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A movie you’re tired of hearing about, an event you’re hopefully anticipating, and a comic you probably bought.

§ April 8th, 2016 § Filed under free comic book day, movie reviews, retailing, star wars § 3 Comments

So anyway:

  • I’ve been putting off any kind of review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of a New Film Franchise, We Hope simply because at this point, what’s to add, really. I liked it fine: I thought it was a valid and interesting interpretation of these characters, though I do understand the larger context complaints about tone and accessibility to younger potential viewers. Just taken as a film on its own terms, outside the criticisms of “I didn’t want this movie, I wanted a different movie,” it’s no better or worse than most big-budget blockbuster films. It’s certainly better made than the mishmash of Age of Ultron, and at least seems to have a vision and a point of view. Maybe not the vision or point of view people necessarily wanted, but I think there was some depth to the proceedings that made it worthwhile viewing, at least to me.

    Yes, sure, I’d love to have a bright, cheery Superman movie. At least we’re getting a bright, cheery Batman movie (in the form of Lego Batman, guest-starring Superman!). But at least I think we can all agree that Wonder Woman was pretty great. And Lex is a hoot.

    Here’s a review by pal Ragnell that I pretty much agree with.

  • Free Comic Book Day plans are still coming along, and if you missed my announcement about my special guest that day, well feast your peepers on this. I don’t really have a lot of prep to do, as I’m not doing the age-appropriate packaging like I used to do…just setting ’em up on tables for free perusal works fine, and stretches supply out a bit longer. I certainly don’t have the same worries I did about getting a turnout at my new shop that I did prior to last year’s FCBD, given how things worked out. If anything, I’m hoping for a larger turnout.

    I am a little annoyed that the special FCBD retail shopping bags haven’t shipped out yet…you know, those white plastic bags with the logo on ’em. That was a good advertising tool, and if I don’t get them until a week or two prior to the event, a fat lot of good that’ll do me. I contacted my distributor, and even they don’t seem to know when they’re getting to me. In the meantime, I’m passing out the bookmarks and the flyers I did get, and I’ll have some specially-printed Sterling Silver Comics-specific flyers to give away as well.

    Just so long as I don’t have the stoned guy cycling around my storefront chatting people up about Herman Hesse again. That’s a Free Comic Book Day repeat I’d rather avoid.

  • Haven’t really done a market report of late, I realize, but did want to note that the newest Star Wars spinoff, Poe Dameron, has sold quite well. Star Wars comic sales are still very strong, though they have softened slightly, now that they’ve been around a while and the new movie’s come and gone. But, with Force Awakens now available on home video and with hype beginning to build on the forthcoming Rogue One, maybe interest will rise again. It sure did for Poe Dameron, as I said, which I’m sure probably caught some folks at Disney by surprise just how much interest there is in the character. The strong creative team (Charles Soule and Phil Noto) and the accompanying freebie buttons and lithographs didn’t hurt.

    We’ll see how sales go on next week’s arrival of the long-delayed C-3PO one-shot.

I’m more of a non-graphic, G-rated designer.

§ April 1st, 2016 § Filed under free comic book day, self-promotion, sterling silver comics § 3 Comments

So I posted my Free Comic Book Day announcement in various places (such as my store’s site) yesterday, and thought I’d post it here, too (click to super-size):

fcbdflyer1
Yup, Jaime’s going to have to put up with my shenanigans for a few hours that day, but hopefully enough of you fine folks will drop by to balance out my behavior. Also, that wasn’t the first version of the flyer I posted…I originally posted my initial attempt on Twitter with the comment “I’M NOT A GRAPHIC DESIGNER,” but fortunately Twitter pal Robb stepped in and said “…BUT I AM!” and knocked everything into the decent shape you see above.

Also, I’ve contributed once again to Question Time over there at Trouble with Comics, answering the query regarding my favorite three deaths. In comics, that is. I don’t suppose any of my answers will be any surprise, though I feel bad that I forgot about the one that made fellow Troublemaker Joe’s #3.

