Sure, I’ll Sell Your Comics For You!


There are times — usually after my nightly dose of laudanum — when I become convinced that St. Louis, Missouri is some kind of nexus of the comic book universe. Sure, technically most of them are “made” someplace like New York City, and the other side of the state has made some impressive, jealousy-inducing inroads in recent years, but generally my hometown seems tuned to comics’ frequency like a filling that picks up a radio station. I’ve been hearing about it all my life. Denny O’Neil and Steve Gerber are from here. Roy Thomas put in his time here before heading off to take over Stan Lee’s job at Marvel in the seventies. And leaving creators aside, Lord knows I am constantly amazed when I make ill-advised local references on this site only to have half a dozen people in the Comments out themselves as fellow citizens. Occasionally, I will be reading a given thread and think, “If for some reason we ever just packed up the Arch and closed shop, Brian Bendis would have to learn a new trade. Something like 70% of all comic books must be sold somewhere within the St. Louis metropolitan area.”

This uncanny, certainly-wrong feeling I have is only reinforced by the fact that this town has something like 40,000 comic shops in it. I can only assume this is an anomaly on par with the Bermuda Triangle or Keith Olbermann’s head, because when I go online I am constantly reading about how few “specialty shops” there are left, reading tales of this Mad Max wasteland where people wander the countryside in armed, mohawked bands raiding settlements in search of Scott Pilgrim books. Many members of the iFanboy community sound like they have to pack a bindle and hop a freight train to the neighboring town to get to the one spinner rack with Archies and Batmans on it. In contrast — and this is not an exaggeration — I have about four different routes I can take on my daily commute, and each one passes a comic shop. Literally no matter what I do, comics are on my way home.

I’m not mentioning this to brag, primarily because this would be a colossally lame thing to brag about. On the contrary, I’m only trying to say that I’ve had the chance to see a lot of comic shops in my day, both good and bad. My first shop, as I’ve mentioned before, wasn’t really a comic shop at all, but rather a bookstore that happened to contain a full back-issue-heavy comic shop in the back. Today, this is about as common as an antique store that happens to contain a living hadrosaur, but at the time finding a fully stocked comics section in an independent bookshop was pretty common in my neck of the woods. Now, post-foil cover, the only way you’re going to get a wide selection of monthly issues is in a “specialty shop,” which often means dealing with a clerk or manager who is bitterly jealous of Napolean Dynamite’s suave mastery of the social graces. As people who have been buying comics for some time now, you and I are equipped to deal with the Comic Book Guy who’s living the Simpsons dream, but imagine what it is like to be the Elusive New Reader and encounter it for the first time.

A little over a year ago, I was in the shop closest to my day job moments after it opened, scrambling to pick up before it sold out one of those books the manager only ordered three copies of at a time. I would love to say it was something indie and obscure; it was probably something like Heroes For Hire. As I scanned the shelves, shaking my head at the World War Hulk tie-ins for a moment before promptly grabbing them all, a woman wearing a suit in her early thirties came into the shop and tentatively approached the guy behind the counter, whose hair had last been washed during the height of Iran-Contra and whose Batman tattoos said clearly, “This and the video store are my only remaining employment options.”

“Excuse me,” said the woman, looking around the store as she spoke as if she expected to see a Mogwai cage suspended from a hook on the ceiling, “I was wondering if you could help me. I’m looking for The Umbrella Academy…?”

The guy behind the counter regarded her through his bifocals like she’d come in wearing a newspaper toga. “What academy?” he asked her. A cloud descended behind his eyes. For all the world, he genuinely appeared to be thinking, “Is she asking for directions to a school? What could they possibly teach at the Umbrella Academy? Is it some kind of meteorology prep school for girls? Am I thinking of Visitation Academy?…”

The woman continued undaunted. Well, she was somewhat daunted– with its wood paneling and foam drop ceiling, this place looked less like a store and more like a pederast’s basement– but she had actually made it through the door and engaged with the bridge troll behind the counter and by God she wasn’t about to be cowed now. “It’s a comic,” she said before haltingly adding, “Oh! It’s a comic by Gerard Way? My Chemical Romance?”

The clerk furrowed his brow and cocked his head a little, like your dog would if you told it to recite the Magna Carta. She had made a fatal flaw: trying to use pop culture reference points that would be understood by clued-in people. To the guy in the Firestorm t-shirt, it was all pops and whistles.

“We… we don’t have that,” he said. “I don’t think– that’s not… out.”

