William not only caught up to his class after missing so much school, but he ended up graduating with honors,” said Bill Carpenter, his father.
Black tire marks, evidence of William’s hard work and daily efforts, are etched on the back corner of a yellow cinder block wall that housed William’s Comic Book Shop for the past six years. That corner is where most customers would find William cataloging new inventory or doing research on other customer requests.
The idea of the comic book shop occurred when his mother, Lori, saw that William had become bored with a daily routine and needed a new challenge. That’s when she added the Comic Book Shop annex onto the back of her Barber Shop that sits just off of Jeff Davis Ave in downtown Long Beach, Miss.
“College wasn’t going well for William. Due to obstacles like carrying around his oxygen and other things, it just became too big of a hassle,” said Lori.
Once William was back at home from his attempt at college, the Carpenters went to work on building a business based off of Williams life-long passion that started as a kid when his dad, Bill, would bring him comics to read while he was recuperating from surgeries to correct complications from his Escobar syndrome at Children’s Hospital.
After the first challenge of figuring out a physical space to host the comic book shop was solved, the trio set out to research how to build a collection to fill the shelves. Some of the collection was William’s personal comics, but they found a comic book vendor that was going out of business in Mobile, Alabama. They were able to buy the entire inventory of 30,000 comics.
One more hurdle to cross, was William’s unique medical necessities due to his illness. His mother installed an oxygen concentrator unit to help William keep up with the demands of the business.
Once those challenges were met, William began opening his shop daily and many patrons found William to be an encyclopedia of Comic Book Knowledge, Art, History and Literature.
“I bought my first comic book in his store. I just stopped in while I was waiting for a haircut. I didn’t know anything about comics except for the big ones like Superman or Batman. He asked me what I liked to read. He asked me what movies were my favorite. Once I answered, he pointed to a comic book on the shelf and said, ‘Read that. If you don’t like it, I will give you your money back’,” said Terrance Clemmons, a Sailor assigned to the Seabee base.
For William, the shop wasn’t about making money. It was about sharing his love of comics. The stories, the legends and the art.
“Somedays he wouldn’t make $5 or nothing at all, but he wouldn’t care. He just loved meeting people and sharing his love of comics,” said Lori.
Of all the series, William was most enchanted with Sonic the Hedgehog.
“We took a trip to Disney when he was five and the hotel had free Sega in the room, which was a big deal back then. We were in the park and we asked him, what do you want to do next. He just wanted to go back to the room and play Sonic,” said Lori as she laughed through tears in her eyes.
On Dec. 7, William’s epic story concluded. His triumphs in life over what would have been a devastating blow to many is a testament to his resolve.
After finally succumbing to complications with his illness, he will be remembered for his intellect, his dry sense of humor and his secret superhero power right under our noses this whole time hidden right in his name.
The WILLpower to keep going against all odds.