After.

§ May 4th, 2015 § Filed under free comic book day, sterling silver comics § 10 Comments


Turns out I was doing a lot of worrywarting about nothing, because my first Free Comic Book Day at my new shop turned out just fine. Sales goals I wanted to reach were reached and surpassed, lots of comics were given away, and lots of people came away from my shop very happy.

We stayed at the shop ’til about 11 PM the night before getting everything set up, so there wasn’t a whole lot of prep needed Saturday morning. I arrived at the shop about an hour before opening time, and there was already the beginnings of a line waiting outside, which I took as a good sign. As soon as I did open the doors, the store filled up fairly quickly, and the first picture on the page from yesterday’s post was taken just a couple of minutes after the day began. The first couple of hours were the busiest, with the store packed full of customers, though business generally remained steady throughout the day. The one time of the day there were no customers wasn’t until in the last hour we were open, and even then that only lasted for a couple of minutes before the next wave of folks hit.

So, I’d have to say, this was a very, very successful day. I have to admit, I had a few restless nights prior, worrying about how it was going to go, but it all worked out great.

As it turned out, my actual orders on the FCBD books were just about right. I probably could have ordered more of some titles, but for the most part the titles I thought would move more slowly and ordered less on did in fact move more slowly, and the ones I ordered tons of were grabbed by everybody, which was okay because, after all, I ordered tons of them. My big fear was that I would run out of everything and just have a stack of Secret Wars #0 at the end of the day — “Um, please help yourself to our one free comic” — but at the end I still had copies of about eight or nine titles on the tables, so latecomers still had a good selection of books to carry away. I do have leftovers, which is fine…those will work as in-store giveaways or donations to libraries, and stuff like Secret Wars #0 will still be in demand from customers for a while yet.

One thing I heard a lot during the day was several people telling me this was their first visit to the shop, so that was nice. I know a thing to do is to tour several shops in an area, seeing what each was offering for the big day, so folks who hadn’t been by before had extra incentive to stop in. Most of them seemed pretty pleased with my store, which was very satisfying. Plus, I heard from a handful of folks that this was their first time at a comic shop ever, so how ’bout that?

At one point pal Nat (who as I noted the other day, was there giving away copies of graphic novels he’d written, and whom you can see in the third photo) noted how it’s been said that comics shops had a dearth of women and children as clientele…and then gestured toward the customers who were in the store at that point. Customers who were almost entirely women and children.

Stopping by the shop was old pal Mathew Digges, late of Awesome Hospital, who dropped off a little bit of that comics-making fortune he’s acquired, as well as gifting me with a print copy of The Creep Crew which he’s doing with Dylan Todd and Pete Toms:


It’s pretty great. This is the kind of thing a Big Comics Publisher would pick up if they had any sense. You can (eventually) read more about it at TheCreepCrew.com.

Um, let’s see…anything else? I did have to chase off one shirtless burnout on a bicycle rambling on and on about Hermann Hesse, of all things, who was bothering customers out in front of my shop who were trying to go through the bargain boxes I had placed there. He rode off, bravely mouthing off at me once he was across the parking lot. Eh, whatever, dude…I own a comic book store, so I win.

Oh, and yes, for those of you wondering: the local high school was having its prom that same day, thus explaining where those nattily-dressed youngsters in the last photo came from.

I also had my worries about customer flow through the store, since this was a much smaller space than what I was used to, and I had to move fixtures around to make space for FCBD tables. However, people had no problem getting around, and while it was crowded, there didn’t seem to be too many traffic jams in the store. I occasionally had some long-ish lines at the register but that never appeared to interfere with in-store movement.

I do wish I had taken a little more care in noting the original positions of my fixtures, because now that I’ve moved them back, I don’t think they’re in quite the previous places they were. I mean, we’re talking maybe inches off, if even that, but that’s enough to distract me. And by “distract me,” I don’t mean “drive me completely crazy,” why would you even think that. That’s not true at all. AT ALL.