And with that, he returned to his duties. No “let me look that up for you.” No “would you like me to order that and call you when it arrives?” No “if you like that, potential new customer, maybe you’ll like this.” No “I have worked in this shop for years, so it is ****ing embarrassing that I have never ****ing heard of the ****ing Umbrella Academy by ****ing Dark Horse comics, that obscure small-press vanity boutique that prints Hellboy and all the goddamn Star Wars comics.” He just returned to inventorying pewter D&D figurines while she stood there perplexed.

The woman turned to leave, puzzled and defeated. As she passed me, I dropped all pretense of studying the comic/eavesdropping shield I was holding and said, “Excuse me. I think the book you’re looking for came out last Wednesday, but it doesn’t look like we have any here. You’re going to want to try Star Clipper in the Loop; they’ll know what you’re looking for and will gladly hold a copy for you.”

The lady visibly brightened. It was like Miracle on 34th Street, but without any little girls.

“Thanks!” she said. “Do you work here?”

I sighed. “Not in a paid capacity.”

I’m happy to say I was thinking about this incident this week because of a good experience I had at store #3, the one I pass when the highway is backed up. I hadn’t been there in six months, but when the gent manning the counter didn’t recognize me as a regular he was quick to say hi to a potential newbie, quick to ask me if I needed any help navigating the scary waters of Lake Secret Invasion, and quick to at least simulate human behavior. He bent over backwards to ensure that I’d walk out thinking, “That was pleasant! Why, that guy didn’t try to put an ether rag over my mouth and trunk me at all! The things I’ve heard about this hobby seem largely exaggerated! I should make this a weekly stop!” He knew what your shopkeep may or may not: as much as we may just want to be people who buy some periodicals and read them in peace, we have to be more than that thanks to guys like Firestorm T-shirt McMouthbreather. We cannot rely on this socially stunted industry to keep itself in business; we have to be ambassadors of our interest as well. I’m not saying you have to go stand on the sidewalk with flyers or anything. Just, in the new year, keep your eyes open for the Elusive New Readers, and try to make sure they don’t get lost, would you please? The hobby you save may be your own.

 


Jim Mroczkowski is tired of getting drafted into comics’ ****ing “street team,” but it beats watching the medium blink out like a pulsar. When he’s not doing your job for you, he can be found not doing his own at twitter or Jimski.com.

Comments

  1. I have been in this situation.  It was a young woman looking for Fables.  The clerk looked like he had never seen a woman and was baffled by the words coming out of her mouth.  Luckily there were copies of each and every Fables trade (1-9 at the time) on the wall just to the left of the clerk’s head.  I pointed those out and the store brought in an additional $90 (she bought trades 2-7) because I knew my store better than the clerk.

    I am not sure if it is the power of women or the power of a very below average low skill labor pool, but I have seen this happen multiple times.

  2. "bridge troll"

  3. My metro area is smaller than St. Louis, I think, and we have (that I know of) 3 well-stocked specialty shops, plus a used book store with a ton of back issues.  So that’s the upside.  The downside is that the best-stocked store is the one run by the people you describe.  I have been in the store 2 or 3 times when teenagers — different teenagers — were asking the clerk — different clerks — when the new issue of ‘Buffy’ was coming out.  BUFFY.  This shop has a ton of Dark Horse books, they must sell as many copies of Buffy as they do of anything else.  One time the clerk told the customer "We have no way of knowing what will come in until we open the boxes".  Another time the clerk was unable to tell the customer that the book had been delayed for a month (a reference I only saw about 800 times at various places on the internet).  In neither case did the clerk suggest a single other item the customer might want to buy.  In both cases I let the customer in on whatever knowledge I had about upcoming releases, and was greeted by an Evil Look of Death from the clerk (who, in one case, had just spent 10 minutes on the phone bitching about the lack of availability of his favorite era of ‘Prince Valiant’ comics in an affordable format; which, I’m sure, is a noble thing to care about but you’re probably going to sell more comics if you’re clued into the existence of Buffy). 

  4. *sigh*

  5. Here in South NJ, I have 4 shops with in a 30 minute drive from my home, and I’m thankful to say that only 1 of those employ clueless clerks. It’s a store founded mostly as a gaming outlet and there lack of knowledge about the books on their wall is uncanny. With interest in comics on the rise, gaming all but dead, and owners/clerks who are friendly but obviously out of their element, it’s no small wonder that they have lost a lot of business to an honest to god authentic Comic Shop just 1 mile down the road.

