Sept. 24 2010 12:00 AM

Stephen Jahner, owner of Capital City Collectibles for 30 years, has died. He was 55.

Friday, Sept. 24 — Some knew him as the “Mad Hatter” for his top hats, tailed coats and ruffled renaissance shirts. Others knew him as a man who bled green and white for his devout loyalty to MSU. Most knew him as the owner of Capital City Collectibles, a small east side memorabilia shop stacked floor to ceiling with vintage games, comics, action figures, books and movies.

Stephen Jahner, who owned the comic store for 30 years, died Wednesday at the age of 55. Jahner moved the store into 1723 E. Michigan Ave. in October 2008 after operating it in two locations in the 2000 block.

“He lived, breathed and ate for the store,” Jahner’s daughter, Amber Meyer, said. “Not only did he love what he did — he lived it.”

Meyer and Jahner’s sister Monica will now run the store.

Jahner collapsed at the store. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death, Ingham County Medical Examiner Dean Sienko said.

Jahner grew up very poor in Detroit, and his father left the family when Stephen was young, Meyer said. Because she couldn’t afford books for him, Jahner’s mother, Joanna, would give him change to buy comic books, she said.

“They (comic books) gave him an outlet from being poor,” Meyer said. “He never set comic books down again — they were his escape.”

After tuition prices caused Jahner to drop out of MSU, he got a job working at a comic book store, Meyer recounted. After opening a store of his own, Jahner was known to take people off of the street, give them a job and help them land on their feet, Meyer said.

She added that her father loved kids, family, guitars, keyboards, music, comics and art. “These things were his life,” she said. Jahner believed in spreading childhood literacy by offering free age-appropriate comics for any young people that came through the store.

Other hobbies included old black and white movies (“West Side Story” was his favorite, Meyer said), the Beatles, martial arts and collecting swords. He even owned a life jacket from the Titanic. And of course, comic books: Jahner once told City Pulse that his collection spans more than 75,000 pieces.

David Muylle, a Lansing builder who also is 55, said Jahner “fed my (comic book) habit” for nearly 20 years. “He was a real fixture on Michigan Avenue,” he said.

Muylle said Jahner provided a sort of escape for him throughout his adult life.

“As adults, there are certain things you try to keep hidden from people. I could go down there and talk with Steve about why they’re screwing with Spiderman’s superpowers,” he said. “He would talk to me — even rationalize it.”

Muylle recalls one deal he made with Jahner. In exchange for remodeling his kitchen, Jahner gave Muylle “Tales of Suspense #39” — the first appearance of Iron Man.

“I’m really sad he has passed. He just knew what people wanted,” Muylle said. “He was the perfect personality for the role he played, which was proprietor of a comic book store.”

Jessica Farias, a 31-year-old Lansing resident, first met Jahner 20 years ago. She remembers buying comics from the store for $.79 to $1. She remembers him simply as “a very cool guy.”

“He was somebody that never judged people and always tried to lend a hand,” Farias said. She added that Jahner helped her through a battle with addiction.

“When there was nowhere else to go, that (store) was one sanctuary I could go where no one would judge me,” she said.

Jahner is survived by his mother Joanna Jahner; sisters Pam and Monica Jahner; wife Barbara Jahner; daughter Amber; two nieces Anna and Kelly; and grandson Christian.

A memorial is scheduled for Tuesday at Capital City Collectibles. The time has not yet been set.