long as Iíve been reading comics, I have read many articles that have not been
kind on how some retailers operate and set-up their stores.
Some of these stores were described as so bad that they would scare off
regular customers, not to mention any potential new readers to the hobby.
Iíve been to a large number of stores all over the US/overseas and
never, not once in 10 plus years and dozens of visits to new establishments, had
I been in a store approaching anything close to the horror stories.
At least I could say that until three years agoÖ.
I was stationed in my
hometown, Miami, Florida, again after being gone for 15 years.
After I returned, I was very excited to go to a store that I frequented
quite often as a child (mid-70s). The
store had since moved to another part of town, so I called up on a Monday to
make sure that they were open. The
person who answered the phone was nice enough and indeed confirmed they were
open. After getting some address
info, I was on my way. Thirty
minutes later, I drive up to a store in the middle of a strip mall.
The windows were covered completely with very faded promo posters of
mainstream superheroes (Kingdom Come posters were prominent as I recall).
I opened up the door and was nearly floored by what I saw.
The place was maybe 15 X 45 feet with old yellow comic boxes along both
sidewalls and two in the middle stacked three high in old wooden shelving.
Not to mention the place was dark as hell with inadequate lighting. Also, there were other boxes of comics all over the place.
In the aisles, on top of other comic boxes, on makeshift shelving along
the walls.... everywhere, making walking in the store an adventure in itself.
On the shelving along the walls, things were shoved into every nook and
cranny that could be found with no rhyme or reason I could ascertain.
The owner (not the same guy
from my youth) was looking through a box of comics when I entered.
He looked over to me said "Hi" and continued on with whatever
he was doing. Other than him, I was
the only other person in the store. I
proceeded to go over to look through the comic boxes on top of the wooden
shelves. I could not look flip
through the comics in most of the boxes because of how tightly they were packed.. I asked the owner if I could
take a number of them out to help and he said no problem.
The majority of the comics in the boxes looked as if they had not been
cared for in a number of years. Most
all comics were bagged (some boarded) but they were yellowing due to age.
All had their price scribbled in grease pencil on the cover due to their
tight fit in the boxes. Most of the
prices were wearing off (if they were readable at all).
They were also very overpriced in my opinion.
After going through some of the boxes on the top, I moved down to pull
out some on the lower two shelves to browse.
As I started to pull out a box, I heard comics rubbing across the bottom
of the upper shelf. This made me
cringe a little as these were not my comics and I was probably damaging some when I pulled out the box. The
problem was some comics had not been placed all the way back in the box because they were so tightly wedged in.
I mentioned this to the owner and he told me not worry. He just asked
that I put it
back in the shelf when I was finished. As
I pulled the boxes completely out of the shelf, peanut husks and an old crushed
McDonalds burger wrapper came out as well.
Evidently, people ate wherever they pleased in the store.
I then sat on the floor looking through some of the boxes (after removing
the husks) when I heard a noise in front of me.
I looked up and it was the owner setting up an old black and white TV on
top of a box of comics with a stool in hand not 5 feet from where I was sitting.
I guess he thought I was going to steal stuff and wanted to keep an eye
on me. I don't know, but it seemed
very odd at the time. I quickly
grabbed some cheap comics I really didn't need and gave the guy my money (no
cash register I could see). At this point, I was ready to get the hell out.
Before I left though, I asked the owner "How do you keep track of
all the stuff you have?". He
answered "In my head". I
thanked him and left with no intention of ever going back.
I later called the owner and let him know what I thought about the
condition of his store. While he
was initially apologetic, he quickly turned hostile about me questioning his
store and the call ended with the owner telling me my business wasnít
I learned later that the
original owner I remembered died of cancer about 10 years ago before and the guy
I saw bought the place afterwards. This
was not the same type of store I remember.
While the store I remembered wasn't the relatively clean and orderly
stores I've become used to over the years, it definitely wasn't close to as bad
as this place had become. If I was
a parent, without any prior knowledge of how the majority of comic stores are
like, taking my son to this store to get comics, he would never go into another
store while I had any say about it.
And the point of this rant? Comic stores are the first line that new customers and even casual lookers see about this hobby. Before they even open a comic book, the professionalism and cleanliness of a store can give a lasting impression of the hobby, good or bad. While I know that the vast majority of stores are customer friendly, the few that arenít can really affect how the hobby is interpreted among the masses whose only knowledge of comics are stereotypes they see on TV or things they hear. If you have issues with the way the store you frequent operates, make sure you let the owners know. They may not be aware of the issue, as they are too close to the situation. Itís critical that we, comic stores and readers, work together to project a positive spin on comic collecting. We are already working from a deficit, as the stereotyping of comics and fans in the US, as geeks, weirdoes, and barely pass puberty, is still alive and wellÖ.