  6. I’m in Manchester (England) and there are two comic book stores in the city centre. One has grumpy staff, higher import prices but lots of stock, the other one just around the corner is cheaper, often runs out of stock by Thursday afternoon (comic book Wednesday is Thursday here) and the manager loudly talks about plots and general spoilers whenever I’m in there.

    I know I’m may seem lucky to have two stores on my doorstep, but they could both do with a firm kick up the ass. 

  7. @Animal: What shop in South Jersey you go too? Cause it sorta sounds a lot like mine.

    My shop focuses on both comics and games (mainly Warhammer and D&D) but he definitely focuses on the game aspect more. I dont understand the facination of those types of games.

  8. Fun article Jim. I think we may have seen the start of a brand new acronym: ENR standing for Elusive New Reader.

    As a former comic shop employee (CSE?) there are certain struggles I had to deal with that made dealing with the uninitiated difficult. For example:

    Potential Customer: Got any books about black superheroes?

    Me: How about Luke Cage or Black Panther? Nighthawk is good to if you’re ok with more mature content…

    PC: Nah…they’re TOO black.

    Me: …um, ok. 

    I realize of course, that these kinds of things are encountered in any retail establishment, but when you’re dealing with a clerk who (hopefully) is so well-informed as comic shop clerks tend to be, it’s easy for that clerk to get fed up with the ignorance (and I mean that in the strictest definition of the word, not in an insulting way at all) of the ENR.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had more than my fair share of good experiences with ENR’s, where I left the conversation feeling like I really helped someone get into the hobby that I love so much. But it’s unfortunate that so many purveyors of comics and such are unable to differentiate the ENR’s from the people who are just a-hole customers no matter where they are. I can that same dillweed going into a Hallmark store and asking for a card with flowers on it and then complaining that the card is "too flowery".

    And obviously, I’d rather go to the store that has a welcoming atmosphere instead of the factory/dungeon-chic that certain crap holes seem to en-robe themselves in.

  9. I go to Stormwatch Comics in berlin on rt. 73, but the "gaming" store is All Things Fun, also in Berlin on 73. Stormwatch is awesome, loads of rotating back issue stock, knowledgeable staff, friendly, and they’ll order anything for you. It’s everything a comic store should be.

     There’s also Hall of Heroes in the Moorestown Mall and another shop further down rt 38, but I forget the name. It’s a shame because they’re also a pretty good store, but the farthest from my apartment so I don’t get out there often.

  10. "And obviously, I’d rather go to the store that has a welcoming atmosphere instead of the factory/dungeon-chic that certain crap holes seem to en-robe themselves in."

    Ditto.

    As far as ENR ignorance goes I ask as the devil’s advocate: Can ENR be anything but ignorant? Is that not the very definition of the N in ENR?

  11. @stuclach, I’m afraid its a combination of the two, resulting in below average, low-skill labor with an inability to route the power of women. Anyone go to a shop with any female staff?

    @ohcaroline – Evil Look of Death = ELD – Man, I love acronyms! 

  12. @ActualButt  One of the clerks I mentioned is female.  She always looks like she doesn’t want to be there.  I think she and her husband own the shop together, and I’ve got the feeling it isn’t her first choice for family business.  So for that reason I cut her a little more slack than the Prince Valiant guy.

  13. Oh, Jimski, you sure do write funny and poignant articles. Only a few among us would include ‘laudanum’ in their opening sentences, but you take the extra step of adding a laudanum hotlink. How cool is that?

    I have also served as Ersatz comic salesman in my efforts to push the popularity of comics. The comic shop guys in my town (New Haven) are cool, but occasionally I’ll strike up a conversation with people in the shop and try to excite them about the things that are exciting me. Lately, it’s been The Twelve, but it might not be if it’s another 2 months before the next issue.

  14. You can always tell the guy that he’s shit at his job…

  15. @Animal: Ah okay, I go to a store in Glassboro called (of course) ‘The Comic Book Store’. It’s a good shop and the guy working there is more then happy enough to help an annoying (of course) customer like me. 🙂 But he does focus on games a tad bit more then actual comics. Then again I always see him have 30 comics for him to read every week…

    @Oh_Caroline: That also sounds exactely like my shop. lol The guy has his wife work in there and she has such a timid attitude. Probably didnt think her future was going into comics.

