Sunday, May 21, 2006

Comic Book Stores

It's a hard thing to find a good comic book store - at least as far as I'm concerned. Oh, I admit I'm a lot pickier than others owing to the fact that no store will ever top my Dad's, but I don't think that I ask all that much. First of all I don't want it to be some sort of creepy boys club in which most of the people who work at the place have never seen a girl before. Secondly I'd prefer it to not be a corperation as I enjoy being a person and not a number. I'd also like a place where the people are friendly, like to talk about comics, keep their store clean and well lit, and have a decent knowledge of their product. Also, I hate stores where you fell pressured or guilt tripped. I really don't think this is a lot to ask.

Since my Dad's store closed we haven't managed to find many stores that fit this criteria though. Part of the reason is that in any given area there are probably a maximum of three stores to choose from. The other reason is that too many of these stores just fail to meet my expectations.

Cosmic Comix in Catonsville, MD is a great store. My family has been frequenting it for several years now and followed them over when they moved from Ellicott City. It meets all of my above criteria (though I will say the new store is much more open and well lit) and even goes so far as to exceed my expectations. I enjoy dropping by and picking up something new to read every time I'm in town.

The Comics Club in Brandon, FL has recently become a disappointment. For the past few years I have only had good things to say about this store. Unfortunatly this is no longer the case. I loved that this was a store run by a small family - the fact that their little girl was growing up in a comic book store reminded me of my own childhood. The owners were nice enough and they were always willing to go out of their way for us. Then it went downhill. Over the past few months we've been harassed about buying stuff EVERY TIME we walk in the door. A friend of ours, Corey, had asked one of the owners to look into an L5R set out of curiosity - when the owner told him what was actually in it Corey decided that he didn't want it. A few months later the owner starts asking André and I about Corey and tells us that he had been told (by Corey) that he was "thinking" about ordering this L5R set and that since the owner hadn't heard from him again he went ahead and ordered it anyway "just in case". OK, fine, we agreed to ask Corey about it. We did, and Corey said he'd talk to the guy (which he did, and decided AGAIN, after attempts made by the owner to guilt trip him into buying it, that he was not interested). Fast forward to FCBDay - again the owner asks us what's going on. We tell him we don't know, that Corey had said he had talked to them about it already. He starts telling us stories about how he'd not make much profit off of it even if Corey bought it, how he ordered it because he thought he wanted it, how he's been holding it when he could have had other buyers, and asking us if we wanted to buy it... blah blah blah. We tell him (as we had in the past) that he should sell it to one of these "other buyers" because we weren't interested. If that wasn't bad enough, when we get up to the counter to buy a graphic novel and claim our free books the other owner - his wife who is usually great to talk to - starts asking us about the whole thing. By this time André and I are fed up and haven't gone to the store since. I don't go to the comic book store with my bags packed for a guilt trip - I go there to buy stuff and talk to comic book people.



Read More Comics in Brandon, FL is quite possibly my new comic store down here. We just checked it out today (thanks to a tip from The Hero's Alliance) and it seemed like a fairly nice store. It actually reminded me a lot of Cosmic Comix, and the guy working at the counter was very nice (and reading Fables too, so at least he had good taste. It was nothing like the store down the street from us that seems to be the creepy guy store, and there was even a section dedicated to young readers. So far, this looks like a great store.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

Hope you've found your new store. The store that used to be your father's store is still in business. It's not all that bright but there is a female, the wife of the owner, working behind the counter every week day. The only problem with the store is that there are a lot of older guys who shop there and are speculators. They complain about any imperfection or crease on a book. I've heard that the store has been put on Diamond's watch list cuz they return so much product, claiming damaged goods. The shop I go to meets all your requirements. I think you'd like it a lot. So if you're ever in Madison, NJ, check out Dewey's Comic City. It's a great store with a very friendly and fantastic owner. His name is Dan.

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Thanks for the opening remark about Comics And... it made me smile and made my day.

