Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

March 12, 2014

So I Went To Comic Book Store Yesterday

I don't go to comic book shops as often as I'd like, but there are about 20 in about five cities day-trippable from where I live. I went to one of those cities and one of those stores yesterday. I found it an interesting experience. Some quick notes.

* this was a very nice mall-type shop, actually two spaces -- a shop set-up and a gaming/entertainment area with tables next door. I've seen that kind of set-up a lot out west, actually, way more than in the East, although that could be a post-recession thing where you can expand into a bigger retail space without a lot of signficant penalties in terms of high-demand retail space rental costs gumming the works. In other words, it wasn't the greatest comic shop, but it was as clean and presentable as any candle shop or office supply store I've visited in a strip mall. I would be happy to call a space like that my local LCS; I love all the comics shops, and I've shopped in and love some shops that were a thousand times less presentable. I would send my mom here.

image* having said that, they did not have a lot of new comic books. They had two racks with about 75 comics showing face front, total. Some of those were months old. Like some of the other smaller comics shops I've been into, they did not carry the full Marvel and DC lines, even. Not even close. All of the books that I had in my head to look at that I hadn't seen yet, like all the new Marvels starring secondary characters like Moon Knight, they were not available. No Hawkeye. No Saga. I found this interesting not in judgment of what a store wants to carry, because that is a tough gig and I don't think you can carry everything and people who want to get in retail should be able to do whatever they want without me voting on it. I found it interesting, though, for the fact that I walked in with like a mental checklist of books I could buy based on what I knew was out there and I had that list slapped out of my mental hands about 45 seconds after I got to the store. I don't know if that's digital's role or what, to be that place where we know for sure things will be on sale.

* there were a lot of Avengers and X-Men books there, and I don't see Marvel comics very often so that seemed like something I could buy. I was very confused by them when it came to making actual shopping decisions. They all have very specific names, and they all kind of cross over into one another, so it was hard for me to connect what I knew in my head about some title names, some basic plot points and a few creative teams into actual comics for purchase. I don't think there's anything wrong with mainstream superhero comic books adopting a BBC series strategy where they relaunch and renumber books so frequently, but it gets confusing in that they're constantly recasting these series from a general, network pool and then changing the names of each series a bit -- even ones that directly relate to one another. I think you have to be in a really specific and practiced mindset to negotiate a comics shop right now, maybe more than ever to have a deep buying experience there. It's fascinating that elements of the shopping experience have become more baroque even as so many comics are now selling legitimately and well to an audience of people that will never be hardcore buyers.

* the staff people on hand couldn't answer a couple of my questions, like which X-Men series might have art by Stuart Immonen, and why some of the comics were pulled from the new comics rack and displayed in a different part of the store kind of own their own (I was just curious as to whether they were the owner's picks or something). The two people working the store had no idea. They were very nice, though, and as someone who shopped at at least one store without a cash register, I'm always happy to see a credit-card set-up the way most have them these days.

* the prices on back issues of the collectible variety -- as opposed to the deeply discounted bargain bins -- seemed a bit inflated compared to what I see for similiar comics in New York and Los Angeles and certainly on-line from Denver and Texas. I don't know if that reflects regional markets, or maybe what a source out there tells one group of people or another their comics are worth. Again, this is something I've seen a lot between the coasts, a very 1989-seeming approach to back issues.

* bagging and boarding new comics seems weird to me considering that one might want to look at the interiors before buying, but I guess maybe some stores don't want folks to do that.

* I bought a couple of Sam Humphries-written superhero comics, a couple of issues of Avengers comic with Kang The Conqueror on the front cover, and some Charlton comics with Steve Ditko and Pat Boyette stories. I spent about $15. It was a good experience, overall, and I'm very jealous of anyone that has a comics shop in their town.
posted 1:55 am PST | Permalink

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