Saturday, May 12, 2007
Finally got that EC Comics collection we acquired recently processed and out for sale. Before the comics started flying out the door, I cleared out the main glass counter and filled 'er up with the books so that I could take some photos and chronicle the majesty. And even as I was taking the photos, one of our longtime customers was patiently waiting for me to finish so she could acquire some of the books for herself.
Anyway, I'm no photographer (see if you can spot my shoe in a reflection!), but here are a few choice shots of the comics. Some are a little worse for wear (like that Weird Science #1) and some are downright gorgeous (some of those Weird Fantasy issues almost look like they just came from a 1950s newsstand)...but to have so many at once, even full runs of some of the series, is a thrill.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The nieces 'n' superheroes, again with the '90s, what my job isn't, and a former employee gets footnoted.
So, last night, I was finally able to give the sets I'd put aside of Free Comic Book Day comics to my girlfriend's nieces, aged 9 and 10. They were excited, of course, because hey! Free comics! Of the comics I gave them, they were pretty happy about the Simpsons and Archie freebies, but they were most thrilled about the Marvel Adventures Hulk/Iron Man book, the Spider-Man comic, and, prepare yourself for a shock, the Justice League of America #0.
Yeah, I know I said this continuity-heavy, non-linear narrative could possibly be offputting to new readers. But seeing my girlfriend's nieces parked on the living room couch, reading the comic aloud to each other, and occasionally asking me questions about who certain characters were and what they were up to (not in an "I don't understand this comic" way, but more in a "this is pretty neat, tell me more about it!" kind of way)...well, I was certainly happy to be wrong.
Mentioning this to pal Dorian, he shared with me his opinion that this comic may be ideal for younger children, as the free flow of ideas and mysterious events and whatnot is exactly the type of thing that can grab the interest of young, inquiring minds. I still wish, in the JL#0's case, that there was more of a linear narrative, but the girls loved it, and that's the important thing.
Huh...young girls gravitating toward and enjoying superhero comics. Whaddaya know?
I also gave some comics to the four-year-old nephew, but he was more interested in practicing his soccer (football, to you civilized countries) technique inside the house. Ah, he'll get to 'em eventually.
Commenter Chaz asked in response to yesterday's post:
"...Did you see the post-early-90s crash coming, and was there anything you did differently that allowed you to survive/stay healthy? It seems like you avoided milking it for all it was worth, but I didn't see anything else in those two posts that would answer my question."
We didn't really see the crash coming, at first. I remember seeing some indicators that things were going awry (like that one month's distributor catalog that was ballyhooing at least three new ongoing "superhero universes," causing me to wonder who was going to support all those; the excessive reliance on gimmick covers; Rob Liefeld). Comic sales were so high for such an extended period of time, that...well, we sorta took it for granted, and when the occasional dog of a comic began to turn up (like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 or that Adventures of Superman #500), we took 'em as flukes. "Well, we learned our lesson on those turkeys...thankfully everything else is selling so well, we can absorb the losses!"
And when sales began to drop across the board, there was some measure of belief that it was just a temporary dip in sales...after all, so many folks were buying comics, surely they all weren't going to give up on them all at once! So orders were kept up, assuming that the dip was temporary and that people would probably want to be able to get the back issues they missed once they started picking up their comics again.
Had this been a normal market shift, a typical ebb and flow of comic readers, that could very well have been the case. But this was a massive departure of readership, for whatever the reasons may have been (and that could fill yet another post), and they weren't coming back. Eventually high hopes had to give way to the reality that those high sales were history, and we had to adjust our orders accordingly. Thanks to the judicious use of cycle sheets, we were able to track orders and actual rack sales, so we were able to adjust quickly and avoid throwing good money after bad for too long, after the full effect of the crash was obvious.
I think I may have touched upon this in other posts, but there were a couple reasons why we were able to ride out the lean years of '90s.
First, we were a comics and games store. After a local games store went out of business many years ago, people started coming to us and asking for their role playing and tabletop war game supplies, and since folks were asking, we decided we'd try to deliver. Soon, about half the store was devoted to gaming items, and when the comics thing took its dive, the money brought in by the games took up the slack.
