Yes, You Can Come Back Home (To Your LCS)

This past Sunday, I took a deep breath and did something I had been avoiding doing for months and months. I had no excuses left and it was time to face the music and just do it — it was time to finally make a visit my local comic book store.

Oh, I used to go all the time, sure, for years. While it was basically impossible for me to make it on Wednesdays because of work and other commitments, I was really good about getting there during the weekends, sometimes dragging my wife Whitney with me so she could find someone to talk about Buffy with while I listened to the owner rail on how Brian Michael Bendis was overrated and Grant Morrison had long since lost his senses once and for all.  Other times I would go off on my own and make an afternoon of it, dropping by In and Out as I tore into my stack, working hard to make sure I could finish the books before the Pick of the Week Podcast came out the next day.

These were good times, echoing similar adventures I had in New York, where my bi-weekly visits were the only consistent things I had going on in my life. Going to the comic book store was, quite honestly, the closest thing I had to going to church as I was going to get  — my own set of rituals, rewards for busy weeks, to give me a time to reset and spend time doing what I wanted to do, spending a bit of time by myself and escaping the rigors this mortal coil.

So what happened? Why did I take so long t0 return to something that had given me so much joy, month after month, week after year?

I’ll be honest — digital comics happened. Or, at least, DC’s New 52 happened and, with that, a large proportion of the stories that I liked to read were suddenly available to me, in my hands, on Wednesday afternoon. Every week.

What I find troubling, as I look back on it, was how quickly I dropped comics that were only available in print. Within a few months, I stopped reading comics that I liked, comics that I haves been buying for years — not because they had gotten bad, because I just wasn’t around to get them. I mean, I will be honest: I have no idea whether or not Scalped it still going—I think it’s not—because I totally screwed up and relied on my comic book store to pull the right issues. And, of course, not all of the issues were pulled, and now I am completely at the mercy of the trade to catch up on what I had missed. Title after title, from Uncanny X-Force to Scalped to Daredevil to Wolverine and the X-Men to almost anything that I wasn’t able to get, easily, via Graphicly and my Isotope Comics DC Storefront on Comixology were dropped because I just stopped paying attention.

(Yes, I know some of these titles are available via the Marvel application. But here’s the deal: Marvel is not making it is easy for customers to “catch up” after missing a few books. I don’t care how great a book is—if you are being asked to shell out $3.99 four times to catch up, it gives you pause. The “why don’t’ I wait for the damn trade” kind of pause. Sixteen bucks? It just…it makes me angry, like, here I am realizing, “Oh crap, I am totally behind, I want to catch up, I want to be a fan again,” and Marvel is making me rethink that decision due to sticker shock. If a comic is more than a month or two old, would it kill them to decrease the price a bit as a way of not punishing people for falling behind?)

On Sunday, I went to my shop, and I was saddened to see if it was completely empty, despite the fact that they were having a 50% off all trades (softcover and hardcover) sale. I was talking to the girl behind the counter and I found out that she rarely gets paid for working there — she basically gets paid in comics.  Now, I know this is the case with many stores and that’s totally fine, but it just made me feel…sad? Bad? I know it’s not my job to keep this place in business, but, like, yikes, you hear something like that and you just gotta wonder, you know?

I ended up going to another store (thankfully, there were more folks at Meltdown, on Sunset Blvd), looking (in vain) for last week’s Pick of the Week (old habits), and ended up walking out of the store with the first four issues of Fury MAX and The Secret Service. I had heard about Fury MAX and knew that Gibbons and Millar were working on something, but, honestly, the way things have been going in my life, I just am not up to date on this stuff, guys. Most of how I discover books is by the podcast and by looking at all the various books on the shelves. I haven’t done the first in awhile because I have been so behind on my books, and, well, I haven’t done the second because I just haven’t been in a shop in months.