2/17/04 - Been a while since the I last updated this site. For that my sincere apologies. Work and a last minute request kept me away. It's my intention to keep this site updated, at a minimum, on an every other day basis and daily if possible. I'll try to meet that goal.....
The last minute request I mentioned was an opportunity to set-up and sell some US comics at the Ulm Comic Show this past Saturday......
I repackaged the comics that I displayed at the January Mannheim Card Show, added some new additions, loaded the eight long boxes into my truck, grabbed the kid for help, and away we went. An hour later, and after getting hopelessly lost along the way, we arrived at the Kornhaus in downtown Ulm with 15 minutes to spare for set-up.
The show had about the same number of dealers as the Leonberg show (approximately 30) selling everything from comics to Kinder Toys. Of these dealers, only three, including me, were selling US comics and I was the only one with Silver/Bronze comics in bulk. You can see my tables in the center of the picture above (where you see the three boxes).
Overall sales were quite good. What sold well? DC war comics hands down! I sold every last one that I brought with me. I was taken aback by this initially as I was told by a German dealer that war comics wouldn't do well at these shows. Evidently, he was wrong and I'm going to make sure I have more available at the next show. Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Ups sold as well.
I was able to buy some nice Bronze Marvel Giant Sizes, DC 100 Page Super-Spectaculars and Dollar comics but it wasn't a comic that was the highlight....
I finally bought my first piece of original comic art! The above piece was printed in What If? #107 Page #22 with pencils by Ron Frenz and inks by Bill Sienkiewicz. I originally thought the pencils were done by Sal Buscema (boy it sure looks like his work) but am completely happy with owning a Frenz original as I'd enjoyed his Thor run in the late 80s/early 90s. If I had bought nothing else at the show, this purchase would have made my day!
Overall another enjoyable show and I'm eagerly looking forward the the March Mannheim show. Now if I could only improve my German.....
Julius Schwartz 1915-2004
[©2004 DC Comics]
2/9/04 - Julius (Julie) Schwartz, long-time DC editor, passed away yesterday morning. He was best known in comics circles for his work on Showcase #4 (1st SA Flash and widely recognized as the comic that started the Silver Age), revamping Batman in the mid-1960s, and a rather lengthy run overseeing the adventures of Superman. I never met the man but as a kid I sure did enjoy the comics he worked on. I'll let others who knew him well speak further. One such person was Mark Evanier. You can find his tribute here. It's a sad day indeed......
2/8/04 - First off let me explain a little about myself. I collect American comics. I don't collect cards, figurines, statues, or any comics associated paraphernalia other than the 1970s Mead Marvel notebooks and folders (if you don't know what these are, don't worry, I'll eventually get around to writing about them). I also serve in the US Air Force and, as a result, have to live in countries other than the US. This can be a real pain for collectors. EBay and internet dealers/connections become vital if a person wants to continue collecting overseas. Comic stores that deal in US comics are few and comic shows even fewer. At least I used to believe this....
Recently I've discovered that comic shows in Germany are plentiful and held regularly throughout the country if you're willing to travel. One was held yesterday in the Leonberg Stadthalle, about 10 miles outside Stuttgart, Germany.
I arrived just after the show opened. I was surprised to see a fair number of customers already shopping. My only other exposure to a "comics" show in Germany was in January at a US sponsored show in Mannheim that sadly was more about sports cards than comics. That show did not have the attendance from the get-go that this one had.
This show had over 30 dealers selling everything you could possibly imagine regarding comics to include, surprisingly, original art. The only drawback? 95% of the comics were German reprints. Two dealers did have US comics on display but they were primarily moderns and few were older than 1988. What did I buy? Mostly fillers to plug holes. Bought a couple of NM later Deathwatch 2000s, a Flex Mentallo #3 apparently signed on the cover by both Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, and some of the last issues of X-O Manowar.
Just as I thought those moderns would be it as far as what I was buying. One of the two dealers pulled out three short boxes of mostly early to mid 70s VG to VF Marvels after he discovered I was interested. He indicated these were from his personal collection. I ended up buying a beautiful NM- Hulk #147, Sub-Mariner #20 (Dr Doom App), Marvel Team-Up #53 (1st Byrne X-Men), and Night Rider #1. The last three had great structure but had a tiny bit (quarter inch) of tape along the top of the spine. So essentially I got all for cheap.