Second, we still carried a full line of comics and related items. When other stores in the area (and there were a lot of them, popping up here and there to take advantage of the then-current faddishness of comics) began to either shift their focus primarily to toys, or go out of business altogether, their customers who were still interested in reading comics began to come to, or return to, us. Thus, we still were able to do some comic book business...not nearly on the scale we were used to during the boom, but we were able to maintain our reputation as the place to go to for your funnybook needs, and make a small bit of money besides.
Third, we took in some significant coin of the realm by carrying POGs, but let us not speak of that again.
NOT IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION: Explaining to someone on the phone how to use Google in order to find a comic-related product we didn't happen to have. ALSO NOT IN THE DESCRIPTION: Telling you how to spell the search terms you need to use. Are you kidding me?
SEEN AT THE STORE: Former employee Josh (second Josh, not Amazing Race 4 Josh), stopping by the shop to say hello to us poor schlubs what are still in the comic book mines. He was a bit bruised and battered, having participated in some fisticuffs with an unruly gentleman at a party recently* as Josh defended the virtue** of the right and good All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder***.
I gave him some leftover Free Comic Book Day comics, which not only make good reading for my girlfriend's nieces, but also have mystical healing properties****, so he'll be good as new in no time.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Virgins, comics shops, and (sorta) new books.
Here's part of a spam mail sent our way by someone allegedly casting for a new MTV program:
"MTV is casting a fun, new documentary style reality series about relationships & dating from a male perspective. We're looking for virgin guys (21 & up) on their quest to break out of their shell & improve their love life.
Hmmm...an e-mail looking for virgin guys, sent to a comic shop. Thanks for the kind thoughts!
SOME CLARIFICATION FOR STEVEN GRANT: Here are some additional details about the exchange quoted from my site in Mr. Grant's most recent column:
1. The first line was the son, the second the dad. (And yes, if they were reversed that would have been a tad tragic.)
2. The son was about twelve, the father was in his thirties.
Anyway, if you all haven't already, read his column for his perspective on a comic shop's challenges in today's marketplace...and about how some stores helped bring the 1990s market crash upon themselves (something I touched upon myself in a couple posts of mine about said crash).
Bought for myself on Wednesday:
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Another great title page...
...where the story can't possibly measure up:
from Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #109 (April 1971) by Cary Bates, Werner Roth & Vince Colletta
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
This elephant had the right idea.
So I went to the Los Angeles Zoo yesterday, and you know that scene in the first Jurassic Park movie, where the characters are being given their first tour of the attraction, during which no dinosaurs are seen and Malcolm (I think) says something along the lines of "it's not much of a dinosaur park if you don't have any dinosaurs."
That's kinda how it felt at the zoo yesterday. Several exhibits were "under construction," so, for example, all the gorillas were put up in, presumably, a Motel 6 somewhere and we got to see construction crew in hardhats instead. And the animals that were there were all hiding in burrows or caves or otherwise in the shade because it was too freakin' hot.
Okay, things improved as the day went on, and we did get to see plenty of animals, and I got to take lots of oddly-framed photos like the one above, and we had a lot of fun and a lot of three-dollar bottles of water, those bastards.
Why am I telling you about my zoo trip on my comics weblog, you may be asking? Because even at the freakin' zoo, I couldn't get away from the funnybooks. See, the L.A. Zoo just opened up, on May 3rd, a new special exhibit called Spider City, featuring lots of little, and not-so-little, eight-legged friends. It was inside a darkened building, with wall displays and glass cases filled with the critters...and as part of the exhibit, there were several large posters on the walls featuring mocked-up spider-themed comic book covers. We were told no flash photography inside the building, so no pictures, but in retrospect the posters were lit enough to have been picked up by my camera. I FAIL AT WEBLOGGING. So, you're just gonna have to take my word for it that the exhibit had a comic-book theme to it (with a touch of '50s sci-fi/horror mixed in...one display had the spider enclosed in a tiny scale model of an apartment, which had on its walls even tinier movie posters for films like Horrors of Spider Island and other MST3K favorites). Many of the educational signs strewn about the exhibit also emphasized the spiders' "super powers" (leaping great distances, strength relative to size, heat vision, stuff like that).