  16. @Animal   I think the store on 38 you are referring to is "Ron’s Comics".  It’s a pretty decent store.  I’ve never really had an issue with All Things Fun.  I actually got along well with the owners, but didn’t rely on them for suggestions.  With that being said, I go the DCBS route now to save money.

  17. I live in south Jersey also, and like the guy who wrote the article said, I have to ride my bike into Shelbeville to get my comics also.  Except this isn’t Simpsons world so the name of the town is actually Northfield, not Shelbeville, LOL.  But yeah, Northfield has two comic book stores.  I think one of them is the one the other person who was making a comment is talking about.  Jesters Playhouse is the one that is more of a board game and card game kind of store, but they have computers you can play games on for $3 an hour as well as comics & graphic novels.  Most of the clerks there are actually pretty informed about what is going on over there though, and they’re not stingey with their variant cover editions neither. The other store in Northfield, which you could probably argue is actually on the outskirts of my home town, Egg Harbor Township, is a different story.  It’s called Upper Level and it’s more of a video game store then a comic book store.  Nonetheless, they have a wall filled with new releases and a rather light graphic novel section.  The clerks over there are totally dumbfounded when it comes to answering questions. I couldn’t even get a straight answer about what Batman graphic novel takes place first in the continuity timeline when I started reading again.  They offer no subscription service.  They are totally stingey with their variants also.  Yeah, it seems like they don’t get much from Dark Horse other then Star Wars comics either.  They didn’t have the first issue of The Cleaners last month.  I think they just order what they want to read.  I always see them reading all the comics on the rack before they sell out.  They never have any Bongo (Simpsons) stuff neither.

  18. "looked less like a store and more like a pederast’s basement"<—— NIIIICE

    me commenting of Final Crisis Requiem and the death of Martian manhunter not being part of the main final crisis series

    LCS "bridge Troll"  …." ..meh….."

    Feign interest in your loyal customers ,please?

  19. Wow this article intriques me because well I’m in St. Louis.  I know of many shops but I always felt like there are cities with more.  The grass is always greener kind of thing.  I’ve been to Star Clipper in the loop which has recently changed its name to Twighlight Comics.  I always go before I see a movie at the Tivoli.  But I must mention other great comic shops.  Of course there are tons of Boarders and Barnes and Nobles which all have heavy Trade sections.  There’s also The Fastasy Shop which has a chain of shops throughout Missiouri with great people and service.  Comic Relief has a wonderful shop in St. Charles MO its not that far from the Mills Mall which has one itself called Imagination.  Comic Relief has a great selection of back issues and toys.  They’ll even mail them to you and will give you a discount if you have a pull.  Imagination is mostly a D&D shop but they do sell new books.  The shops have also spilled over to the Illinois side with Heroic Adventures in Edwardsville IL and a new chain of stores just advertised on the radio Fantasy Books in Belleville, Farview Heights, and OFallon IL.  Yes the St. Louis area gets radio advertisements for comic book shops.  I guess now writing about it I feel alot better about my green grass.

  20. I am a timid very shy person. I’ve only been to one LCS ever and that experience alone has kept me away ever since. I get my stuff online now which is sad since I’m the only comic geek among my friends. 

     

    Maybe I just assumed the local comic shop would be a cool place to just shoot the breeze with others with like interests. Instead what I felt like was that I should be honored to step into their establishment and to only speak when spoken to.

  21. "Instead what I felt like was that I should be honored to step into their establishment and to only speak when spoken to."

    Sorry to hear that Theo.

  22. I’don’t go too much, as i prefer trades. My place is Bedrock comics. It’s good, but could use a bit more stuff. I did find Stray Toasters there for cheap, so it’s all cool

  23. I’m very lucky. Here in Boston between the chain stores-New England Comics & Newbury Comics, not to mention Comicopia & several other indie places-you can’t throw a stone without hitting a comic shop . I think I pass about 8 or so from work to home.

  24. I live in Dallas, supposedly a Mecca of our fine industry, but it seems hard to find shops around me that have both an environment I can go into without feeling dirty and smelling the BO from the game room and a knowledgeable staff who will help with what they can.

    Thankfully I found Zeus Comics in downtown Dallas. The store owner and staff are phenomenal and will go out of their way to order something if they don’t have it. They’ve even offered to sell me variants at cover price when they ran out of regular issues. Now THAT is customer service.

    For a couple of years I worked in the office at a large chain comic store in the area and while the owners meant well and were very kind, they tended to have poor judgement on employees.