And tonight, as I was driving in the car to a yoga class, I realized something. Digital comics, for all their convenience, come at a price. While it may be true that keeping up with comics is easier than ever now that you can digitally subscribe to the titles, but it is also true that it makes it harder to keep up with COMICS because it does not encourage you to take advantage of what is arguably the most important aspect of comics — to maintain a relationship with them. It sounds silly, even as I write it, but going to the store, hanging out and spending time with physical comics, eyes to paper, customer to customer, is a huge and fundamental aspect of comics.

Of course, of course, I knew this, deep in my heart. But just like when you stop going to the gym regularly, it’s awfully easy to stop going to the shop, especially when you are still getting a chance to the read the stories you enjoy. Sure, you aren’t necessarily reading all the new stuff that people seem to be excited about, but hey, look at the money you are saving! Look at all the driving you are not doing! Gas is expensive!

This is not about “digital comics bad, comic store good.” Digital comics have made it a lot easier to subscribe to your books, but unless you are using a cross-publisher service, it’s hard to discover new books (and even when you are, it can be difficult). Discovery is key in the digital entertainment realm and while there are lots of features that make it easier than before, nothing is as easy as picking up a book and flipping through it based on a Phil Noto cover, you know?  On the flip side, as I said before, publishers need to understand that there is an economy out there that is still difficult for folks, and one shouldn’t pay full price when catching up on 2-3 books or testing out a new series. If someone buys 4, 5 or more books, give them a discount–reward the reader for trying something new! That’s something that my favorite comic book shops have done for me in the past and despite how I began my article, I have been very loyal to those shops.

This has been a difficult year for me and comics. With a few exceptions, I have not been enjoying my books and I have certainly not been excited about anything I hear that’s coming up. But then again, I have been stuck in my own rut, and haven’t been around other people reading different titles, I have not had the chance to flip through other titles or had someone thrust an issue into my hands with the words, “Trust me, you’ll love this.” I have avoided going back to my old Marvel titles because of the AvX maelstrom and irritated that there is no affordable way to catch up, unless I decide to go to trades. I haven’t gone to the store because I haven’t wanted to face my shop owner and feel guilty that I haven’t been buying my comics from him.

It’s a vicious cycle and I am going to end it now. I am going to go now at least twice a month and I am going to stop taking everything so seriously and just jump on board comics that I think look good, and not worry about what everyone is reading.  I am going to give away two long boxes’ worth of comics and just accept the fact that printed comics are back in my life. I won’t move away from digital, I will just be judicious with my pull list and make a point to, every once in awhile, get in my car, go to the shop, and take a break.

 


Mike Romo is an actor in Los Angeles. You can reach him through email, visit his Facebook page,  follow him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. gobo gobo says:

    My LCS has been replaced with going to Comixology and Dark Horse apps every wednesday and browsing through what’s new. I get the titles I usually get, skim through some #1s, grab anything Top Shelf has put out digitally that week. Comixology has pretty much EVERYTHING but Dark Horse at this point, there’s no need to use most publisher specific apps.

    Twitter has become the social aspect, I get on Wednesday see what people are talking about, find out what I missed (like Hawkeye last week) and I can just go back to Comixology and buy it. It works GREAT. At least for me.

    I don’t find reading on my iPad or in print any different (aside from the massively smaller space my iPad takes up).

    Completely agree about Marvel’s pricing though, rarely dropping prices is ridiculous. Pretty much every other publisher marks things down by at least a dollar after a month.

    It’s wonderful not having to pre-order anymore, it’s wonderful feeling free to drop things/pick up things month to month since I don’t have to order 3 months in advance. I used to always find myself sitting there with the Previews catalogue saying “Well, it’ll probably be better in a few months, I’ll keep pulling it”, just that hopeful look into the future kept me reading books I otherwise wasn’t enjoying enough.

  2. mrlogical mrlogical says:

    I’m a little confused by your difficulty finding certain books digitally. Comixology has 98% of all new releases each week. A scroll through the new Comixology releases and the Dark Horse app’s new releases each week is all I need to stay up to date. My understanding is that Graphicly generally hassn’t been focusing on single issue distribution for months now, and if this [ https://comics.comixology.com/ret/259/Isotope_Digital_Store/ ] is the Isotope Comics Storefront on Comixology you’re referring to, it seems to have the complete selection of books available on Comixology now. (If that’s anything like DCBS’s digital storefront, Marvel books have only become available through it for a few months, but the Marvel books weren’t hard to find on Comixology’s regular storefront).