So anyway, Free Comic Book Day was a huge success for me. I think I’ll do it again next year, I guess.

Thanks to all the customers who dropped by, and thanks to my girlfriend Nora, my dad, pal Nat, and pal Dorian for helping out. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Well, maybe I could have, but then that would be a picture of me real-dead at the top of this post, instead of fake-dead.

During.

§ May 3rd, 2015 § Filed under free comic book day § 8 Comments

Before.

§ May 2nd, 2015 § Filed under free comic book day Comments Off on Before.

Well, let’s see how it goes at the new place. I’ll report later, if I survive.

Also, once again I managed to cajole pal Dorian into doing his Free Comic Book Day reviews.

Everyone out there have fun and get yourself some free comics!

Sure, I’ll just link to my store’s website three times in the body of the post.

§ May 1st, 2015 § Filed under free comic book day, sterling silver comics § 7 Comments

I thought I was going to have a longer-ish post about tomorrow’s Free Comic Book Day event here, but now that I’ve sat down to write it…well, it’s not like I haven’t churned out piles of words about Free Comic Book Day over the last few years.

There are a few minor differences in how FCBD is being handled at my shop versus what I was accustomed to at my previous place of employment. For example, at the old job we had a large area at the store devoted to in-store gaming, with lots of large tables. It was easy enough to rearrange the tables into Free Comic Dispensing Units through which to file the customers. The retail area of my current store is probably about the same size as that gaming area, and that has several fixtures in the way which is going to necessitate some rearranging to allow for FCBD table set-ups. I did a little measuring over the last couple of days, and I should be able to move things around to allow for FCBD traffic while still permitting access to product I’m actually trying to sell. The alternative is to set up tables outside for free comic giveaway, but then folks would be less likely to come into the shop and actually buy things, which brings me to my next point:

As has been pointed out, by me in past discussions of FCBD and by others, the comics given away on Free Comic Book Day aren’t actually free to retailers. It is a small cost per unit, but when you order a lot of units, it can add up. At my old position, I would order literally thousands of dollars in FCBD comics. I didn’t order quite as much for the new store, as I noted previously, but as a smaller store that’s still in the process of getting started, it remains a significant investment.

Putting that much money into FCBD was okay at my old job, though, because we always made our money back and then some by having in-store sales to encourage purchases. But then, that store is decades old and has a much deeper stock than I have now. It’s not as if I have nothing at the new shop…over the past few months I’ve managed to fill up the shelves with graphic novels, and I’ve expanded my back issue selection quite a bit. Plus, my expectations of what I would consider a successful business day for FCBD don’t need to be as high as they were at the old shop…my overhead is a lot lower, after all, so I’m hoping sales on the stock I do have will encourage sufficient interest to cover costs. I also intend to debut some bargain boxes at the event, so that will be some new goodies for my customers to poke through while also reducing some extra backstock I’ve already acquired.

This all sounds like I’m solely concerned with MONEY MONEY MONEY and, well, yes, I’m still getting this store off the ground, so “in the black” is going to be preferred to “in the red.” But even if I don’t break even on this, the important thing is getting these FCBD comics into the hands of customers…not just to expose people to different comics they might not have tried out before, but as a promotional tool for this shop, to let people in the area know, or at least remind them, “hey, if I need comics, I know where to go!”

Most of all, I hope Free Comic Book Day at my new store continues to be fun. It was always great to see huge crowds of people getting really excited about comics, and I’m certainly looking forward to maintaining that tradition at my new shop.

So, if you happen to be within, say, a 500 mile radius of Camarillo, CA, come by my store…say “hi” to me, to my girlfriend, to pal Dorian, to my dad, and to pal Nat (who will be giving away copies of Licensable Bear™ and The Factor graphic novels)! We’d all enjoy seeing you!

…So this post ended up being longer than I expected. It never fails!

I’m probably about a week and a half too early for this post.

§ April 20th, 2015 § Filed under free comic book day § 1 Comment

So reader Jon asked the other day:

“…Is your store participating in Free Comic Book Day?”