    If an attractive woman applied they would hire her on the spot. More times than not this meant they liked manga or Harry Potter and were unwilling to learn anymore to actually be a helpful associate. On the flipside I could rattle off Simpsons inspired charicatures of employees there that knew so much they had to tell every customer 10 times more than they needed to know.

  25. I live in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and I have gone to 3 different shops. The first was Schinders, but I always felt a little dirty after walking out of there, as they had a "Back Room". Next up was some store where the owner was totally Comic Book Guy. I remember being in there once, and he actually yelled at a three year old for holding a comicbook. Plus he only carried like 3 copies of the lesser selling stuff like Nightwing, so it was hard to get stuff that I liked. Finally, after months of searching, I found Mind’s Eye Comics, and it ws love at first sight. It is neatly laid out, the staff know where things are, and everyone there is very friendly. I’m actually going to miss it when I move away after I graduate from college.

  26. In Minneapolis, Big Brain is the best comic shop.

  27. A couple of years ago I began frequenting the Comic Relief on Manchester in what we STL natives affectionately refer to as ‘West County’. It’s a fine shop with plenty of selection. Seldom do I want for any title as they seem to carry just about everything under the sun. When I first started going I was timid of the local shopkeep, but, as time’s passed, I’ve developed quite an affinity towards him.

    Being someone who’s played peddler to the public I understand the hardships one faces in the line of duty. The scene from Clerks where the guy enters the Quik Stop to ask if they have hubcaps for (I believe) a Pinto is not only a joke, but a reality which must be humbly dealt with. While a customer of any establishment (spec. fast food franchises), I strive to make the employees working the shop as comfortable as possible.

    So eventually my LCS guy saw I wasn’t just going thru a phase and found me far from demanding. In time he welcomed my presence and frequently makes an effort to talk to me on Wednesdays, as long as he’s not too busy. Sometimes I ask what he thinks of books coming out and he graciously obliges me with his opinions..

    I think I’m in love.  🙂

    And to solidify that last thought an amusing story: A shop opened up no more than two blocks from my house a year or so ago. Comic Relief is several miles away. At first I wouldn’t commit to the new shop because I never thought it would last. Recently I thought the time had come to make the change but I can’t. I just like my LCS guy too much.  

  28. Glad to hear of the love for COMIC RELIEF–my buddy owns the chain and works very hard at it.  As far as I know, its still the only shop in the St. Louis area to offer discounts to its pull and hold customers.  Jim, any chance of giving us the initials of the shop you referred to in the article?  I used to to know every shop in the area, but my wanderlust has cooled somewhat the past few years.  And I checked the link to your previous article–that wouldn’t be Book Brokers, would it?  Off Lindbergh?  I don’t remember a ‘Book Busters’.  I used to get my comics at Book Gallery–I bought GS XMen #1 there off the rack as a wee lad.  

  29. Alot of this sounds like going to a video-game shop, and being looked down upon by staff, who obviously live videogames, but are unwilling to help you because you seem to be ignorant to their level.  Like trying to find decent help from someone knowledgable at Best Buy. 

  30. All the people at my LCS are very nice. I remember when i was newbie walking into the store, and they just kept giving me recommendation’s on what books are good. They really helped me out on how to understand the comic universe better. It is realy nice having people who are able to recommend good books for you.

  31. Wow, South Jersey is pretty popular on this site!

     

    Scott- The All Things Fun crew are nice, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t run the comic portion of the store well. They underorder popular titles, botched some of my orders, missed pulling a few books I subscribed to,  shelves/boxes are unorganized, and totally clueless about the books themselves which makes recomendations pointless… it’s like buying your comics at the Rite Aid.

  32. I definitely see your point. Like I mentioned before, I don’t go there anymore because I use DCBS, but All Things Fun definitely caters to the gaming crowd.  When I’ve ventured in the area to find hard to find titles or trades, there are probably better shops to check out first.

  33. In the summers I live at home in the suburbia of all suburbias named Alpharetta GA.  The closest comic shop is Galactic Quest which is 30 minutes away with no trraffic.  I like the guys there though.  They seen knowledgable and will have a decent conversation.  Thankfully I spend most of my time at school in Columbia SC where Acme Comics is 5 minutes away from campus.