    I certainly don’t dispute the general premise that digital comics purchasing is not without its costs (and I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that Marvel’s digital pricing remains utter lunacy, particularly for older books), but it seems like you were pursuing a particularly odd digital purchasing plan. Each Wednesday I spend 5 minutes looking through through Comixology’s new offerings, and occasional an extra minute or two loading up Dark Horse’s store, and the only books that have given me trouble in the past six months or so have been Fury Max and Black Kiss. Having gone digital for nearly a year now, I don’t see myself going back to print issues anytime soon.

  3. yojoe yojoe says:

    I’ve tried the digital comics but I greatly prefer the paper copy. Something about having the comic in my hand as I read it just seems to make it better. Digital is great and has its place, but for me it will never replace the floppy or trades I collect. Maybe I’m just more old school that way.

    • koryrosh koryrosh says:

      I’m the same way. I really prefer paper comics, and I actually prefer single issues to trades. But, since there are more comics to read than I can ever fit into a week, I do appreciate being able to go back and catch-up on other titles digitally. I just read through the last arc of Aquaman and Batwing – titles I had dropped from my print pull-list. Being able to go back to those titles made me decide to keep reading them digitally (day and date even). They’re good reads, but not things I need to keep forever. Likewise, I originally didn’t like Demon Knights or Suicide Squad enough to want the paper copy, but after getting through the first arc digitally, I decided they were worth having in print. Both are now on my pull list.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I also prefer the paper copy and the weekly trip to my LCS is one of the highlights of my week. I read the previews of the comics I am getting every week and it helps to get me excited. But I understand how digital copies make it much easier for people who live far from cities to get comics. I’m lucky I have a LCS not far from my house.

  4. There is so much chatter about “support your LCS!”, “Support your favorite creators!” but you rarely hear anyone in the industry talk about supporting the fans. We hear A LOT about the financial woes of creators and publishers but its rare to get any sort of acknowledgment that its getting tougher on the fans to keep up with the hobby. its tough for us too. Digital pricing could be so much better, and if it was, it might actually grow business. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we’re called fans and not customers?

    I really appreciate Dark Horse and some indie image creators who have frequent 99 cent sales of digital books. Not only does it entice me as a customer to catch up, but it shows a bit of appreciation for the support and lets me know that catching up on a book doesn’t have to be a giant investment. Its good business.

    Lastly, people who work at LCS don’t get paid that often? really? Besides being incredibly illegal thats just really taking advantage of people. Boo on any retailer that does that. I just find that so awful and shocking.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      The practice of some comic shops paying some people in comics has been common for decades.

    • I didn’t know it was part of the culture is all. I guess if the “employee” is cool with it…but its still a violation of all kinds of state, county and federal laws. If those owners don’t mind living one phone call away from a legal nightmare then i suppose more power to em.

    • craig stuart craig stuart says:

      Haha “comic shops employ unfair labor practices!” Give me a break you guys will say anything to shit on retailers:)

    • OliverTwist OliverTwist says:

      I heard of this as an agreement for the fan/customer coming into the store. On the one hand it’s great for a fan whom can’t afford, but loves comic, but for the fan whom actually needs the cash, you are beat out by the fan whom just wants comics almost every time. Over heads a bitch!!

  5. stevetwo stevetwo says:

    JJ Abrams had this to say about digital media on another podcast. It was so insightful I had to write it down:

    “It’ll be interesting to see the net result of increasing isolation and growing virtual community. Like, we’re paying for things with money you don’t see to get something you can’t actually hold. You want that album, you click that button that’s not even a real button, and you have the album – even though you can’t see it or feel it. Going out and buying a physical album was an investment of not just money, but of time and experience, and when you got home with that album, it was evidence of something you’d gone through. There is now, except for maybe on a server somewhere, little evidence of anything that we’re doing.”

