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When I initially opened my shop, I was primarily feeding the back issue bins with comics from my own collection…sure, there was the odd long box or two I picked up along the way, but a lot of the books were collected by my own hands, picked up once a week at ye olde comick shoppe (later ye olde place of employmente). I was, and still am, by and large, okay with parting with most of the stuff…I’ve read and enjoyed it all — well, enjoyed most of it, anyway — and I don’t mind it going to new homes for new folks to enjoy. And some stuff (like, say, Preacher) I can always get in reprint form.
I’ve noted before that not everything went into the shop. Obviously I kept my Swamp Thing comics…I mean, duh. My Don Rosa Disney comics I didn’t have otherwise reprinted. My Groo the Wanderers. My Cerebus. That full run of Yummy Fur I finally finished and am selling over my dead body. And so on.
But there are a few things that I put on the tables at the shop that I kind of regretted, and as I’ve acquired more collections and filled up more of the store with a wider selection of back issues (and not just “whatever Mike was reading when he was in high school”), I’ve felt like I can take back some books I planned on sacrificing to the greater good and return them to the personal collection. Not that I’ve done it very often…the odd book here and there, DC’s Who’s Who, that’s about it. Not anything that was really selling at the shop anyway.
…Like, as I said above, Dr. Fate.
I doubt there will ever be an extensive reprinting of these particular comics, unless DC decides to counterprogram Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie with a Dr. Fate film and merchandise appropriately, and I will go to the hat store, spend an hour picking out a hat, buy said hat, take the hat home, gently remove the hat from its packaging, cook the hat for about an hour and a half at 350 degrees, take the hat out, let the hat sit for about fifteen minutes, garnish the hat lightly, and then eat the hat if that should actually happen. Anyway, I really enjoy this particular run of the book, from the ’80s into the ’90s, starting with this three-issue reprint series:
…which includes a Golden Age Fate story, plus a kick-ass story where Fate fights a mummy, as drawn by Walt Simonson:
The remaining two issues reprint the Dr. Fate back-ups from The Flash
…which features Keith Giffen’s art to better effect on the nice white Baxter paper than it did in its original newsprint presentation, which had lots of color holds and heavy inks and other visual hoohar that kind of got lost in translation initially.
A little bit later was this all-new mini-series establishing a new status quo for the good Doctor, again illustrated by Giffen, who’s joined by J.M. DeMatteis:
With DeMatteis along, things get a little more spiritual and mystical (even for a character already mired in magic, that’s quite the trick), and occasionally a bit abstract:
…which makes complete sense in context, I promise.
DeMatteis continues to bring his more introspective perspective to the character in the follow-up ongoing series, primarily illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Shawn McManus:
That’s not a typical cover for the series…usually it’s line-drawn images, but I always liked that weird cover so there it is, representing the ongoing series on this here website.
With issue #25 William Messner-Loebs, Vince Giarrano and Peter Gross come on board, and…if memory serves, it’s not quite as bonkers the preceding 24 issues, but it’s still not bad. Can probably stand to reread the series and refresh my recollections of it, but if only I had a full run of…oh, wait, I do! I can’t believe my good fortune.
…Of course, this will be the week someone charges into my shop, waving a fistful of hundred dollar bills in his hand, demanding that he be able to buy full runs of the above Doctor Fate series right this instant.
So here’s another comic forgotten by time: the green-hued second printing of Supreme #41, the beginning of Alan Moore’s run on the series:
Here is the first printing’s cover (well, one
of them) for comparison:
It had totally slipped my mind that this even existed (the second printing, that is, not the series itself) until I came across it while processing a collection. There aren’t scans of it on the main comic database
sites, I haven’t seen any listings for it on the eBay, and it’s not mentioned in the Overstreet price guide. I do sort of remember it now, as Moore’s involvement with the character did result in a bit of an increase of demand, necessitating a reprint of his debut issue. We probably could have used reprints of the next couple of issues, too…though maybe there were, and nobody remembers those, either.