Overall, I had a great time at the show! It was nice to see others with an enthusiasm for comics that I've been missing for the last couple of years, and frankly, didn't think existed in Germany. There's another German comics-only show in Mannheim in March and I plan on setting up to sell some of my duplicates. If the atmosphere is anything like the Leonberg show, I'm going to have a very good time indeed.....
2/1/04 - The Bulletin Boards are up and running! Please take the time to register and read the Board Rules. Then go ahead and post away......
1/31/04 - During the last decade, comic readership has fallen to dramatically low levels. Top selling comics have sales that would have spelled easy cancellation in the 70s. One of the reasons is the lack of new readers entering this hobby. The reasons are many as kids have far and away much more options for their allowances than monthly four color wonders. Everyone in the comics industry, including the current readership, has to go out and get them hooked again if comics have any hope for the future. How to get these new readers has been debated and various events have been offered (Free Comic Book Day being one) in an attempt to gain readers. No one idea has taken hold as yet. I have my own suggestions to offer......
1. Retailer Advertising. Itís a two-way street concerning advertising. The publishers have a very important role in any advertising campaign. They could do better but the retailers have a responsibility to advertise as well. Iíve traveled extensively throughout the US and in every town Iíve overnighted, Iíve had to pull out the Yellow Pages to find a comic store. Seeing a comic store advertisement in the newspaper or on TV is extremely rare. I understand that some may actually make the effort, and I applaud those that do, but the grim reality is most all donít. During most arguments Iíve read concerning retailer promotions, I haven't seen one on using your local cable outlet to advertise your store. I used to work at a cable company in Miami a number of years ago and they provided advertising for local businesses on any of the cable channels (excluding local and premium) during any time (half hour blocks) you choose. The rates were VERY inexpensive. They even had a mini-studio available to help in producing the ad (there may have been an additional charge for this). The beauty of the ad was where you could choose to put the ad. Maybe have one run during the morning while a cartoon is showing on USA and Cartoon Network (even Adult Swim) or another during Spider-Man on MTV. What I don't know is if most cable companies have this capability or if the rates have increased to a level that makes it prohibitive. It seems to me to be a viable alternative though and one that not many people know about. It does however present the opportunity to target groups of people that MAY have an interest in comics that previously didn't. Regardless more retailer incentive to advertise regularly is required and a must in finding new readers.
2. Establish a National Organization. What I mean here is some sort of organization be it retailers, creators, publishers, or, preferably a mix that can lend a unified face for the comics world. This organization can be the "speaking voice" to the "outside" world and hopefully attempt to change the perception of comics as just kiddie fare. I know that some organizations (not necessarily unified) currently, or did, exist but did anyone outside comics know about them? Showing up at comic cons is just speaking to the converted. Also, I believe an organization of this type is needed as censorship is starting to become an issue in the US. If Congress ever started hearings on comics due to concerns on content, a unified voice is going to be critical to combat against it. Currently, I believe that there would only be bickering back and forth between the companies before they got their act together and by that time it could be too late. While I think one is needed, I'm not very optimistic though.
3. Readers Must Speak Out. While the creators, retailers, and such are trying (or not depending on your opinion) to get the word out to draw in new readers, current readers need to start trying to draw in new shoppers. We all have friends with various reading habits and we need to try to get them hooked on comics they may find interesting. The current readers are the ones that more than likely have the best opportunity and access to new readers. If you are getting rid of comics that you don't want, give them to the library, or Boy/Girl Scout troops, or the doctor's office, etc. There are a large variety of comics out there that may spark interest in others and get them to start sampling other comics.
4. Make Comics Hip. How to do that? I don't know but once they are perceived as such, you would probably have to beat them off! It seems curious that Shonen Jump and Pokemon before that can sell so well to kids outside the current market. Iím sure TV and card game tie-ins are a major factor. Maybe publishers need to look closer at their business models and see if they can replicate them on an experimental scale.
To get new readers hooked on comics is going to take some ďout of the boxĒ thinking by everyone in the industry. Current efforts have increased comics sales to an extent but Iím not sure that a major new influx of new readers has resulted. More likely that current readers have switched their monthly buys. There will be no hope for comicsí future unless new readers can be brought in. The publishers have already lost one generation (maybe even two) of new readers. They canít let this continue if they want comics to continue through the next 20 yearsÖÖ.
Don't agree? Or have another idea? Let me know.......