    I remember the days of going to record shops and haunting the aisles of now-deceased bookstore chains, but to me, getting to go to the comic shop is incredibly enjoyable because of all there is to see. As you have learned, Mike, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ I think that’s something the industry should be mindful of. Is their online Marketing of current and future titles (let alone recent back issues and trades) effective enough in attracting readers to click “yes” to 3.99? Are they doing enough to promote other titles you might be interested in? If you’re downloading from Marvel, you aren’t hearing about DC’s latest news, or Image, or whoever. I suppose it’s a good lesson for anyone who thinks digital is end-all be-all, because it’s not.

    • theWAC1 theWAC1 says:

      Oh so true. Digital is like permanently renting. In essence all you really have purchased is access. No collector or resale value. I read comics because I like them and the titles or stories that resonate with me I keep, and then I eBay the rest. One day my kids will enjoy the books that I enjoyed. My LCS makes comics fun. To hang out and BS, see what’s new, maybe stumble upon a htf book someone didn’t end up getting. It gives me something to do on Weds.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I totally agree with you. The comic shop isn’t a store it’s an experience.

    • kzap kzap says:

      @theWAC1
      I total agree and that will also be my main problem with digital, no matter whether it’s books, films, TV or music unless you get to download a DRM free copy (which you finally can do if music) you don’t OWN it.
      I was reminded of this when I eventually decided to sign up for Comixology and the skimming through the terms and conditions I saw the phrasing went something like “you understand Comixology exclusively own all content, you are just purchases a right to access this media” I can’t remember the exact wording.
      And I was reminded that if Comixology ever went bust all my digital comics would disappear, even if they had a falling out with a company like Marvel legally they could make all those books just disappear off my device and I’d have no way of stopping them.
      There was a time when this would lead me to not touch the service with a ten foot poll but I’ve changed somewhat since then and if it can save me money, I understand.
      That was the point I decided I’d never ever pay full price for a digital copy, which I’ve pretty much stuck to.
      It’s ludicrous when you think about it. For a certain price you can legally own a physical copy of a piece of work printed onto paper or for the same price you can have limited access to read that piece of work on a screen. Sure there are some advantages but I believe there should be at least a $1 price reduction to reflect the fact you never ‘own’ anything.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      I realize I am a dinosaur. One of my friends said the other day “Only old guys like us buy music on CDs anymore. All the kids buy on iTunes.” But this is the problem I have with digital-only media. I don’t feel like I’ve bought anything, unlike when I buy a physical CD, BD, book, or comic. The digital stuff seems to be of less “worth”, if that makes sense. Sure, I can listen to it or read it, but I don’t have something I can lend or re-sell. There’s a possibility of losing the bits to a hard-drive failure. God forbid we have some big EMP event that wipes it all out (at least us Luddites will be cozy reading our paper comics by candlelight!).

      I’m especially dubious of any service that requires me to access media I’ve “bought” on their website, or requires an internet connection to use. In those cases, I have really only purchased “access” to the files. I don’t own the files or the content, they are not on my hard drive. What happens if a provider of some media decides to change their terms of service and put time limits on your comic “purchases”? What if the RIAA or Hollywood runs some bill through Congress that changes the precedents of digital media, and it can be applied to comics too?

  6. JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

    I agree with the JJ Abrahms quote Stevetwo above me posted.

  7. craig stuart craig stuart says:

    Support your local comic shop

  8. lorezskyline lorezskyline says:

    Although I love the convenience of digital in some things I have always stuck with the comics store, but having said that I am very lucky in that I have a great store in London (Gosh Comics) that I dont need to pre-order anything and it’s easy to try new things and cancel if I dont like them. Their needs to be a place for both I think as I dont want comic stores going the same way as record shops.

    Digital offers great convenience but at a cost I miss being able to browse a bookstore or record shop in anytown I went to now you’ll be lucky to find a tiny HMV with a meager selection.