I don’t really have much to say about this, other than wanting to rescue this particular cover variation from obscurity. I do have one specific memory about Alan Moore’s Supreme, in that not long after it started I had a customer complain at length that Supreme had been his favorite Image comic book, and now that it had gone “all weird” (i.e. from typical early Image “gritty/edgy” superhero to Silver Age Superman pastiche) he didn’t like it any more. I don’t know, I thought it was an improvement, but different strokes an’ all that.
Supreme #41 (August 1996) – cover art by Jerry Ordway
- Ordering for DC’s Convergence event is a problem, in that I’m being asked to place numbers on what will essentially be a few dozen out-of-continuity short-run mini-series that will either 1) attract a lot of fans interested in new stories featuring pre-New 52 versions (or approximations thereof) of their favorite characters, or 2) will be skipped entirely by folks more interested in following current continuity rather than flashing back to what’s gone before. (Or, of course, 3) used as jumping-off points for readers looking for good stopping points.)
The solution, of course, is to order in conservative excess. I’ll put my smallest giant to work on it right away.
- Marvel’s Star Wars franchise kicked off to huge success, as I’m sure everyone noticed, as that first Star Wars #1 blew off comic shop shelves and into second and third printings. The success of that initial first issue was early enough for retailers to adjust orders on the then-forthcoming Darth Vader #1 accordingly, so as a result there are plenty of those to be had everywhere, most likely. But I’m already seeing the sales normalizing on these…that Star Wars #1 sold largely on its “historical” value as the first Marvel Star Wars comic in a couple of decades. There’s already a large drop-off on the second issue, and Darth #1 didn’t see the same sort of rack sales either. Plus, I’ve already sensed some resistance to the forthcoming Princess Leia series, whether it’s because “a third series?” or just disinterest in the character.
Now, I’m not saying any of these post-Star Wars #1 releases are tanking…they’re all selling great, just not at the levels of that initial release, but there are always dropoffs after debuts. So long as they don’t sink down to the levels of Dark Horse’s run in its latter years, which shouldn’t happen if they can avoid oversaturation of the market. But then, it’s Marvel…they’re the House of Oversaturation.
- The announcement from Oni Press that they’ll be publishing an Invader Zim series, based on the cartoon by the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac creator Jhonen Vasquez, is welcome, but to my mind about a decade too late. Back when I could still get, rack and sell JTHM comics on a continual basis (as well as similar titles like Lenore), one of the things I was regularly asked for was an Invader Zim comic, based on the then still-running (or at least still existing in recent memory) television series.
Now, years later, long after the demand (and reliable availability) for those comics has dwindled, and requests for Invader Zim comics have died away, now comes the Zim comic. I feel like this will be aimed at nostalgic adults like a number of other decade-old cartoon properties on the comic shelves, but after a brief discussion (read: rant) on the Twitter about this, some of my few remaining Twitter friends informed me that they still see kids wearing Zim shirts and that perhaps there’s access to the cartoons via various streaming services, so maybe kids are still aware of the property.
I mean, I hope so. I want an Invader Zim comic to do well. I want every comic to do well. I like making money. Just…well, just wish the timing was better.
I am reminded of my long-ago times in comics retail, back when I was a young Mikester and my hair was naturally this color instead of being chemically enhanced, when we had customers clamoring for Simpsons comics. Every day, “where are the Simpsons comics?” “where are the Simpsons comics?” This when on for like a year or so, and then the demands dried up.
And then a Simpsons comic was announced. “Oh, great,” I thought. “Where were you a year ago? It’s too late now…nobody’s looking for Simpsons comics anymore.”
Turns out I may have been incorrect about that. Maybe I’ll be incorrect about the timeliness of the Invader Zim comic, too.