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Jeff, I'll check it out if I'm ever in NJ... if they have a website I can link the store, I certaintly don't mind promoting good stores. I still have the Comics Club up as a link because despite our recent bad run with them they're still a decent store.

Jim, glad I made your day. Do you have any old pictures of the store that you could get scanned? I'd like to have one for my profile.

Why do you guys think it's so rare to find a good comic book store?

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

I'll have to check about the old pictures, I must have some somewhere.

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Well, according to Dan my comic shop guy there are only about 2,000 direct market stores in the entire USofA. That's not a lot. And right now it's hard to make money selling comics as there are so few fans of the hobby left. Another thing is that comic books are non-returnable so you really have to know your customers so you're not left with a lot of unsold comics. Add to that the fact that ebay took away the back order business for most stores. And comics have no payment terms. You get the books on wednesday and only have 2 days to sell them before the bill is due. Most other businesses give you at least 2 weeks if not a month to pay. It's a hard business to keep in the black as your dad learned. Lucky for me, I live in an area where a drive of 30 minutes can get me to any of 7 stores. Each has it's own personality, but Dewey's is the best. Check out the website at www.deweyscomiccity.com. Hey Jim! What did you ever do with the poster board you had all the guest professionals draw a little something on?

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Jeff - Did I do that? If I did I left it at the store when I sold it.

The store was alot of fun and I made money in about six months after I opened it. I would have continued with it till this day if I had done it right and had a job and hired a manager to run it.

But then it wouldn;t have been the same place that gave me the four years with my girls at the store and all the great times and great people I got to know because of the store.

It made money, just never made enough money. It is a tough business.

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Yup, whenever a guest artist came to your store, and I remember quite a few(Nelson, Jim Califiore, Mike McKone and Scott Hanna to name a few)you had them sketch something on a poster board and then they signed it. If you had the shop today, you'd probably have to sell YuGiOh and other card games, action figures, statues, candy and other things in order to stay in business. That's one thing that's great about Dewey's. Dan changes the store around a lot to keep up with trends. Now he's got lots of manga, loads of trades and action figures for the kids. Several guys who write online columns shop at Dewey's too. One guy works for ComicBookResources, one for ComixFan, and one sometimes contributes to Newsarama. A few creators shop there too. It's a fun store to go to. Very friendly staff who don't pressure you or force you to buy things. Now if I could only do something about the quality of my fellow customers....

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I still have a picture of Batman that Scott Hanna drew for me. I think that my Dad would have been okay selling YuGiOh cards and such - that's why he named the store Comics And...

Sunday, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Yes the And... was planned to allow me to move into other logical extensions of my market, but I would have always (I hope)kept the focus on comics.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

It's really hard to keep the focus on comics these days, with the number of fans getting smaller and smaller each year. Since zero kids are reading comics, you've gotta sell other things to get them into the store and keep it from becoming the creepy adult dank hole in the wall. All the kids I've seen coming in over the past few years buy card games, manga, sports cards, action figures, other toys, candy, soda and like that. The high schoolers have said that comics aren't cool at all anymore and manga is where it's at. I've seen a few proudly speak of how they've dropped all comics on their pull list and gone to full manga. They say they've never been happier. You get customers in college coming in but they only buy trades, probably cuz singles are so damn expensive. No, there are only 2 types of people still buying monthlies: speculators and the diehards who've always loved comics and try to get everything with their favorite character in it. Problem is that the diehards are getting gray. Soon as they hit their 30's, they're gonna stop buying comics. The new stores that I've seen open up around here have placed the focus on gaming, and oh yeah we also have a few comics on a spinner rack. Comics And...would now be Gaming And....A shop in my town opened up called Bad Moo Gaming and Collectibles. So yeah, we're in a very small cult sized hobby. My comic guy thinks he can maybe get 5-10 more good years before he retires. And he's doing the best of about a dozen stores that meet every wednesday morn to pick up their books. Every once in awhile you get a ray of sunshine, like the fact that Civil War supposedly has sold 300,000 copies. Personally I find this hard to believe. Gotta keep the faith though.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Civil War sold 300,000 because retailers would buy extra copies to get the incentive that sold for $75 bucks. At that rate you can almost shred the extra copies that don't sell through. I have argued with Rusty about incentives and he says they don't increase orders. For his store and the way I ordered they don't , but it does for speculator stores and internet stores and for individual customers who will order that many to get an incentive variant. these type of numbers skew the "sucess" stories that the companies publish.

