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July 20, 2010

Several Notes On The Scott Pilgrim Volume Six Event At Meltdown Comics


By Tom Spurgeon
Photos By Whit Spurgeon

Thanks to a fortuitous blend of circumstances, I was able to attend an hour or so of the publisher-promoted international book launch for Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6, by stopping by one of the participating stores: the mighty Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles. Scott Pilgrim seems like a perfect fit for the store, which actively cultivates a customer base more oriented towards the bulk of comic books by their place on the spectrum of choice rather than they are by the weight of what's being published in terms of overall sales. With high ceilings, a back room, and a small outdoor area, Meltdown also seems like it would be a nice place to have a comics-related event. Here are a dozen or so notes and observations on what I saw:


* the line was pretty big the whole time I was there. I arrived at the store right before the moment at midnight when the book was officially for sale. At that time the line was probably about 140-150 people long. When I left the line had cycled through at least once and was still about 60-70 people long. At its longest it went about two or three stores east down Sunset. At its smallest it still went well outside the doors. People were allowed in to shop or to attend to other Scott Pilgrim-related activities, but all the buying had to be done by getting in line.

* so yeah, I didn't buy anything. Hey, I'm old.


* the line was split pretty evenly between male and female patrons, and, as it was pointed out to me right before I left, people that were over 30 and people that were under 30.

* they had more than enough books. When I said, jokingly, "I hope you have enough books" it was met with the icy stare of the etiquette officer after one tries to fist bump the queen. They expect to sell a ton at the event and throughout the weeks ahead. Meltdown's done extremely well recently with Wilson; ongoing best-sellers in trade form include The Walking Dead and Scalped. I kept hearing "Scout" when they said "Scalped," which I have to admit was really confusing for a few moments there. Although they do well with single-issues of ongoing series like that, it was indicated to me that the bigger audience is for the trades, that the audiences switch over to a trades strategy almost as a group.


* I did not make it in time for the costume contest, but there were a dozen -- maybe more -- young women dressed up as characters from the comic. There were probably just as many young men but they didn't leap out at me, perhaps for working with the more subtly-designed characters. I believe that the above person was the winner and that the poster was a prize.

* the back room area included a live streamcast that apparently had thousands of people checking in, a stage where I saw only one guy perform, several posters, a chalkboard, and a door opened into a backyard area.


* the most attractive thing for a lot of folks about the backyard area was that they were selling food -- there was also a food truck out front, now that I think of it, but I don't remember it being mobbed. CR contributing editor and photographer Whit Spurgeon liked the food so much he made me eat a bit of something delicious and spicy wrapped in a tortilla. It was a nice enough night a lot of patrons were out chatting, shooting the breeze. There was a definite pleasant quality to the event.


* spoke to owner Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, whose time I greatly appreciated because he looked extremely busy. Most of what we talked about was unrepeatable industry chatter, at which I sort of stink, but I don't think he'd mind if I shared that he said at one point that he thought the country's general economic woes may have hit comics shops across the board a little harder than some owners let on. "If anyone tells you things are going great, they're probably lying," he summed up. The state of Meltdown he characterized as extremely solid, though, which is good news. If there was anything different about the store it was that it looked even more open as there are no longer glass cases breaking up space in the northeast quadrant of the store. Plus there's some gaming material now. I love some of the boutique stores that have sprung up, but Meltdown is still an obvious national flagship contender for its generally snappy appearance and impressively broad range of comics for sale. I go every time I'm in LA.

* one guy off the street sidled up to me and asked what the line was for. I told him the last Scott Pilgrim book, and he said he knew what that was and immediately left.

* I didn't know a soul there past Gaston and one or two members of the staff I sort-of recognized, which when I thought about it, is as it should be. One of the hardest things for people in comics to do is to conceive of a comics culture or industry in which they have no part whatsoever. Nearly everyone at some point or another uses "comics" to describe their part of the funnybook elephant. It's always good to be reminded there are worlds of experience outside one's own. It's not a scene, it's an art form.

image* I spoke to one of the Meltcomics podcast (the Meltcast) guys -- I'm 99.99 percent sure it was Chris Rosa (Sorry, Chris!). Nice-seeming, smart-seeming guy. He said the funniest thing about a store like Meltdown: that because of their particular audience and the types of books the staff champions, they're hugely surprised when a lot of books get canceled because they sold very well at their store. He cited the Paul Cornell Captain Britain series as one they sold by the ton that didn't seem to catch on with too many other shops, and spoke highly of Jonathan Hickman's Marvel books (Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and the Brubaker/Phillips as serial comics that he suspects do as well there as in any shop in North America. Anyway, I just like the thought of a store confused when something goes under because they sell a ton of it.

* the Meltcomics podcast will be set up in the Marriott lobby to try to get some recording time in during Comic-Con, so keep an eye out for them. I am entering the world of comics podcasts the same way my mother used to enter the water from a beach -- inches at a time -- so I'm no expert on who's good and who isn't, but I thought they did a nice job with Hope Larson the other week. You know, you'd think that CCI might think of setting up a podcaster's/broadcaster's alley in one of the pavilions or something for that kind of pre-Super Bowl media tour experience. This is sort of what Jonah Weiland and CBR accomplish with their boat rental, and while that has a fancy element to it -- and a leaving the show for a moment element to it -- you'd think a ramshackle area where you could do like ten recordings in a row would work for a lot of PR people and the media folk involved. Just a thought.

* because someone I know will ask: yes, Meltdown still has cartoonists working in their studio space -- four of them, to be exact.

* to sum up, I was expecting half the crowd and half the energy, so I was pleasantly surprised in all ways but one: I wanted to buy some other comics but the line was too daunting and now I have to go back. And actually, that's not bad news at all. I love visiting shops like Meltdown. It's great after the news about Rocketship last week and the kind of unsettling nature of that shop's abrupt closure -- I think there was a shop closure out here in LA as well -- to see one of the big-name stores doing well, selling a book that a group of people obviously cherish.

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