This is one of the last back issues I got for myself from the old job before departing my employment there:
…I’d forgotten that I even had it, until I came across it while reorganizing some comics at home. I tried glancing through it right now, and boy, I think I’ll need to wait ’til I’m more awake than I am because I just can’t just process the information this comic is throwing at me. I mean, I can barely run the gauntlet that is this book’s cover, there’s so much going on there. The stories do give the appearance of trying really
hard to achieve that crazy anything-goes wackiness that all you late 1960s nutty teens were into.
The best, or at least most tolerable, of the bunch is probably the Bikini Luv story:
…drawn by Jim Aparo, of all people, sorta/kinda circling around a vague Wally Wood-esque style.
Since opening my shop, aside from the few new comics I pick up every week, I’ve kept precious little for myself from any collections that have entered the store. In fact, it has primarily gone in the other direction, the vast Mikester Comic Archives having been about 1/2 to 2/3rds sacrificed to the store’s back issue bins. But there have been one or two things that have made it back to my house, such as finally putting this in the ol’ swamp monster collection. And there was this comic (speaking of 1960s comics trying awfully hard to be funny) which nicely filled a hole in a run.
But I’ve been good. I need to make money, and I can’t make money if I keep everything for myself, so I’ve been behaving. I did mention to a customer that I kept that Supernatural Thrillers, and he said “that collecting urge never really goes away, does it?”
No…no, not really.
…or “no content mode,” as this site sort of took a vacation after last Wednesday, due to my recovering from a chest cold only to go full bore into a nasty headcold I’m still recovering from. And, as it turns out, when you own your own business and you’re the only employee, you don’t get a day off to shake off the sniffles. Ah, well, “as a wise man once said” an’ all that.
To follow up on my last post, all those Groots that once danced their little hearts out in my shop are now scattered to the four winds. I knew Groot was fairly beloved in my area, judging by the mostly positive reaction to that giant cardboard standee of Groot in my window, but it was still pretty shocking how quickly the Dancing Groot toy hightailed it out of here. And despite my initial trepidation, the demo-ing of Dancing Groots did not drive me crazy, possibly due to the brevity of their presence, but several customers would push the demo button and immediately apologize to me, figuring I was sick of listening to that clip of “I Want You Back.” Honestly, it didn’t bother me, though I was quick to remind folks that pushing the button again didn’t stop the clip, but rather, extended the play.
Also, the melodious strains of the Jackson 5 have been haunting me in my dreams, but perhaps that is an unrelated issue. Not unrelated, however, is this amusing image contributed by reader Brian, combining our favorite ambulatory plantlife that isn’t Swamp Thing with one of our favorite Lois Lane covers.
Another little adventure I undertook this weekend was making a quick trip to Los Angeles to the studio of famed artist Coop to acquire a largish collection of comics he was looking to get out of his way. I probably could have just stayed there all day, looking at all the neat things he had tucked away in all corners of his workspace. And Coop himself is a swell guy…I recommend Coop to all my friends and family. Here is some photo evidence of the gentleman artist tolerating my proximity.
Speaking of artists and their endeavors, there’s another Kickstarter I’d like to promote…it’s already met its funding goal, but you may still be interested in getting a copy of Death Saves, a comics anthology about characters in role-playing games and how they met their respective demises. I’m specifically recommending it due to a story written by blogging-and-birthday-brother Andrew Weiss and illustrated by longtime ProgRuin pal Matthew Digges. So contribute already!
Remember the last Kickstarter I recommended to you guys? It just wrapped up, making over three times its goal! I’m pretty sure that was all thanks to me, so let’s try to do the same for Death Saves, too!