I did take one photo of the exhibit's entrance, because I thought it was neat:
And just in case you thought this was just a total coincidence that this Spider City exhibit opened at about the same time Spider-Man 3 was released...the gift shop just outside the exhibit was filled with Spider-Man merchandise, and was flanked by one of the large cardboard Spider-Man 3 displays you probably saw in your local theatre. Hey, whatever gets kids' attentions, I guess.
Should have taken a photo of that, too. GAH. There I was, "having fun" and "relaxing" instead of thinking about generating content for my comic book site. Some weblogger I am.
Instead, here's a photo of a couple chimpanzees staring each other down, just prior to the one on the left wigging out and going on a chimp rampage:
Honestly, it was really cool. He was smaking the ground, chasing other chimps around, throwing fruit at them...um, probably should've shot a pic of that, as well.
Since I mentioned the Spider-Man 3 display...have you all seen the theatre lobby display for the new Fantastic Four movie? The one that features a nearly-life-sized chomelike-substance-plated statue of Silver Surfer on his board? It really is a sight to see, and this time I have an excuse for not taking a picture of it, since I think having my digital camera in a movie theatre is a good way to get myself...disinvited, shall we say. And I couldn't find an image of it online, either, so if you do get a chance to check it out at your local cinematic googolplex...well, do it quick before someone breaks it (like they did to the life-size Simpsons family couch display at our theatre).
From the eBay sales...here's a final total on one of the pregraded 'n' sealed CGC comics (a "9.6") we put up on the eBay a week or two back:
That's a sale that the people and 'zines who care about this sort of thing probably wouldn't be too anxious to advertise. It certainly surprised me, given the usual emphasis placed by certain price guides on how having your books "professionaly graded" will increase their values.
As to why we're carrying the pregraded books in the first place, when we've mostly avoided them before: we had a bunch dumped on us in a collection of signed books and variant covers that we acquired basically for a song from a customer of ours. He's moving, and didn't want to haul them along. So even at ninety-nine cents per book, we'd still be ahead. Thankfully, the other CCC books did sell for a little more (mostly 10-20 bucks a pop, for Jim Lee Batman and more Origin).
And now...a tortoise with his head in his bowl:
Monday, May 07, 2007
Batman Forev...um, I mean, Spider-Man 3.
One of the few times in the film Spidey manages to keep his mask on.
So, Spider-Man 3. As I predicted a few days ago, it was entertaining, but wasn't as good as Spider-Man 2 (and here's my review of that film). Not to say it was bad, but it wasn't as well-paced and forward moving and as...innovative, I guess, as the previous two installments. It had a feeling of "okay, we've seen this. What else you've got?"
It did do a reasonably good job of weaving all the plotlines and villains and romantic entanglements together, and felt a bit like reading any given issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the 1970s, written by Gerry Conway. For some people, I realize that's not a compliment, but I happen to like the confused melodrama of '70s Marvel Comics. Not necessarily good, but entertaining, much like this film.
So, there be SPOILERS AHEAD, mateys...though, as I saw someone mention somewhere, if any of the developments in this film come as any surprise to you, you've either 1) never ever read a comic book before in your life, or 2) you somehow managed to avoid the trailers. So, that said, let's get into some of my spoilery observations of the film, immediately after this image of Tobey Maguire emoting. When you see his next emotion, spoilers will be over. Okay? Okay!
Okay, that's it for the SPOILERS. Ultimately...good action scenes, solid special effects, and...passable characterization. If you liked the first two films, here's more of the same. Maybe a little too much more, but the same nonetheless.
Since a sequel is inevitable, given that the movie made about one quadrillion dollars this weekend...I'm kinda hoping we'll get the Lizard finally. C'mon, they've been teasing us with Dr. Curt Conners in every film. And my girlfriend would love to see Kraven the Hunter, which would work great with the Lizard. Conners turns himself into the Lizard, who runs rampant through the Big Apple, and Spidey can't stop him...so the authorities put the call out to famous big game hunter Kraven, who eventually decides he wants Spidey as a trophy as well. See? It'd be perfect. Hollywood, call me, we'll do lunch.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Had a couple questions in the comments section for this morning's post, and I thought I'd address them on the main page.
First, the old perennial, from MarkAndrew:
"DOES Free Comic Book Day get new customers in the door?"
