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September 2, 2013

Mark Waid Bought Into My Hometown Comics Shop

The veteran comics writer Mark Waid and his partner the academic Christy Blanch have bought into Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Indiana. That's my hometown, and really my hometown's main comics shop, so I've been there a few times. The person I think of as its owner is a guy named Jason Pierce, who strikes me as a super-nice, smart retailer; he's well thought-of by a few of the prominent retailers I know. Alter Ego started as a two-man operation but quickly became Pierce's solo gig, at least in terms of the day-to-day store-running: if he wasn't manning the register himself, he was a phone call away.

imageAlter Ego was for a long time in a kind of faded strip mall on Muncie's main commercial street -- next to where the longtime location of that city's headshop and record store had been, as no one but me cares. It's now in Muncie's surprisingly and now relatively thriving downtown, in the same block with the bar where we had my recent high school reunion, but more importantly a toy and hobby business. There is competition from another shop, or at least there was the last time I was in town, Bob's Comic Castle in an even more faded former flea-market type mall. I shop at both when I'm in town. Alter Ego's original location was small, but the store was pretty well-stocked. Pierce always carried a wide variety of books for his size of store, I'd say ahead of that community's desire to purchase them. I bet the new store is about twice that size, a pretty standard store size. I've bought a lot of back-issues there; it's the first place I noticed you could buy lower-grade late 1960s Marvel for less than the price of modern comic books if you were willing to look for them. In terms of the superheroes, I think Pierce is at heart a DC guy, which means he and Waid would have a passion for that company in common. I've bought plenty of Marvel Comics there, too, including some of Waid's recent runs.

Waid wouldn't be the first comics person to own a chunk of a Muncie business; Jim Davis had a piece of restaurant there for years and years.

I think it's good for professionals to double-down in terms of industry involvement if it works for them, which means I like this in much the same way that I thought it was good when companies like Fantagraphics and D+Q were starting stores several years back. Waid becoming a digital comics publisher was intriguing when that happened; this is equally interesting. Due to being the subject of seminal sociological studies in the 1920s through 1970s, Muncie also boasts an identity as being a sort of "Middletown USA," so anything Waid does is likely to be interesting for it being a smaller store in the Midwest than if he had bought 10 percent of Meltdown or whatever. Waid promises to work the register on some weekend, which means just about damn question you have about mainstream comics will receive a super-authoritative answer. I hope someone asks him about Mark Waid.

Waid moved to East Central Indiana because of his relationship with Branch, who teaches at Ball State University.

Waid's essay is on his digital comics site -- I just spent a big chunk of time two weeks ago reading all the comics there -- so there's a lot about the interplay between digital comics and print comics in terms of the announcement. It reads like Waid got a lot of blowback from certain brick and mortar retailers about his digital comics venture, as if these things were somehow incompatible. One of comics' few industry-wide hangups is the notion that the pie is limited and the best way to conduct oneself is to make sure the that your part of the pie is taken care of. I think the ebb and flow of the comics business is usually a lot more complicated -- and generally hopeful in terms of finding new audiences -- than that. So I look forward to what happens. Waid promises a second announcement in the next couple of days.
posted 8:35 pm PST | Permalink

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