The direct market saved the industry, but the industry almost died before moving to the direct market. It now needs to move to new paridym to survive.

The direct market is now killing the industry because it is catering to the diehards and speculators only. During the panel Greg said he liked Moon Knight because it is what he likes, dark, violent and gritty. That's fine at 25, but not fine for my kids. So the direct market feeds on this mentality and caters to the core of their market.

They need a new market. More comics like we all grew up with and make them returnable and go out and get them where those kids are so they can become fans. If you generate more comic fans then the comic shops will thrive again and the market could come back to life. Make the books even partially returnable and then a store could gamble on She-Hulk, Thing, Blue Beetle, Manhunter and the other fun or more marginal titles. Thing is a book everyone seems to enjoy, but unless you order it a store is not gambling on that book, except fo rmaybe one or two copies.

The direct market only method served the industry well for 20 years, it is now time to change or it is bye-bye to comics.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

There's nothing wrong with selling other stuff at a comic book store - there aren't any real specialty stores anymore - not unless the specialty covers a VERY vast field. If I was to open a comic store today it would have a big manga and gaming section - but so what?
1. Manga IS a form of comic book - it just happens to be from Japan.
2. Manga has influenced the industry in positive ways - such as that mini-graphic novels that some publishers sell, cheap and convienient and attractive to younger readers.
3. Gamers read comics (I should know, seeing as how I'm a gamer)
If I had a store I's even host table top games there - my gamer friends are NOT creepy and it would help to interest clientel in gaming products - not to mention bring gamers in to buy comics. The gamers I know who don't read comics only need a push and they'd be fans.

Cards are also a way to bring in customers - whether it be YuGiOh, Magic, or L5R, they're just cards and don't take up much space. And card gamers buy them as well as card binders, card sleeves, and tokens. People also buy dice for gaming, action figures, hero clix, tshirts and so much more. I can tell you first hand that many people interested in the side items are prime targets for being future comic book fans. As long as the industry is kept alive, who cares if you sell other stuff as well?

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Action Figures are cool and this week the Superman robot and Beepo combined package is coming out. Once I but that I will only be missing Comet and Proty for my own Legion of Super-Pets.

But you are right opening a store catering to elelments which provide synergy makes sense. I still think comics need to go back away from direct market only sales program that they rely on.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Well you can't get today's comics into Walmart of the supermarket as they are not fit for kids. I have talked to over a dozen retailers now and all agree that you can forget the idea of kids ever coming back to the hobby. Some attribute it to dvds, video games, iPods, cell phones and the web. They say that comics just can't compete for kids' attention against these other forms. Whatever the reason, kids are no longer part of the comic book equation. With the exception of Archie and Simpson comics you can write off kids. Anyone who doesn't believe this is living in denial.
So I went to Dewey's and picked up Fairy Tales based on Cshiana's recommendation. While I was there I learned 2 things about the book. One, a guy came into the shop, obviously embarassed to be in a comic store, picked up Fairy Tales and asked Dan, "Do you think this will be worth something someday?" Dan said that he didn't know and the guy got angry and said, "Well, do you know ANYTHING about comic books?" Dan said that he did, but that he couldn't tell the future. The guy then asked Dan what he thought about an adult being interested in and buying comics. Dan told the guy that adults are the only people buying comics these days. Sad but true.
Secondly, Dan sells about 70-100 copies of Astonishing X-men and the other x-book. He only ordered 10 copies of Fairy Tales as the pre-orders were so low. As of today, after my buying a copy, there are still 4 of those 10 on the racks, unsold and unwanted. The good news is that he also ordered 10 copies of MouseGuard 1&2 and sold them both out quickly. So keeping in mind that Dan has received e-mails from Diamond telling him that he's one of the top 500-300 customers of theirs, that's good news for MouseGuard, terrible news for a fun all ages book like Fairy Tales.
So since the kiddies are gone for good, where are new fans gonna come from?

