By Megan M. Seckman

Sonya Linser, 49, walked into what was supposed to be a part-time job at The Great Escape 21 years ago and never left. Once she stepped foot into the quirky world of comic culture, she instantly felt at home.

“It’s almost like working in Mayberry. The carpets are duct-taped to the floor, it feels like a basement, and you see the same shy, eclectic customers each week — some of whom I have pulled comics for for years,” Sonya says of the store’s regular clientele, who range in age from late 20s to 60s. There are 520 regular customers, primarily male, that Sonya and her loyal crew provide three to five comic books for every week, although some regulars buy 15-20 books on a weekly basis. “This hobby is a commitment!” she explains. “Most of my customers don’t resell their comics, so they need a dedicated space to store their massive collections. Louisville has an incredibly large group of people driven by comics.”

Sonya read comics growing up because they were her “generation’s iPad.” Although the Archie series was one of her favorites, she does not consider herself a comic nerd and avoids the superhero genre. “I run the place, but my team is entrenched in comics. They live and breathe it. Comics are part of their world and personality.”

What really attracted her to this business, aside from the loyal clients and eccentric culture of the store, was the ability of a graphic novel to visually tell a story. “I love creative sources and how art can translate into story. That is what drew me in. Graphic novels are not ‘less than’ novels, and that may be difficult for parents to understand. Many reluctant readers, my son included, learn to love reading through graphic novels. Bone [by Jeff Smith] helped my son River (16) transition to reading by allowing him to recognize the structure of a novel. It’s really an excellent tool for teaching reading and writing. I like the more realistic graphic novels, and readership of this genre is growing.”

The Great Escape also allows Sonya to surround herself with new artists, music, and pop culture and is a great place for this single mom to immerse River and daughter Kaiya (12) in culture, art, and the art of a great story.

Sonya flips finds an album from the Go-Gos, while looking through a copious selection of vinyl albums.
Photos by Melissa Donald 

Find out what this comic lady is reading, watching, and listening to…


  • The Relaunch of the Archie Series: “I loved this series as a kid, and the relaunch is awesome. The stories and characters are modern: they carry iPhones, and there is a new gay character. They’ve done a nice job making the stories current to appeal to teens. My daughter Kaiya is reading this right now.
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson: “This graphic novel is the autobiography of the author, who was brought up in a strict evangelical family. It tells of how he expresses to his family that he is not a Christian and has a lot of flashback and depth.”
  • Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn: “This book is next on my list to read. It’s about a group of 12-year-old girls with a paper route in the late ’80s. They are edgy and sneak cigarettes, so this book would also appeal to teen girls. It’s about first jobs, mystery, and growing up in the suburbs.”

“I fell into the Netflix trap like everyone else, so most of what I watch is reruns, when I have the time. Right now I’m watching…

  • Shameless
  • Bloodline
  • Dicte —This one is a Danish crime series that I am watching for the second time!”

Listening to:
“I mostly listen to older music unless I am exposed to something new at the store. Right now I’m into…

  • Talking Heads
  • Aimee Mann
  • The Clash
  • The Beastie Boys —My son is into them right now, so we are listening to a lot of these guys in the car right now.”
This section of the store includes dvds, cds, and albums.