“BRIAAAAANNNNN!!!” [shakes fist]

§ August 13th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, Uncategorized § 4 Comments

So this Twitter discussion with Pal Andrew got me nostalgic, in a way, for my days of comic collecting just prior to my frequenting dens of iniquity, er, I mean, comic shops…well, okay, same difference. Anyway, I was thinking back to my comic buying progression, from occasional purchases from grocery stores and newsstands, to buying those three-packs of Star Wars comics at Toys ‘R’ Us, to digging through stacks of old comics at used bookstores, to making the rounds on my bicycle of all the local convenience stores and that one nearby grocery store.

It was one day in 1983, while going to one of those convenience stores that was a little farther afield trying to track down an issue of something or other, that I ran into a friend of mine from school. I told him what I was up to, and he said “oh, you should check out Ralph’s Comic Corner, it’s a comic book store in Ventura, they should have what you’re looking for,” and thus did my long association with that store begin, leading to my evenual employment there, and of course to opening up my own store. So, should anyone ever ask how I ended up in my current situation, you can blame old schoolmate Brian Lindquist, wherever he may be now.

Not to say that Ralph’s was my first-ever comic shop. I visited one in Simi Valley prior to that, after having seen an ad or a coupon or something cluing me into its existence. That was a slightly further trek to make than the relative closeness of Ventura, so we didn’t go to that store very often (I think ultimately only about a half-dozen times, at most, including that one time I met Chris Claremont).

But, as I was saying, before delving deep into the world of THE DIRECT MARKET and all its horrors, I had various places around town that I’d hit up for comics, some relatively close, some requiring a little more of a journey, and you’d have to check them most of them out on a pretty regular basis to make sure you were seeing all the newest releases. The aformentioned grocery store usually had a pretty good selection, and, especially during the summer, more than once I’d show up on New Arrival Day just a little too early only to see the uncut bundles of comics sitting in a cart, waiting for some probably overworked employee to finally find the time to open ’em up and toss them on the rack.

The one place that was more of a “last resort” was a convenience store that was a little farther away than the rest, so I didn’t go there too often, especially since they inexplicably charged tax on comics (something that periodicals weren’t subject to in Califoria at the time), and even worse, sometimes the comics would have a price sticker directly affixed to the front covers! Eep! On the other hand, that particular shop was the one place I ever saw the Superman Spectacular out in the wild, which is still one of my favorite Superman stories, so I can’t think of it with too much disdain.

The best place in town to get comics was a place deep in Oxnard called the Strand Newsstand, which had pretty much everything. Tons of magazines, lots of paperback books, the extensive porn wing, and, of course, multiple spinner racks of comical books. Once I started going there (and we went there weekly, both my dad and I), my need to circulate amongst the other convenience stories pretty much declined (though I’d still pop in once in a while to tide me over between Strand visits). The weird thing about this newsstand, which has me wondering about their distributor situation, is that they’d occasional get stuff that primarily would go through the comic shop direct market. PC Comics, such as Groo and the Berni Wrightson Master of the Macabre, I found there. Fanzines like The Comic Reader. The first issue of Don Rosa’s Comics & Stories. The Comics Journal. And they seemed to get things a little bit earlier than my other funnybook sources, too.

Whatever the reason for their comic stocking advantages, this store became the place for me to get my regular comics fix…even after discovering Ralph’s Comic Corner, this place was still closer to us and I split my purchases between both shops. Eventually, I did more or less fully migrate over to just buying from Ralph’s, especially once I started seeking out back issues.

A lot of those places I used to buy from have since closed up shop, or stopped carrying comics…presumably for reasons unrelated to my no longer visiting them. It’s certainly a lot easier for me now to stay on top of gathering the comics I want to read, since all I have to do is wait for them to show up at my store after I order them. (I mean, theoretically, given the usual vagaries of our supplier.) Definitely more convenient, but somewhat…lacking in the mystery and excitement I used to feel traveling from shop to shop wondering what will be there, what new comic will I discover, what new stories will I hardly be able to wait to get home to read.

4 Responses to ““BRIAAAAANNNNN!!!” [shakes fist]”

  • The hidden moral of the story, I guess, is be polite to your customers, because there’s always a chance you’ll still be dealing with them 35 years later.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Beautiful nostalgia in this post. Reminds me of my own attempts as a kid to find comics sources, and how much more exciting it was then. Especially with back issues, getting my parents to take me to a comic shop in a city we might visit on vacation so I could go through their stacks and find one or more of those issues my local shop didn’t have.

    I liked Ebay when it came out but gave it up for a number of reasons–one of which was how it sucked the fun out of finding some old comic you’ve been searching for forever.

  • jim kosmicki says:

    I knew every store in the North end of our town of 35,000 that sold comics, and which ones had the best selection. Like your Strand Newsstand, the ones who “secretly” sold pornography in the closed off section of the store always had the best comic selection too. If you asked me to, I could still give an itinerary of how to get from one to the next – some of them I did not know the name of, but I certainly knew their locations.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I can also recall seeing some Fantagraphics titles outside of comics shops, but my memory is of them being more in record stores than in bookstores. I do not know if there was a push to get them in such places, or if this was the result of record store personnel being the sort of hip young dudes who wanted you to know about HATE and LOVE AND ROCKETS.

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