Well, on the actual day of Free Comic Book Day...yes, lots of new faces show up, because not a person around doesn't like something that's free (unless it's, like, "free measles," or "free punch in the nose," or "free Team Youngblood").
But by "new customer" you probably mean "new regular visitors to the funnybook store," the answer to which is a qualified "no." We did get some new regular customers out of past FCBDs, but they represented only a small fraction of the new folks who actually came in for free books.
But that's okay...we don't have to turn every new person who walked in the door that day into a New Comics Day zombie. The results of FCBD are more longterm than immediate, anyway...it gets the word out that, hey, comic books are still being published, and that they can be a viable source of entertainment. Okay, mileage may vary with some of the offerings this year, but with the sheer number of books being given away, surely most people found at least one comic they kinda liked. And our already-existing clientele invariably will find something new to try out.
Plus, it's great advertising...if some of those folks find themselves with some kind of comic-related need, perhaps they'll think of that swell comic shop that was giving out the free funnybooks, and they'll come back to us. And it's good public relations...we had a lot of happy customers that day, most of whom thanked us profusely for the books we were giving away.
And it's the gift that keeps on giving, as I'm preparing packages of some of the leftover books for some local teachers and at least one doctor...and, as always, a big bunch of comics for my girlfriend to give away to the Sunday school class she teaches.
So, um...to answer your question, perhaps it doesn't immediately create new regular customers, but FCBD perhaps helps to create an environment from which new customers may arise, by increasing in some small way a general awareness of comics. My, that's high-falutin' of me, ain't it? Not to mention optimistic.
Del Gorky asks:
"Mike, You stated that you made more on FCBD than you spent, but my question is did you make more than you spent plus what you normally make on a Saturday in May?"
The amount we took in that day above and beyond our usual average Saturday take was perhaps just shy of covering the total amount spent on the FCBD books. But, that's okay, since as stated earlier the event generated a lot of goodwill among our customers and other visitors, so any minor shortfall is greatly outweighed by the benefits...maybe not immediate benefits, as I said, but in the long run it all helps.
Plus, we had a pretty good week, anyway, even without the FCBD bump, so we're doing okay.
Oh, and Employee Aaron reminded me that I forgot to mention the two Spider-Man costume appearances that day: one young man wearing a Spidey mask, and another in full-on Spidey regalia, costume, mask, gloves, an' all. Made me wish I brought my Spidey costume...but perhaps I've said too much.
In other news:
What to make of this exchange I overheard between a customer and his son at the shop today:
"So, what do you think of this place?"
I prefer to think of it as more of a luxury evil, rather than a mandatory one.
Also, got to meet the proprietor of Thought Balloon today, as he dropped by the store to say hello. Always nice to meet a fellow weblogger!
Free Comic Book Day 2007: The Day After.
Before you say anything...yeah, that pic is from last year's Free Comic Book Day wrap-up, but I took the picture, I liked how it turned out, and I'm using it again. So there.
First off, thanks to pal Dorian for lending a hand, a foot, and at least one lung to our FCBD event, helping me manage customers, pack up bags of FCBD comics, and so on. Even with Dor there, we had more business than nearly all of us could handle...this may have been the busiest FCBD we've had yet.
Speaking of packing up those bags...as per previous years, we had our selection of books divided up and packaged together according to appropriateness for particular age groups (i.e. children, teen, and grown-ups). Thus, when people popped in looking for those four-color handouts, all we had to do was hand them the right bags. And, of course, if they were old enough, they got one of each bag for maximum Free Comic Book Day participation.
To make these prepacks, we started sorting and bagging nearly as soon as the cases of FCBD mags arrived at the store a couple weeks back. We ended up preparing hundreds of these packs, and I thought that would at least get us through part of the day, leaving us time on FCBD itself to sort and create even more packages as necessary. Well, by about a half-hour past opening, I learned the kids packs were already down to critical levels and we had to rush more of the packs into production. In fact, most of the morning and early afternoon was devoted to just barely staying ahead of the customers in our prepack production frenzy. That'll teach me...um, something, I guess.
Other random notes from the day:
Overall, it was another successful Free Comic Book Day event. Nonetheless, I'm glad this year's brouhaha is now behind us. I think I'll be dreaming about sorting comics by age groups for a while.