  34. As a St. Louis native away at college i can fully appreciate how nice it is having a ton of shops, as here in Columbia we have one shop that is decently out of my way most days.  Upon moving here there was a shop a few blocks away from where i’m living that advertised gaming and comics, only to find that they had shifted to only gaming months ago and been to lazy to change their sign. it was a shock not to be able to go to a store like Star Clipper when i my LCS lacking, and i make it my duty to stop by SC every time i go home, hoping they’ll have something i’ve missed.

  35. Like piscespaul said were pretty lucky in Boston with both major chains New England Comics and Newbury Comics(there more of a music store now). Although im not on a first name bases with my LCS guys they have definitely have been helpful.

  36. Great article. I live in England and have no local comic book shop in my home town. I travel into Birmingham on my way home (adds about 2 hours to my journey) on a friday to get my comics. I used to go to a store where the staff were unhelpful and very grumpy, I had got to the point of virtually not buying any monthly comics, and just getting trades from Borders and Waterstones (book chain). However I discovered another store on the other side of the city centre, and whilst this is a bit further to walk the staff are friendly, helpful and it has an excellent stock. So I still continue to buy some titles monthly. A good comic book shop can do a lot of good to keep those of us who have a more casual interest.

  37. I’m a fellow STL resident, and the amount of shops that we have here is pretty insane.  I shop at the Star Clipper, every week, and I’ve always enjoyed the staff there, and they pretty much have everything.

    In my travels around the land, I’ve been fortunate enough to find some other kick ass shops, particularly one near my fiance’s house, where I’ll be living a month before we get married.  I tend to find that the nicer shops are the ones in the nicer locations.  The dungeons are usually not in crappy areas of town.

  38. *cough* Manages a Saint Louis Comic Store *cough* …

    As a matter of fact the comic store pictured is the former location of the store I manage … here’s hoping that the store mentioned in this article wasn’t that one. Stop in some time Jim, we’d love to show you what The Fantasy Shop is capable of.

     

    -Scott

    Manager of The Fantasy Shop South County Location and Co-Host of The ComicDorksCast

  39. Let the record show that the Fantasy Shop has always done right by me! The manager of the location by my old apartment used to know my taste better than I did.

  40. /me wishes I lived in St. Louis. Just moved to Nashville, maybe the LCS’ here are more friendly.

  41. Great article Jim.

    I’m lucky enough to have a fairly simple two shop setup. My main shop has many copies of all new issues and a very impressive back-issue selection.  However, the very nice lady that owns the shop apparently missed the TPB bandwagon so I have to go to another shop for trades. The lady at my main shop is incredibly knowledgable and helpful. I bring my girlfriend (who has been showing an interest in my hobby lately) with me there all the time and the shop owner answers her questions about Emily the Strange and Simpsons comics.  The guys at the shop I go to for trades are also very nice and helpful but that place is a little bit of a nerd paradise.  My girlfriend said she felt a little uncomfortable in there.

    "Not in a paid capacity." Hilarious.

     

  42. I live in the suburbs of Minneapolis too.  I’ve got a Comic Shop about 3 or 4 blocks from m house called Hot Comics.  I’ve talked about it before on posts like this, and all I’ve got for it is love.  The manager, Bjorn is cool and even threw in a free copy of All Star Batman 10 (unedited version) just for sticking the book on my pull list.  The best guy that works there is the older guy.  I think his name is Dan, but I’ve always just thought of him as that really nice uncle-ish kinda guy.  I’ve never even heard him speak ill of a title other than jokingly (although you can always sense a bit of Marvel hate from him.) He’s always in good spirits.  There is actually a femal clerk.  She’s really nice too and always seems to have an awesome story to tell.  I recommended the Roberts to her.  She loved it, but said it scared her a bit since she also works in a nursing home.  For the longest time they thought I was 19-20 and had me apply for a job.  Once they got the app. and saw that I was 17, they told me I’d have to wait a year because they sometimes special order adult material for customers.  I’m still waiting on that, cuz I kinda hate my job right now.  They have a fantastic stock of trades and current issues, big or smaller press.  They’ve never been missing anything I was looking for, no matter what the publisher.  If they sell out of an issue, they’ll call around to other local shops and see if they can track one down.  Based on your pull, they’ll throw in suggestions.  Its just a great system and a great place to blow off steam after rehearsal or school.  They finally know me by first name.  Its great to just have your pull handed to you when you walk in the door.

  43. Oh, forgot to mention that they are apparently the only Comic Shop in the area whose business has gone up this year.  I figure that’s gotta be a good sign.