…And the answer is “yes indeedy,” my store (being Sterling Silver Comics, located in the still-beating heart of Camarillo, CA) will certainly be participating in Free Comic Book Day. I’ve been involved in every Free Comic Book Day since it started being a thing, and I’m not going to let a little thing like quitting a job I held for a decade or nine and opening up a brand new store in another town get in the way of my putting gratis funnybooks into the beckoning hands of a demanding public!

Self-promotion aside, I do have minor concerns about my debut FCBD at my shop, primarily about how much FCBD stock will be needed. At the old job, after several years of providing FCBD for that customer base, I knew just about how much I needed of everything. At the new store, well…I am less confident about how much I needed to order. Basically, I more or less based my orders on the amount of in-store traffic I get at my shop now versus the traffic I would get at the other shop. “I do about this much business at this location, which is a certain percentage of that business I would get at the other store, so I’ll order about that percentage on the FCBD comics.” …Well, that wasn’t exactly my strategy, but that was one tack I pursued in the ordering process.

“Just order thousands of everything, Mike!” Well, sure, that’s be nice, but as has been stated far and wide in the past, not just by me…the comics aren’t free to retailers. At the piece by piece price, it doesn’t seem too expensive, but when you get the entire bunch billed to you on the same invoice, particularly when you’re inclined to go as big as you can, the cost can be quite the eye-opener. There are only so much resources to go around, especially since retailers are getting their regular weekly shipments in the meantime. And for a small store like me, just starting out…even with coming up on 30 years of experience in this industry, busting the budget ain’t a smart thing to do at this point in time.

Now, it’s not as bad as all that…I got a sizable order in of the “free” books, and both preplanning and some dumb luck managed to get them in on an invoice that wasn’t too out of line with my usual invoice costs…and I’ve been bulking up on some titles with later, smaller reorders, the cost of which not even being a patch on that initial FCBD total. Ultimately, I should have plenty of comics to go around. Maybe. I hope.

I’ve done a little advertising for Free Comic Book Day, along with some posters in some strategic locations directing folks to me on that special day, so we’ll see if that gets more people in my doors. Plus, there is no telling the unpredictable pull of the word “FREE” and how many more folks will be lured in by that magic promise. I very much expect this to be quite the learning experience…I doubt I nailed the exact number of books I’m going to need on the very first try, here. At the very least, it should give be a baseline for next time.

Also, I should mention that pal Nat is going to be present at the shop that day as well, giving away and signing Licensable Bear and The Factor trade paperbacks, which is quite swell of him. My dad, my girlfriend, and even pal Dorian will be helping out for Free Comic Book Day, too, so even if nobody shows up, at least I won’t be lonely.

But do show up! I’ll be glad to see you and give you free comics!

In which Mike’s Free Comic Book Day report demonstrates why he never pursued a career as a professional photographer.

§ May 5th, 2014 § Filed under free comic book day § 8 Comments


Well, that’s another Free Comic Book Day down, plenty of comics given away, plenty of stuff sold to help pay for the comics that were given away, and lo, the clean-up did begin, and last for thirty days and thirty nights.

My first clue that this was going to be a busier-than-usual FCBD was when I showed up at 8 in the morning to prep, we already had several people waiting outside for us to open our doors. In the past I’ve noted that when I’d open up for FCBD, there would be a brief moment where it looked like nobody would show up, that I ordered all these thousands of comics for nuthin’, nuthin’ and then the crowds would eventually build up to expectations after just a few minutes.

Not this time…soon as that door was unlocked a sea of people swept into the shop and we were packed for several hours after that.