So I put it in my Twitter feed, I put on my store’s website, I put it on the store’s Facebook page, so what the heck, let’s put it here, too:
My first response upon cracking open the case of these Dancing Groots was “oh no, they have ‘try me’ buttons” which means I can expect to hear these every single day for what little remains of the rest of my life. And then the thought occurred to me “I wonder what it would sound like if I pressed all of the buttons at more or less the same time,” quickly followed by the idea that I should take a video of it and share it in all the places listed previously. And thus, there it is…the Camarillo Local Groots Choir, performing just for you
In other news, there’s buzz about for the new Fantastic Four trailer, mostly because we’ve been hearing terrible things about changes made to the concept that strayed perhaps too far from its comic book origins, and this is our first look at what the filmmakers were actually doing. And…well, it at least seems like it will look nice. Some have noted that the trailer seems a mite too serious for something that’s called the “Fantastic Four,” but the more somber tone does differentiate itself from the previous FF movies. Plus, it now looks like a highbrow sci-fi movie rather than just another superhero film, which I find a bit more interesting, and perhaps more in line with the actual origins of the comics. Well, okay, maybe not the “highbrow” part, but you know what I mean.
As for the reported changes in the FF’s origin….I don’t know, I think so long as we end up with something approximating the characters and relationships we know from the comics, it almost doesn’t matter how they start out. It’s almost enough that the receive their abilities from scientific misadventure, which is close enough. (And most people going to see the movie won’t notice or care that the origin’s been fiddled with.) At any rate, the trailer did its job: it’s piqued my interest in a film I was somewhat indifferent/mildly negative about. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to someday have an actual Doctor Doom in a Fantastic Four film who was Reed’s college roommate who blew up his own face in a failed experiment and later got armor from monks, but there’s always the next reboot in, like, four or five years from now.
So folks have asked how I feel about the two big events forthcoming from DC and Marvel — DC’s Convergence, in which they replace all of the regular series with two-part semi-out of continuity mini-series for two months, and Marvel’s Secret Wars, apparently leading into a line-wide reboot of of their titles — and my somewhat sarcastic and wearied response was “picked a great time to open a store.”
Wearied because my initial reactions were “how am I going to order these” and “will my comic saver customers want all these Convergence tie-ins even with the characters they normally follow” and “oh boy, more first issue Marvels” and so on and so forth. Like I also said on the Twitterings, while Fan Mike is intrigued and wants to see what happens, Retailer Mike is dreading having to decide on numbers for these things.
Now, particularly in the case of the Convergence event, it’s late enough in the process that we have information on what actual titles are going to be released but early enough that I can still get feedback from my customer base on what titles they’d actually be most interested in. Specifically, I can directly ask my pull list customers which titles they’d want for sure. I’ve already had a few check in with their Convergence lists, so with any luck I’ll have the comic saver situation under control. I’d like to make the assumption that because they get, say, Flash in their pulls, they’ll want the Flash-related Convergence tie-ins…but they may not, because they’re outside the continuity of the regular series. And rack sales will be quite the trick to figure out, too.
Despite my initial response regarding the timing of these events vis-à-vis the opening of my shop, I’m actually in a pretty good position. I’m just starting out at a new, smaller store, so I don’t have the large customer base that I did (at least, not yet!). Ordering mistakes are thus at a reduced scale…if I order a comic thinking it will sell to a significant portion of my customer base, but it turns out to only appeal to a couple of folks…well, at my previous place of employment, that could have been an expensive bust of dozens of unsold comics, because I would have had to order more to anticipate what might have been demand from our many customers. But, since I’m at the smaller shop, my financial loss would theoretically have been less. It would still suck, but just not as badly, being stiffed with only a relative handful of copies I’ve ordered for the shelf versus how ever many I might have ordered for the other store.
Also, I’m paying very close attention to my order numbers and sales, and keeping tabs on what’s increasing, what’s descreasing, what my customers care about and what they don’t. Not that I didn’t do that at the old job, but we had years of sales histories to go on, and a fair amount of stability/predictability. In my new position I have to not only go by my weeks of sales histories, but also keep an eye on new customer growth and attendant product demands. I think I have a pretty good handle on what numbers I’ll need on these Convergence books, so I’m not really anticipating the scenario of taking a huge hit on any misordered books. I’m sure I’ll not get the numbers exactly…even with planning ahead, I may pull some of these books on spec for comic saver customers who don’t want them and they’ll be returned to the shelf, but I’m reasonably certain I’m not going to take a bath on these. Maybe a quick rinse.
