Comic Shops Part 2

This week we offer the second part of the boys discussing comic book shops.

Please let us know what you thought of the show in the comments field below and as always please let’s keep things civil.

And please go out and support your local comic book shop.

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1600

9 Comments

  1. I guess I really lucked out having stores like Now and Then and Carry On when I was flogging my independent books. Back in the day when I was doing mini comics, Harry Kremer took everything (and paid cash up front!) and was always there with a word of encouragement. So, when I started appearing in titles like Caliber Presents and Negative Burn, I already had my foot in the door. I love to tell the story of Growing Up With Comics, the anthology title we did a while back. There actually is a comic store on the cover, and that store ordered…two copies. I’m not kidding. Andy Brast, at Carry On Comics ended up selling 80 copies!!! Now that is a store that champions the little guy. Mind you, there was a story which I wrote in the book about Andy and his store. Conversely, when Covid was at its height, I wanted to do something for my old friend to raise the profile of his store. I ended up getting T-shirts made which feature the last page of that story, with a picture of Andy and I sitting on the front steps. It has since become the number one selling T-shirt in the entire history of the store! So it goes both ways in the perfect comic store/customer relationship.

    cheers, mel

  2. Jeez Mel, you’re making me look bad here! I’ve always thought Harry led the way, he had a big influence on me, and Andy has been a rock up in Waterloo all these years. Good people up in the tri-cities.

  3. I know comic shops I have gone to have changed over the years and maybe carry only a third the back issues they once did. Most had maybe one employee if that. One store I used to go to began carrying cards… then hosting games… then came to the point that if I went into get comics I was interrupting their games…so that one I dropped. One store was small and packed the comics so tightly you could barely pull one out! Another store had employees that knew nothing but carried golden age comics and had to phone the owner for each issue I inquired about. These if course are worst case scenarios and there were others with great and friendly knowledgeable owners.
    Incidentally… I looked for shops in Bordeaux snd one evening while navigating one if the myriad of winding medieval streets I cane on three in the same block… all closed as it was late. Not sure if they had floppies but definitely graphic novels. One interestingly was called Mr. Eddy… but the title character looked nothing like me. The airport had Metal Hurlant, Marvels, and Disney Duck graphics. I will keep my eyes open in Portugal!

  4. Hey Walt
    Not to make you feel any worse, but the tri-city is also home to Studiocomix Press, a true champion of underdog independents. Alfonso Espinos not only prints many independent comics but also sells them in his retail space, and promotes new talent like nobody else I know. I urge everybody to check out his website and store to see just how much independent material he has available. Everybody has to start somewhere, and a sympathetic retailer is a good place to start.

    cheers, mel

  5. This has been a good two-parter but you stepped out of character – Foster Brooks never made that mistake.

    I think the main takeaway is expertise, passion, and uniqueness. This is not a unique finding in the internet economy. “You get what you pay for” has never been more true. You can buy at a discount, but then it is up to you to do the work. Or you can pay full price and have somebody else do the work. What doesn’t work these days, but used to due to more friction (meaning no Amazon delivery), is looking for someone to pay full price and not receive any expert benefit.

    Breaking this down further, the shopkeep can either pay for expertise (find an expert who wants to be paid for their knowledge), or get somebody with passion who will contribute their knowledge for free. The LCS operator generally doesn’t have the money to pay for this, so they are going to live or die by finding these passionate employees. These employees in the LCS situation are actually consumers (they enjoy their jobs!), so part of their compensation is the situation. These people are clearly the linchpin of the enterprise.

    These experts, however they are compensated, bring both expert advice and uniqueness to the inventory. The customer doesn’t have to spend hours research what’s classic/interesting/hot – the expert will tell them and has it in stock. In line with my experience, this says that the LCS should not be aiming at the hardcore fanboys (they are experts and get little benefit from this service), but at the periphery/newbies. Sad to tell you but my retail purchases have been nearly nil for years, because I rarely run into expertise/inventory that draws me into a purchase. (Also I see this as explaining why LCS rarely stock Omnibuses – anybody buying these is a fanboy and isn’t going to pay full retail.)

    I mentioned in an earlier comment about hitting a shop this summer that had all sorts of used stuff, including some short boxes. This shop had the qualities above even at the fanboy level, and I ended up spending money there on both comics and toys. In contrast, a higher-end shop nearer the beach got none of my money because, while it is run by a knowledgeable LCS operator from the Washington D.C. area, it is a generic and polished LCS, with enthusiastic but clueless young employees. BUT – the latter shop probably makes a lot more money, because it provides the qualities at the level of the “pedestrian” customer, and there are a lot more of these.

    Here is the essential tension – the real fanboy employee would rather work in the former shop, but they will be paid better in the latter shop. This is in line with your “pirates” comment. If LCS owners were to be able to band together, it would indicate they are less unique, and would drive them in the direction of “Borders” (which by the way has been out of business for a decade!). The very quality that makes an LCS great is that which makes it vulnerable to The Man (read AT&T/Disney) – so indeed you are your own worst enemy – but you get to choose your poison.

    Also:

    431k people in Halifax.

    You talked about more events (“two a month”), just after complaining that promoting independent creators was “work”. Inconsistent. Think about your lead-up to Free Comic Book Day. More events is probably not the answer – ongoing tie-ins sounds like a better strategy to me. I would look to be a parasite on Disney’s machine – I get emails from Disney+ a couple times a week – tying into these is just one concept.

  6. That was a great post Scott, thanks for taking the time to put that together.

    Meli, again a very thorough analysis and lots of food for thought that I’m sure to nibble on. Also, if its one thing I’ve learned along the way is that complaining is like going to McDonald’s, it gets me nowhere and could even set you back, but it feels good whale you’re doing it.

  7. That was a great post Scott! I agree about the faded posters and dust… some of the shops that I described as being not as much to my liking are exactly like that… one I was even thinking of asking if they would consider a trade for comics if I remade their peeling weathered sign that hasn’t been addressed in 30 years.

  8. Just an update on Porto Portugal… there are at least 2 comic shops one that boasts carrying vintage comics from USA, France,Britain…but its a bit too far to get to…I did however see a Marvel Thor graphic at a sundries store in Portuguese!

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