This year we decided to try something a little different…in fact, something we’ve been wanting to do at the shop for a while now…by setting up some tables of extra stock outside for a sidewalk sale. Here are store owner Seth and Employee Timmy setting up the tables just prior to opening, while our customers patiently wait for the freebies:


I swear I didn’t notice that kid was wearing Hulk hands when I took this photo. That’s pretty awesome. Anyway, the tables worked out very well, and we moved a lot of books. Here’s a shot of the sidewalk sale in action, watched over by FCBD Draftee Chandler:


Inside, we mobilized pretty much the entire Seth’s/Ralph’s army to manage the situation, but no employee put on the dog more than the eerily-mustachioed Employee Aaron:


…Those a close second may be this mysterious gentleman who showed up to help us give away comics:


At one point he brazenly revealed his identity to the crowds, while Aaron and his wife Kempo…well, they’re up to something at the left of the picture, there, not sure what:


We also had, as a guest, longtime store friend Andy Salazar, presenting his books Pariah, MO and Spacebear to our customers:


Here’s Andy coloring some art and showing folks just how the magic happens:


And I wish I’d taken more, or at least better photos, but it was an enormously busy day, and it seemed like I spent a lot of time helping folks find a bunch of back issues. Which is great, of course…always glad to see people looking for fun work from the past, not just stuff that’s New This Week.

Probably my favorite moment of the day was a mother looking through old Disney comics with her two little girls, aged about 3 and 4. While the younger girl was good with Disney comics, the older wasn’t quite as taken. In fact, pretty much the entire time she was at the counter with her mom and sister, this is what she had to say:

“Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl.”

And so on. As it turned out, the mother looked through some of the Batgirl comics in the bins, and since DC hasn’t published a Batgirl comic for little kids in quite some time, she didn’t feel they’d be appropriate. Fortunately, I was able to find one of the Batman Adventures comics (based on the cartoons) that starred Batgirl, and I was Hero of the Day for, you know, at least a little bit.

There seemed to be a lot of little kids visiting the shop throughout the day, evenly mixed between boys and girls, which was nice. Always happy to see children excited about comics. Saw at least a couple of young’uns in costume, one dressed as Supergirl, another as Wonder Woman.

The actual stock of FCBD books lasted a good portion of the event…by about 3 or so we were down to about a couple dozen different titles, and by the end of the day we had a few leftovers of the DC and Marvel books, and of the Valiant “custom logo” title, as those were the ones of which we’d ordered the most. Throughout the day we supplemented the FCBD stock with that box or so of extras from last year, and some of the 10-cent/25-cent/99-cent/$1 promo comics Marvel, DC and Image had produced over the years that we still had in backstock. Plus, I thinned out a bunch of the FCBD books from my personal collection and graciously, selflessly gave them away as well. No need to thank me.

Also, Awesome Hospital‘s Matt Digges visited and brought us doughnuts. Well, he brought me doughnuts, I don’t know what he brought anyone else.

Ultimately, it was yet another successful Free Comic Book Day for us. Our sales more than covered the costs of the FCBD books, we gave away a lot of comics, we saw plenty of new faces, and we made many people happy. People always ask “does FCBD actually help?” and I think, in the long run, it does. It reminds people that comics exist, that they’re more than flying guys in tights punching each other (though those comics are fun, too!), and that there are stores out there who love comics so much, they actually want to give you a bunch of them for free to try out. And that, if they want more comics, they know where to find them.

And then, after working Free Comic Book Day, your pal Mike went to the late show to see Amazing Spider-Man 2, so if you saw him looking worn out and sleepy on Sunday, please forgive him, because he’s clearly too dumb to know any better.

But if I stayed here with you, girl / Things just couldn’t be the same / ‘Cause I’m as free as a comic now / And this comic you’ll never change.

§ May 2nd, 2014 § Filed under free comic book day § 1 Comment

fcbd2014
A reminder, in case you needed reminding: Free Comic Book Day is tomorrow, so hie yourself hither to a funnybook store near you (or drive a bit and come see us) and get your filthy, filthy paws on some freebies. Also, if you can, drop a dollar or two on some stuff while you’re at the shop, because (ahem) some of us may have ordered a lot of FCBD books, and they ain’t free to shops! But you don’t HAVE to…remember what Diamond told every retailer what the sales conditions were for ordering these comics:

“By buying FCBD editions, you agree that you will give them away for free on May 3, 2014, with no purchase required.”