Marvel’s reboot is still a little ways off, so I have more time to agonize over it. Likely it’ll lead into a wall of new first issues, and I think by this time we’re all old hands at dealing with new Marvel #1s. Once we get a little closer to the main event, I’ll have a better idea how many new Avengers-related titles I’ll be dealing with.
Anyway, Fan Mike needs to make sure he orders one of each cover for the Swamp Thing Convergence tie-in, and Retailer Mike better get his money for ‘em.
So it came time for your pal Mike’s Teen Titans collection to be given up to the store in sacrifice, but I’m still a’keepin’ a couple of them in the no-longer-so-vast Mikester Comic Archives: this special by Bob Haney and Jay Stephens, this issue of DC Super Stars that I’ve had since I was a kid, and this issue:
…the not-so-stealthy “crossover” with a superhero team that may be somewhat similar to the DNAgents
. I partially retained it because it was illustrated by Nexus
cocreator Steve Rude:
…but I was actually on the fence about it for a minute or so until I glanced through it and spotted this panel in the George Perez-illustrated back-up story:
I am an insanely easy mark, sometimes.
This was a hard run of comics to give up to the shop, but it helps that I recently just reread the early “prime” issues of the Wolfman/Perez run, up to about issue 50 or so, enough to realize that if I really want to keep these stories around for posterity, I’m going to want to invest in one of the recent reprint volumes. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your copies of those earliest issues lately, but time and paper stock has not been kind to the printing on those. Or maybe it’s just a decline in my own eyesight, but that would mean I’m aging and clearly that’s not possible.
My pricing of the Titans comics hasn’t quite reached this issue yet, which, if you haven’t read the “Titans Hunt” storyline, was a much-needed revitalization of the Titans franchise, and really kept you on the edge of your seat wondering what was going to happen next. It honestly did feel like “anything goes” and had an energy to it that the series hadn’t had since its earlier days. The storyline certainly made me a fan of artist Tom Grummett, who I think was probably the best artist on the series aside from Perez.
Hopefully I didn’t just talk myself into keeping those comics, too.
• • •
In other news:
- The article in the online version of the county newspaper about my store that I linked to a few days ago finally made it to Sunday’s print edition, resulting in a few more folks discovering my shop. It also resulted in a handful of customers of mine from my previous employment realizing “oh, that’s where Mike went.”
- My post about shipping to prisons resulted in a couple of people contributing their own stories on the topic that I think you might enjoy reading. I certainly found them interesting.
- Special thanks to ProgRuin reader/commenter Walaka for dropping by the store over the weekend! Always happy to meet in person my online friends!
So I was asked to participate in one of these “know the new business” questionnaires for the county’s main newspaper, and just yesterday it was posted to its website (no idea if it’s in the print edition). It looks like it was slightly edited for space, which, in a shock twist for all of you I’m sure, I may have run off at the
mouth keyboard a bit. It’s nice to get a little more local attention, and hopefully that turns into even more business heading my way.
My favorite response to my store of late was from a seven or eight-year-old boy, who took a couple passes around the interior of the shop and said the following to me, as immortalized upon my Twitter:
Excellent. My plan to bend the will of local youth to my nefarious ends continues apace.
Speaking of the Twitters, I was reminded by another fellow’s posting about having to ship, on occasion, items from our store to prisons. Blogging brother Tim noted that would make an interesting topic of discussion right here on Progressive Ruin Dot Com if I hadn’t discussed it before. I don’t believe I have, but to be frank, there’s not a whole lot to say about it, “he said before expounding upon the subject for several paragraphs.”
There may have been others, but there are two customers to whom I remember shipping items. One was a incarcerated fellow who, via a relative who’d come into the store, asked for a new Diamond Previews every few months or so. The only real requirement I recall was that the package feature a store shipping label of some kind on the outside.