  44. @ Jim – Your article is poignant and enjoyable as always.

     As a current comic shop patron and former comic shop employee, I understand that the situation has two sides to it.  Here are just a few of the points that impact the problem:

    1) Lots of people would like to work in a comic shop.  Very few people would work in a comic shop for the wages that a comic shop pays.  Face it, you’re looking at someone behind the counter who’s usually working for a bit more then minimum wage and a generous discount on their own purchases.  You can’t keep quality employees in that kind of environment. 

    2) Comic shop owners don’t understand customer service.  I think a lot of specialty shop owners have this problem.  They open up a store because they love the industry/product… not because they have an unquenchable desire to meet the public’s needs.  Does this apply to all shop owners?  Of course not.  However, assuming my own experiences are not a-typical, a comic shop owner is a  demi-god over his little realm, with syncophants and servants running to and fro. 

    3)  On top of that, the background of the industry has always been about customers doing the work.  That’s really changing now.  Power is in the consumers hands with the internet beside them.  Amazingly most shops still don’t understand that I can buy a book from any number of online sources significantly cheaper.  Because of that, you NEED to make up the difference in customer service.  The one thing that the internet can’t do yet is give you that feeling of being appreciated and respected.  Your comic book shop should.  You’re the reason they’re still there. 

    I’ll stop ranting now, but.. wow, I could go on for hours.  All  I can say is that time and again, when customer service.. REAL customer service is provided, it’s proven that customers will be willing to pay more, or, in our case, keep frequenting the same location. 

  45. @Crippler. I agree with everything you just said.  I used to go to Shinders (which someone mentioned earlier) when I was really young (i’m talking single digits.) I didn’t know anything about books, I just knew that I liked Captain America, Ghost Rider and Spider-Man.  I would grab what I could afford and plop it down on the counter.  They would never answer any of my many questions, nor did they ever recommend anything to me.  They actually treated me worse when I was with my parents.  The people working there were such loads that one time I said "oh, I forgot and issue on the racks."  They said "eh, just take it man."  He smelled heavily of pot.

  46. @ActualButt 

     

    Both my regular shop (Secret Headquarters) and the shop I grew up with (Golden Apple, where I still get my bags & boards) have female employees. Everyone in both shops is both knowledgeable and awesome. The closest either location comes to having a fatbeard in it is me. 🙂

  47. I feel really fortunate that I’ve never experienced these stories at the shops I’ve gone to.  When I worked in the city I’d often go to Fat Jack’s.  My only minor complaint about that shop involves the cats roaming around inside (I’m allergic).  That said, there’s no carpet, so it never really bothered me.  Never left sniffling.  

    My regular shop is Brave New Worlds in Willowgrove, PA, which is an awesome little shop.  They always have the books I’m looking for and the guys who work there are really friendly and helpful.  They’ve taken to calling me Monty.  And on the occasions where somebody walks in, looking completely lost and afraid, they’re always gentle with them and put them at ease.  Love my shop and wish other shops would take note.  It’s so frustrating to hear these horror stories.  

  48. hahah–Jimski nailed the standard comic shop guy response "Uh no we don’t have that, I don’t think it’s out…"

  49. When i was 14, i went and visited my mom for the summer in Decatur Illinois.  I had found a comic shop that was about 2 miles away.  I spent the entire summer riding my bike there every Friday.  The guy that ran it was such a jerk.  But it was the only comic store in town.  And i (coming from an exremely small town in the middle of nowhere) had no other option for comics.  When i went back to my small town in Colorado, i asked my mom to pick up my books for me and send them for Christmas.  She agreed and i talked to the owner and he said that i can just email him my pull list every month and my mom can pick them up.  Well Christmas came and i received my Comic Book package.  When i opened it, i was appalled at what i saw.  This guy had totally taken advantage of my mom’s lack of comic book knowledge.  Not only, did he not get me hardly anything that i asked for, but he also had bagged and boarded each book and marked them up from 1 dollar to 2 dollars.  He had my mom buy a bunch of crap that wasn’t selling on his shelfs,  like Spider-Man CHapter One and some other random crap.  Stuff that i never asked for.  I felt so bad for my mom, cuz she tried so hard for me, that i didnt have the heart to tell her what had happened.  Instead i told her that i was probably done with comics.  That is when i quite.  But luckily 5 years later, i met a friend at college who liked comics.  I started reading his trades and it got me back into it.  I live close to Colorado Springs now and there is a pretty good store there.  I stop by whenever i am in town.   It is a much better situation for me. 