So if anyone offers the free comics only with purchase, tell them they’re terrible and you hates them, you hates them forever.

Pal Dorian has reviews up on his site of most of this year’s releases. I still say the Don Rosa Duck book is my favorite, but I like the Buck Rogers one a lot, too, since I do enjoy old comic strips.

I haven’t said a whole lot about this year’s event, but feel free to explore my Free Comic Book Day category in case you wanted to see what I’ve said before. I’ve worked every FCBD (except for missing a couple of hours of one FCBD, due to having to go to some jerk’s wedding), so I’ve got a lot to say on the subject. Perhaps…too much.

Anyway, enjoy your Free Comic Book Day, regardless of what side of the counter you’re on, and, um, let’s stay safe out there, I guess? Something like that.

Someday I will open my own shop and it will be called “Mike’s Magical Comics Fort.”

§ April 11th, 2014 § Filed under free comic book day § 8 Comments

Well, our shipment of Free Comic Book Day books has (mostly) arrived at our shop, and oh good gravy there are Too Many Comics:


That’s just a couple of the stacks of boxes that comprised Mike’s Magical Comics Fort that I built behind one of the counters, whilst I popped open cartons and did inventory counts.

Every year, as I go through the FCBD inventory, I have the simultaneous feeling of “I’ve ordered way too much” and “ooh, I hope this is enough,” and the worry sets in about covering the costs, even though we’ve never ever ever lost money on a Free Comic Book Day event. It’s just the worrywart inside me, or just barely inside me since it’s usually pretty obvious when I’m being distracted about stuff like this. However, it looks like a pretty good selection of books this year, and if you can only get one, I’d recommend Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity from Fantagraphics, featuring a couple of great Don Rosa stories…you know, as if there were any Don Rosa stories that weren’t great. (But what kind of store would only offer you one FCBD book? Sheesh.)

Now, I said the books had “mostly” arrived, since, even after receiving this enormous shipment that probably put a few new creaks in our UPS guy’s bones, there is still one box out there, wandering about, alone, on the mean streets. Or, perhaps, sitting on a dock somewhere. So, even after spending hours breaking down and counting the order, there are still more FCBD books headed our way, and even on top of that I’m thinking of bolstering our stock with some selective reorders of some books on which I feel I may not have received sufficient quantities. Because, you know, I’m completely insane.

I still have about a box or so of leftovers from the 2013 event, and I think I’m actually completely out of any leftovers I’ve had from the years prior to that. I do have some other stuff I’m thinking about using for further giveaways at the shop as well. Also, while working on my personal comics inventory, I went through the stacks of FCBD books I had in the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and pulled out the ones I wanted to keep, and am returning the rest to the general giveaway stock for this year’s event. If any customers missed that copy of the Transformers: Infiltration freebie from 2006, now’s their big chance!

I wasn’t deliberately trying to hoard comics…I took one of each for review, to decide which comic went into which age-appropriate bag (explanation here) and then I’d be lazy and forget to bring ’em back and they’d just sit in a box at home, unloved. Well, I don’t do the bag-sorting anymore, as I prefer to stretch the stock out a bit by putting everything out on the tables and letting folks take what they want, so I don’t need to do that extensive of a review anymore. A general “for God’s sake don’t let kids take the Avatar book” type of warning to the employees monitoring the freebies was good enough last year, and it’ll probably be good enough again this year.

And like I always do every year, I peek in on the eBay to see who’s already selling this year’s FCBD books despite the retailer order form having this to say:

“By buying FCBD editions, you agree that you will give them away for free on May 3, 2014, with no purchase required.”

…And of course, there are plenty available at some optimistic pricing. “We’ll give some of these Rocket Raccoon comics out for free, but we’ll charge five bucks apiece for the rest! …Hey, they didn’t say ‘give them all away!'” Okay, maybe it’s not retailers doing this, maybe it’s just plain folks anticipating being able to grab stacks of free books they can sell later. Sure, why not.

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