    It would be good if digital could be linked to a comic store in someway with the pricing buy #1 online then automatically order the next one to be delivered to you LCS or something like that. I guess in the end the publishers would prefer to cut out the middle man though to maximise profit.

    I worry about what JJ Abrahms has said as for me when I was just out of school the LCS, books shops and CD stores were where I met friends that I still see today whats this being replaced with a twitter feed?

  9. JimAdkins JimAdkins says:

    “(Yes, I know some of these titles are available via the Marvel application. But here’s the deal: Marvel is not making it is easy for customers to “catch up” after missing a few books. I don’t care how great a book is—if you are being asked to shell out $3.99 four times to catch up, it gives you pause. The “why don’t’ I wait for the damn trade” kind of pause. Sixteen bucks? It just…it makes me angry, like, here I am realizing, “Oh crap, I am totally behind, I want to catch up, I want to be a fan again,” and Marvel is making me rethink that decision due to sticker shock. If a comic is more than a month or two old, would it kill them to decrease the price a bit as a way of not punishing people for falling behind?)”

    Ding! This is my BIG problem with Marvel digital. I started reading Uncanny X-Force but I’m stuck because #19, which was published 12/21/2011, over 8 months ago, is STILL $3.99. Come on Marvel!

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      That’s a great point. DC drops the price by $1 after a certain amount of time (is it one month)? Seems like that would be an incentive to buy more. Or offer bundle specials (buy three, get one free)?

      I love my LCS, but they mark UP back issues by 25 cents after they are a month old. Not a great incentive to get me to buy back issues there. I often look at Half-Price books, where titles are half off cover or more (there’s a 25 cent bin with some good stuff!).

  10. TheMightyMEB TheMightyMEB says:

    I love my LCS. I go there every Wednesday, 12:05 on the dot. (12:05 because it opens at 12:00 but I wait a few minutes because I don’t want to seem desperate)

    I love having a physical copy of my comics.

    Digital CAN be good, for a variety of reasons. Physical copies take up space- a lot of it. It is easier to bring comics with you on vacation when they are stored digitally. You also don’t have to worry about your LCS running out.

    But… I think that is part of the fun. I had a blast last week when I was trying to hunt down a comic that my LCS was sold out of. I ended up going to three shops that I had never gone to before, and I met a lot of great people doing so.

    When I read things digitally, they don’t hold me emotionally. They are so much easier to just let go and stop reading. That may be better in the long run for my babysitting-fueled wallet, but I still don’t want it to happen.

    So… yeah. I’m gonna keep supporting my LCS.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I took a couple of years off of getting Batman a few years ago. I now have filled the hole in my collection. And yeah, half the fun for me was trying to track down my missing issues. Every time I would travel somewhere I would find their LCS and would have the list of comics I was missing. Eventually I found them all. It was a lot of fun.

  11. RocketRacoon RocketRacoon says:

    Agree 1000% on this Mike. While digital has made it much easier to get my comics however, and whenever I want, it has also taken away the immediacy to read the comics. I remember looking forward to Wednesday so that I could walk over to the comic store and get this week’s new books. Now with comixology I find myself just glossing over the new release books and pretty much having the mindset that I will get to them when I get to them. Needless to say, this has caused me to continue consistently reading only a handful of books.

    With respec to Marvel, you hit the nail on the head. Once I fall behind on a Marvel book, I’m inclined to just trade wait; not because I love trades or prefer the format, but because I can’t wrap my head around paying $3.99 for a issue that came out in November of 2011. Defenders #1 is still $3.99????? I mean c’mon. Save for daredevil, AvX and now Hawkeye, I no longer buy any Marvel book day and date. It’s had the opposite of the intended effect.

  12. Kamilo Kamilo says:

    Is it just me, or are half the writers for iFanboy seemingly giving up comics for a large part or at the very least severely cutting their lists for the sake of life (usually families)… Maybe its time for a generational shift?

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      Generational shift to… where? Our writing staff ranges in age from early 20s to early 40s. There’s no where to shift to–that’s who reads comics now.

