They have no superpowers, but they are heroic: They are the store employees across America who sell comics and, like the guys in “High Fidelity,” bicker with one another all day long about the true treasures of the discount bin. They are the Comic Book Store Clerks of America, and we salute them.
What better place to have fun with alter egos than a comic book store? That fake mustache in the photo is part of 44-year-old Katherine Sprague’s way of playing with identity. It’s been 20 years now since Sprague opened Safari Pearl (221 E. 3rd St., Moscow, Idaho;  882-9499), a store that is proud of its spot in the community (“I probably own the oldest lesbian-owned comic-book store in the nation,” Sprague said). Another point of pride: its extensive, specialized stock of costumes of the fantastic, be they Batman cowls, Rocketeer helmets or Harry Potter wands. We dialed up Sprague and quizzed her on fangirl matters of deep import.
What do you think is the true origin of the Joker?
I think it’s whatever the reader needs it to be -– although I prefer Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” explanation. It’s the story when a stand-up comedian falls into a vat of acid. It might be weird, but when you have a bad day, bad week or bad month, it makes sense to go over the edge like that. It’s probably my favorite story ever.
What comic-book series should be everyone’s favorite?
Wonder Woman! she’s just incredible. No other female character has been around that long. She’s part of the three characters that are continually featured from the Golden Age: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
What would your superhero name be?
Oh dear! I thought of one this morning at work: Captain Hammerpants. It seemed like a good idea at the time. There’s really no explanation for what goes on in my store.
A superhero has to have a unique superpower. What would yours be?
I would have laser beams for my eyes. I would use it just to discipline frat boys.
What television series should be turned into a manga?
— Michelle Castillo
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Photo: Katherine Sprague