My Weekly Journey…

One day out of the week, I get in my car and I start a 16 mile (32 roundtrip) journey. I leave my sleepy neighborhood and drive through my sleepy little town (technically a city). I drive through the town square at a blazing 20 mph. The square has a certain charm to it. It’s a blend of antique stores, “mom and pop” shops and insurance agents. The architecture is mostly Victorian, although there are some Italianate and Gothic revival buildings strewn in. It looks like a scene out of Back to the Future. Almost like it’s frozen in the 1950’s but with modern cars.    

As I make my way out of town I pass a modern looking hospital. Although I’ve not had to visit it for anything serious, I’m still very grateful that it’s not stuck in the 1950’s. Eventually I’m in the midst of some corn fields… or perhaps they are soy beans… maybe they change with the seasons?Regardless, I drive through big farms and little towns – often stuck behind tractors or some other type of farm equipment. It’s times like that that I wish I knew more about farm equipment… mostly so I could honk and yell “I know you can go faster with that ______________ (fill in the blank).”

Actually – there was something the other day that I was sure I could drive under. The wheels were HUGE. However, as cool as it might have seemed – I imagine that actually driving under farm equipment would be a bad idea.

I meander slowly on back country roads gazing at the cows, horses and goats grazing in their huge fields. I snicker at the rotten wood fences that keep them in. If only they knew how easily they could escape their weird prison. Maybe they don’t want to. Maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence…

It’s a different world out here. There are millions of people living a life that I know nothing about – and in many ways their services keep me alive. Providing food and…stuff. As I ponder that – I realize that I am entering civilization again. At least civilization as I’ve come to know it. My destination is near… the only thing in my way are some busy intersections and a plethora of chain restaurants. They really pop up out of nowhere. My trip takes me from field to suburban sprawl in a seconds.

If it were a different day and I were a different person I would take a different route the one day a week that I make this drive. The suburban sprawl of Indianapolis is actually so vast that I can do this entire drive without ever losing sight of a new housing development mixed with a strip mall. It’s America as most of us know it.

But that’s not the trip I take. I go the other way…through the country. The distance is the same, it’s the time it takes to travel that distance. I use that time to think. I use that time to relax. Even getting stuck behind the tractors has a funny “zen” feeling to it. In a few years my route will be gone. It will be overwhelmed with more housing… more fast food… more corporate America.

I finally see the strip mall I’m looking for. It’s just ahead on the right. It’s anchored by a 24-hour pharmacy, followed by a sub shop; hair cut place; a bakery and a few other things. I see the glowing neon light of the store I’m headed to. It reads “OPEN.” I snicker again… of course it’s OPEN, it’s Wednesday. He’d be a fool to be closed on Wednesday.

I find my usual parking spot – and I do my usual “sit in the car until the NPR story is over.” Today it was talking about the primary elections. Usually it’s about the war in Iraq. On the good days it’s a nice human-interest story… I like those days.

As I walk into the comic book shop I am greeted with a smile and the question, “Hey Gordon, what book am I not going to have today that you need?” I give my typical response, “doesn’t matter, I had the place up the street order it for me, they’re holding it for me – I’m not even sure why I keep coming back here.”

But the truth is, I know exactly why I keep coming back. In my life I’ve been to a lot of comic book shops. A lot. They all have the things that make them special… unique… whether it’s in a good way or a bad way – well that’s another story. But the reason I continue to do my weekly ritual drive is because of Rob.

Rob owns Downtown Comics in Greenwood. It’s part of a larger conglomerate of locally owned comic book shops in the Indianapolis area. Between four shops there have over 10000 square feet of retail space – or so says the website. Regardless, I only go to one. Rob’s.

The first time I walked in I was pleasantly surprised. The store is bright and spacious. There’s plenty of room between the shelves for walking. There’s plenty of room on the shelves for browsing. It’s lacking the lounge setting that’s been created at Isotope in San Francisco – but I’d argue that there’s not really a market for a “comic lounge” in suburban Indianapolis. So, even without lounge chairs and a bar – Rob has created a great shop.