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

I still say we could get comics back into kids hands if we tried. If we don't try it is the eventual death knell of comics if we can't get another generation interested. A lot of people thought reading was over for kids and look at Harry Potter book sales. The right product can do it and the product out there is not good for the trying to recruit a new generation. Plus what they produce for the kids is dumb down way too much.

And again, we need to stop relying on the direct market. Yestday's savior is today's doom.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I agree with Jim - I saw the lines at B&N when Harry Potter 6 came out and even though it was a midnight selling there were TONS of kids there. And you mentioned Archie - c'mon how would that comic survive without kids reading it?? I still believe you have to convince the parents though - kids like picture books right? Well that's what comics are. Comics can still be for everyone. But if they give up on even trying the companies are only defeating themselves.

As for Fairy Tales - I didn't even know it existed until I saw it on the new release shelf at RMC. I knew about the new Excaliber Book, Civil War, House of M, even 1602 back when it was out because they advertised it. I haven't noticed much advetising for FTales so it doesn't suprise me that people haven't been that interested. And I know people that will go pick it up once I tell them about it too.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Well the retailers around here, and this is a major comic selling area being right outside of NYC, have all given up on getting kids into comics. They still get lots of kids in the shop to play games & buy cards but the kids just don't want comics anymore. No interest. The retailers have had to respond to the aging fanbase in order to survive, as have the publishers. I challenge people to find even 6 all ages mainstream superhero books being put out by the big 2.
Retailers have changed according to demand. A bunch of us were talking about 52 the other day. So many Marvel fans are coming over to DC with this series. We all really like the book so far, but we all agreed, Marvel and DC fans alike, that I couldn't give this book to my 14 year old nephew. The fans are older and want more mature, sexy and violent storylines. Marvel and DC have given them just that. I see no way in getting kids back. Prices are not going to drop. That's a big stumbling block. And you can't make fun, all ages books right now with the fanbase you've got. Look at Thing, SheHulk, and Plastic Man to name a few. The parents have become aware that comics are not suitable for children anymore and will only buy them Archie or Captain Underpants when the kids go away to camp or on a road trip. So just how would you get kids back without driving away the current fans?

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I don't think all the current fans want sexier more violent books. I don't. Jim doesn't - you don't seem to want that. Pat and Mike don't. André doesn't. In fact I don't personally know ANY fans that want that. So that means there is still a fan base for all ages books. Why can't there be both? Isn't that the whole point of having something like Vertigo?? So there's a place for writers like Moore and Ennis and Miller? I already told you how I'd attract a younger fan base - get the parents. Most adults I know who enjoy comics would love to read them to their kids. If only there were comics out there to read to them.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Cshiana you hit the nail right on the head! Why can't there be both, comics for adults that are sexy, violent and deal with adult situations and all ages comics that both adults and kids can enjoy together? I can understand why anti-hero books like Punisher are for adults only, but why aren't Superman, Spider-man and those types for everybody? Isn't there room for both? At least Dan Didio has seemingly halted the number of people jumping on the trade only bandwagon. With Crisis and 52 retailers are selling a heckuva lot of comics. I just hope that new fans can get hooked by the current fans. I think that fans in their 20's are more open about their love of comics than older fans. Maybe comics can one day become cool like video games and superhero movies have become. One can only hope.

Monday, May 22, 2006  
Anonymous Joan said...

Cshiana, Have you ever been to the Barbarian Comic book store in Wheaton, Maryland? Next time you are home I will take you over there.
Joan

Thursday, May 25, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

No, I've never even heard of it - I guess I'll have to check it out

Thursday, May 25, 2006  

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