The other, the one referenced in my Twitter posting, was a person who wanted Dungeons & Dragons gaming books. Like for the previous prisoner, a store shipping label was required on the package. However, in addition to that, I was told I needed to mark the outside of the package “HOW TO PLAY BOOKS,” which I thought was an odd way to phrase that, but maybe “GAME BOOKS” wasn’t descriptive or specific enough. Now, it’s been a while, but I believe another requirement was that only paper could be used for packing material. I don’t know if a specific type of paper was required, or forbidden…like, I could only use plain brown paper versus newspaper, but I’m pretty sure it was “paper,” versus, say, styrofoam peanuts, which I wouldn’t blame them for refusing because oy, what a mess.
One thing I do remember being told by the person arranging for this transaction in-store was that the hardcover D&D books would have those covers stripped off by the staff receiving and inspecting these packages. Apparently they didn’t want anyone with ill intent getting their hands on these bookcovers and…well, I wasn’t 100% sure what they’d do with them, honestly. I suppose they could theoretically be made into weapons. I wouldn’t one of these covers jabbed hard into my neck or any other softer bits edgewise…it probably wouldn’t kill you, but it would probably make you not want to do anything other than kinda lay down for a bit and try to not move. Anyway, I didn’t ask, and now I’m stuck relying on my imagination, picturing Sing Sing in flames, rioting prisoners armed with shanks carved from copies of Monster Manual II. But the reality is more likely dudes kinda bummed that the books had to be ripped apart, but figuring that was a small price to pay for some healthy distraction in an unhappy place.
I’ve only had limited experience with shipping to prisons, so those are my two examples of the processes I had to follow. Anyone in a retail position who’s had to do something similar, I’d be interested to hear about it.
So one of my behaviors that I’ve noticed since opening the new store is that I am, just slightly, a little bit defensive. Hopefully not obnoxiously so, but every once in a while someone new will pop in the door and say something like “oh, hey, a new comic book store! When did you open?” and I’ll respond with “just a little over a month ago butI’vebeendoingthisalongtime Iusedtomanageanotherstoreforyearsandyears butIownthisoneIknowwhatI’mdoingIswear” and that hasn’t frightened anybody off yet but I suppose it’s only a matter of time.
I think it’s a reaction to no longer having the history of my previous place of employment backing me up. I used to be all “yeah, we’ve been around a while…thirty-five years a while” and then leaning back, smiling with arms crossed, as I bathed in the awe and amazement. Okay, I wasn’t that smug about it well maybe a little but I liked being able to reassure customers that this wasn’t some fly-by-night shop and that I wasn’t some schmuck who didn’t know his job…we’d been at it for some time, we’ve got it down, don’t worry, friend.
My current circumstances require me to pretty much start again, to rebuild my reputation as a comic book guy who’s got it together, and so far I’d like to think I’ve impressed upon the newer members of my clientele that I do in fact know what I’m doing. This article in the city paper did help quite a bit in letting interested parties know my history in the business, and this page on my store’s site did the same. In fact, I was starting the “butI’vebeendoingthisawhile” info dump for one customer who pretty much stopped me with “yeah, I know, I saw the webpage!”
Now, the customers I have now who did know me from my previous funnybook-retailing life…I can only assume that they’re used to my particular quirks and, well, “better the devil you know” and all that. …Okay, I’m just joshin’ a little. I do appreciate their loyalty to me, and frankly, I’m touched that they came with me or, at least, are splitting some of their comic-buying business with me. (And for those of you who are curious…that wasn’t an unexpected result of my leaving, and things are still okay between me and my old shop. Read my reply to Roel here for details.)
I’m about a month and a week into this new life of mine, and thus far everything seems to be going great. I’m doing good business, I’m meeting new customers, and it’s beginning to feel a lot less like “I hope people will eventually come into this big box where I’m storing comics on shelves and in boxes, and also I’m so lonely” and more like “hey, I’m running a comic book store, look at all these people who want comics.”
I’ve also gone from “I hope I’m not making a huge mistake” to “why did I wait so long?”
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