His selection is typical (in a good way!), there are plenty of toys (or “figurines” if you don’t play with them), t-shirts, new comics, old comics, trades, weird games I don’t understand – the works. He even has a Kurt Cobain action figure that I threaten to buy for my wife on the trips that she accompanies me. She usually follows up with the threat of getting me a Jar Jar Binks doll. One day one (or both) of us will walk out of there very, very disappointed.

The weekly joke that Rob and I share stems from the fact that I am always looking for something weird. Some Wednesdays he has the weird books I want… some Wednesdays he doesn’t. Like any good small business owner – he is quick to get them for me. Customer satisfaction, right? Usually he can get them in a matter of days. But, to be honest, I’d go back every week even if he never got the obscure books I’m looking for.

To me (not being a businessman) business seems so simple. Be friendly to your customers – whether you like your customers, whether you like what they are purchasing – none of it matters. If you are friendly to your customers they’ll come back. And… I should note… friendly means different things to different people. For me it means a smile, some sarcastic jokes and general interest in my life beyond my weekly trip to the shop. For others it might mean a quiet shopping trip with a simple “have a nice afternoon” after checking out. Being able to read his customers – based on my super scientific study – is where Rob really shines. It makes me like my Wednesday journey even more.

So, this week, as you do your weekly ritual comic book shopping trip – think about it. What makes you like your LCS – or even the trip getting there?Is your shop one of those dark and dirty shops where you can’t move around? Is it huge and sprawling with tons of employees? Do they pull your books for you? Do you go to one store – or do you alternate? Is it close to work or home? Is it hundreds of miles away? Or is it just far enough away to enjoy the drive and is it just the right size with just one man working – one man that rarely gets a day off – and still greets every customer with a smile?

Happy shopping everybody!


  1. That was weirdly poetic Gordon. Nice going.

  2. I like my LCS because it’s a small neighborhood shop that looks like an office rather than a comic shop. It’s really close to my place and it’s the store that got me back into comics a couple years ago. The shopkeepers are friendly and they feel more personable than the guys at other shops. They also do pull lists, know my name and face, and hand me my books as soon as I walk through the door. It feels like *my* store.

     If it closed up shop…I’d probably convert to DCBS or something. There are other shops around, but comics cost a lot and I don’t make a lot of money.

  3. Excellent essay, Gordon.

    I just moved back close to my hometown and I work all the way across town from the LCS I used to frequent as a young boy over 20 years ago.  I make the trip to shop at that store for a few simple reasons similar to why you go to your LCS:

    1) It’s clean, 2) it’s well-lit, 3) it’s organized, 4) they pull my weekly comics, and 5) the guy that works every Wednesday, Tony, is a friendly dude.

    Clean, organized, friendly… don’t we wish all our LCS’s were like that?

    BTW, here’s a good photo of my comic book guy: 

  4. Really an awesome essay.

    I’ve never had a good local comic shop. There’s one I can go to if my DCBS order misses something, but it’s way out of the way and smells so thick with ciggarette smoke that I nearly throw up every time I walk through the door. 

  5. @gordon – very nice my friend.  i think the LCS is essential for a proper comics experience.  a good community can make all the difference in the world when it comes to enjoying our books. 

    and this is so timely for me as i sit on the edge of the decision to open an LCS here in my home town.  what’s the general opinion of the ifanbase on this subject?  is this thing of ours healthy enough to support new stores opening?  or have online services and huge book store chains all but crushed the LCS?

     If you’re not an ISOTOPE or GOLDEN APPLE, r u long for this world?

  6. Nice article Gordon. I get those same type of feelings when I drive thru the farmlands of upstate NY when I am traveling for business. It seems that the strip malls were the first ‘invaders’ of the small towns, now it’s the Walmarts, Targets, and BIG malls. One town that I drive thru has an honest to God "General Store"! Every time I go thru that town I stop in and get some home made anything that may be available.

    Of course, the cynic in me is wondering how many trade paperbacks u got for writing this article. (I keed! I keed!)