  50. just a side note.  The next summer that i visited, the store had closed. 

  51. I understand your frusteration, Jimski. The particular spectre hangs over all of retail, especially comics retial.

     

    I will say that I do genuinrly enjoy the oppotunity that us fans have of hand selling books to potential new customers. Sure it can be frusterating when the reatiler falls short of his duties, but the important thing is that this woman may now have a realtionship with Star City.

     

    You passed on comics. Good on ya! 

  52. I loathe the idea that in a couple weeks, I’ll be home in Brunswick, ME and have nowhere good to get comics unless I drive all the way to Portland.  The comic shop in Brunswick is more of a gaming place with comics on the side. 

    The gamers and their little pewter figures taint everything.  I know it’s not good to throw stones from glass houses, but those people….THOSE people are weird.

    😉

    Like Star Trek people.

  53. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    HE DOESN’T MEAN IT!!!!

  54. *rolls up sleeves*

    I have tons of pewter Star Wars figures from back when I played the Star WArs RPG! Pewter figures are cool!

  55. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I like the pewter figures that hold orbs.  

    I used to collect Krystonia figures if anyone knows what those are.  Some of them were signed too!

    In conclusion, we love the Star Trek people.   

  56. @Paul: Whoa Whoa Whoa

    What do you mean ‘we’? 🙂

  57. Yeah, but I’m not talking about Star Wars, I’m talking about…is it Warhammer?  Ugh.

    Also, you don’t still play, and if you had to go to a shop where that was the focus, comics relegated to some dusty corner while mock warfare takes place, you’d find a new shop, and you know it Kirkpatrick- I mean Kilpatrick!

  58. Wow.  I resemble that remark!  … except for the Star Trek part. 

    Take it from someone who worked in gaming / comics store and whose lifetime Warhammer purchases far outweigh his comics.  Comics people are way stranger.  Proof?  Gaming is at least a social function.  The residents of comicdom are, in general, far more likely to be unable to function ‘normally’ in an activity that contains a strong social dynamic. 

    BTW – this remark is coming to you from New Brunswick.  We generally come no further south then Bangor.  Maybe Brunswick just has a REALLY weird crowd. 

  59. Pretty much everyone in Maine who stayed is a little weird yeah.  And I’ve thought about going back, just to be fair.

    That’s funny.  I was in Brunswick, you in New Brunswick.  Are things shinier there?

    If subcultures can’t pick on other subcultures than, what do we have to live for.  Also, Star Trek sucks!

  60. Shinier and with that NEW Brunswick smell.  What can I say?  Our recession isn’t as bad, but our recent election resulted in the government spinning in circles instead of moving forward.  Other then that, folks from ME and NB should be brothers in arms.  Who else understands snow and fish so well? 

    Also, lets put the hate where it really belongs – Cosplay fans.  Of which I count anyone who dresses up in Starfleet uniform. 

  61. You guys are about to force my hand; "the geek hierarchy" has been in my iFanboy to-write folder since August.

  62. To arms!  To arms!  Rally to your chosen champions! 

  63. This article made me realize how much I loved my comic book store.  I’ve been a regular for like the last 4 years.  I was going to this one place for a while once I got back into reading, and I asked about a subscription.  They were all cool about it and said just to turn it back in or email them back.  So I emailed them, went to the store, and they didn’t have anything pulled for me.  On top of that, they had ran out of copies of a particular book.

     So the next day, I called around to some of the other stores in the area to see if anybody had a copy.  Lo and behold, this little store that was situated bout 5 min from my house that I had no clue was even there, had a copy.  They said they would hold it for me.  When I got there, they started chatting me up and asked me if I needed them to hold anything else.  I was like yeah, I wouldn’t mind having these other things held.  And thus the beginning of a very good 4 year relationship, where I have even worked for them on occasion to give them a weekend off. 

    Then last Thursday hits.  I show up and the lights are off and I look in the window and everything is gone.  A couple of the other guys that go into the shop work a couple stores down didn’t even know what had happened.  They said they were there last night.  I felt like Baltimore with the Colts packing up and moving overnight.  (Yes, a sports reference.)

     Now I’m back at peg one.  Having to rebuild a relationship with a new store.  Hopefully the one that is down the street from where I work will suffice.  I’ve been in there a few times just looking around for back issues and what not.  Seem friendly, but never seem to be too energetic in getting a new repeat customer.