      Our writers are going to write about their life experiences in regards to comics because that’s what they’ve been hired to do. Grappling with reading comics as you grow older is certainly something a lot of people deal with and as such it’s a rich vein to mine.

    • Jim Mroczkowski Jim Mroczkowski (@jimski) says:

      I’ve been telling them and telling them to hire an eleven year old, but we can’t find one who reads comics.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I’ll be reading comics well past early 40s. I’m 37 now and trust me, there is no end in site for me. I hope I will be in a nursing home someday and if I am unable to make it I will pay my nurse to go to my LCS to get my weekly pull list. ;-)

  13. dgazzuolo dgazzuolo says:

    I’ve gone completely digital but I still stop into the comic shop every Wednesday. I like to just hangout for 30 minutes and talk with the shop guys and other buddies that come into the shop, who still buy the paper products.

    I still support the shop because occasionally some new Hard Cover or art book will come out with some sweet packaging (like a James Jean product) and I’ll grab that for me or as a gift for a friend. But for the most part, I like to just stop in for some conversation. Also, they sometimes have beer. It’s like my Cheers, really.

  14. OliverTwist OliverTwist says:

    I have tried to go digital(,but I currently don’t own a ipad, so I never find myself compelled to read the comics I bought on comixology, because of the time spent in front of a computer screen on a daily basis. This is always going to be that factor for me.
    I live local enough to make my way to Melt down, and I think the other place has done a poor job getting the word out to comics buyers in the vast area. I mean with Borders closed down, LCS have basically snatched back the opportunity for the impulsive buy from the locals. It seems generally that most business have access to the web for advertising and such, but are not dedicating the time to really figure out how to use the format to their advantage. I know it’s hard because it basically new ground, but it’s being treated like advertisements in a local newspaper. 50% off can bring a lot of people provided they went about connecting with them way before hand.
    There haven’t been many great promotions for comics online which has gotten me excited, I think ifanboy did it best when they did their video review of comic runs, because they put a face and personality to the team and were able to tie it together with visual aids to ingrain the image on the viewer. It got me pumped for comics. I am not saying their way is the only method, it just approached advertising in a way which was unique compared to other reviewers. Another show was called Prisoners of Gravity.
    In the end ,I do see digital as the ultimate fix for the comics dilemma. The faith by companies to the LCS are really a barrier to making comics really affordable online, but at the same time there isn’t the right type of coverage online to attract people, I can go to the LCS and get a book recommended based on a person building a relationship, I currently get advertisements from comixology about sales, just like amazon, and I end up either forgetting or ignoring them.
    I will more than likely keep going to a LCS as long as I like the people at the store, they have always been a big help in my comic enjoyment.

  15. alexhoward says:

    I buy a fair amount digitally. After my last move, with the 20+ long boxes of mostly unsorted comics, I was over physical assets. I rarely re-read my old comics because I barely have time to read the new ones. Where I do find myself reading old comics is on my iPad.

    I still buy most of my comics in print because I get a 20% discount. Every LCS I’ve used has a regular discount for subscribers so I’m not about to give up a cheaper product. Until subscription options with discounts become available for digital comics, I don’t see my monthly LCS visits being threatened. I thought subscriber discounts were common but I never see anyone mention that as a factor in any of these discussions, so maybe it isn’t.

    I do buy a fair amount of independent comics and miniseries via Comixology, though generally I’m buying them a month behind to save an extra buck as the discount then usually matches the price I’d get at my LCS. I don’t think we’ll see digital comics have a chance of really threatening the comic shop.

    • stevetwo stevetwo says:

      @alexhoward: I know what you mean about re-reading. Although it’s a great way to enjoy your favorites again and save money at the shop, it’s tough. But I think that’s more due to the state of one’s current lifestyle. With a family and salaried job, it’s hard for me to make time to enjoy reading a great run of old Batmans or Spidermans (I want to re-read Scalped all together once the last issue comes out). Weeklies only require a quick read and you’re done. Still, I’ve lately been careful not to spend a ton of money on books, so grabbing a few old books to read is starting to become a habit.