  7. @csvaccaro If there was a store in my town in a relatively convenient location that was clean and had a good selection of stuff I’d stop shopping online and support that store on Wednesdays

  8. My LCS is OK, but definitely one of the weakest in an area that has a lot of good comic shops (San Francisco). But…it’s only a 10-min walk from my house and offers a pull service so I go there. The main gripe I have is that they only stock "what sells," which means few indie books (unless I notice them in Previews three months in advance and order it). They sure have plenty of toys, statues, gaming cards, and hentai (Japanese anime porn) DVDs, though… yeah, maybe it isn’t that great a comic shop….but it’s *really* convenient location-wise so I can’t break my habitat of going there.

  9. If its a nice day out, I walk the 4 miles to get to my comic shop. If my friends are there, i bum a ride back, but I’ve made the round trip walking plenty of times as well.

  10. Wow. Nice post. My LCS was gone 8 years ago. It was called Chameleon in Flushing, Queens. That store was the place for kids to buy comics, trading cards, and game cards. However, it was gone after the landlord of that block raised the rent. He was trying to drive all the stores out of that block, so he can sell it to the chinese for more. Now, that whole block of main street is a bunch of little stores that sell things that are not interesting, unless you wanna buy an unlocked iphone. So now, I only go to JHU or Midtown timesq for comics, and becuase of the distance, I don’t go there on a weekly basis. Does anyone know there are any LCS in Queens?

  11. @excalipoor

    OMG I used to shop in Chameleon like 14 years ago! I used to live on Parsons Blvd. I loved that shop. Sorry to hear they are gone.

  12. I’ve been going to my LCS for about 5 years. The name is Captain Blue Hen and it’s located in Newark, DE. Its smack dab in the middle of a college town. I would say that it is an average sized store with tons of back issues and trades. The whole staff (4 people to include the owner) are all very friendly. Their pull service is top notch and are always willing to order in whatever my needs are.

  13. I can not believe how lucky I am to have the great LCS that I do. We live in a small town (10,000 people) and are awful lucky to have a LCS much less a top quality store. It opened up in 2006 and is clean, well merchendised and has the best staff. They are friendly and actually know what I like to read. They have a subscription service that comes with a discount and gladly order anything they don’t regularly get in. Even the strange stuff like the Frog Brothers that I finally picked up today. Amazing stories ( is the best. Astoria Oregon (and no, they are not all greek here as well. Here it is the Norse that rule!) is lucky to have it. I would hate to have to use DCBS. DCBS won’t make recomendations on the great indies that they have found for me. Between my LCS and Ifanboy I get the inside scoop on some great reads.

  14. My store has a warehouse feel to it. Open ceilings with giant metal girders holding up the roof that from the outside looks like a tin roof you would see on a shed. Concrete floors and exposed piping. The outer brick walls even look a bit like they are sinking into the ground. That being said, the store is fantastic. It’s the biggest comics retailer in new england but it doesnt feel that way. Almost all of the employee’s know you by name, and they know your likes and dislikes. I’ve been to stores in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Chicago, Boston, and Florida but none of them are better than That’s Entertainment in Worcester MA. If your in the area you should check it out. Especially if your into back-issue buying.

  15. I finally found myself an actual comic shop (I used to go to Newbury Comics throughout high school) when I came up to Lewiston, ME to go to college. It’s a nice little place on Main Street called Zimmie’s that’s pretty much just the right size. if you want something, they guys will usually order it for you (although I did have some trouble getting Criminal at the beginning of the year… but that went away when the guy there started to know me and I set up a pull list. All in all, nice place, I feel kinda bad that I have to put my list on hold for three months until I get back to school in September

  16. This is probably my favorite thing of all the things you’ve done. It’s beautiful and poignant and insightful and… yeah… Excellent work, my friend.

  17. I’m back into comics after a long break. I’m living back at home and go to the new location of the shop I started at over 10 years ago. I would collect my Maximum Carnage/Clonage issues and Spider-Man cards. This was before I appreciated comic books. Now the new location is even closer so when it’s nice I walk to the shop for exercise on Wednesdays and a break from job hunting. He has some great deals on almost anything he carries and holds my selected titles now. So it’s nice having that cool little shop in the area to frequent weekly. Also, bought my Chicago Comic-Con tickets early and discounted.