The nieces ‘n’ superheroes, again with the ’90s, what my job isn’t, and a former employee gets footnoted.

§ May 11th, 2007 § Filed under free comic book day Comments Off on 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.

* True.

** Not true…he was actually trying to calm down some belligerent jerk. Didn’t work, apparently.

*** Absolutely true. ASB&R is fan-tastic…don’t let anyone tell you any different. Or Josh will beat you up.

**** Of course that’s true. Free comics have magical powers. Surely you knew this?

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