50.

§ March 13th, 2019 § Filed under old § 31 Comments

And now, 50 things I’ve learned from, or discovered about, comic book retail over the last thirty or so years I’ve been doing this:

1. “Collector’s Items” aren’t.

2. New first issues are jumping-off points as well as jumping-on points for readers.

3. A whole lot of folks unfamiliar with comics think that Hawkman is called “Birdman,” and that Green Lantern is “Green Hornet.”

4. There’s only one real way to put your standard comic book storage box together, but hoo boy have I uncovered any number of ways folks have forced their boxes into shape using tape, staples, baling wire, what have you.

5. 95% of the comic supplies I’ve sold have been “current” (or “new”) sized, but the supplies I find on collections I acquire are almost invariably the larger sizes.

6. Folks who ask “have the movies and TV shows improved sales?” are always surprised to hear “um, not especially.” They are pleased to hear that the primary effect is that everyone knows who Groot is now.

7. I still kind of freeze up a bit whenever anyone asks me if I have any “key books,” as my definition of “key book” may not be the same as theirs. “Why yes, I do have a copy of Honey Bunny’s first appearance in Bugs Bunny #108!”

8. There are some people who feel entirely no shame in asking things like “where can I download all these new comics for free?” or “can I take pictures of all the pages of this comic with my phone?”

9. Any new person who comes into the store declaring “WOW! I love comic books! This is going to be my favorite shop, I’ll be your best customer!” will never be seen again.

10. Yeah, sure, y’all make fun of him, but I’m telling you, Rob Liefeld comics usually sell. I’m still selling copies of Youngblood #1, for God’s sake.

11. I was bothered by the continual “Hey where’s Sheldon?”/Big Bang Theory-related comments I’d get from people who’d pop into the store, until I realized at least the non-comics reading public is at least associating comic book stores with something they like. Quite a change from just a few years ago.

12. When someone encounters The Walking Dead comics for the first time, the general assumption is that it’s based on the TV show, not the other way around.

13. A lot of people think Maggie and/or Hopey from Love and Rockets is based on them. (Perhaps specific to the Ventura County area.)

14. When a publisher doesn’t give you any information about an upcoming comic aside from “TRUST US, YOU’LL WANT TO ORDER PLENTY,” most of the time you can safely not order plenty.

15. Used to be bemused by people bringing in comics that “used to belong to my late grandfather,” implying heavily that these were old, old books, and then they’d turn out to be Spawn and Witchblade…until I realized recently these have been around long enogh that they would likely be found in Grandpa’s comic boxes now.

16. Folks just don’t get tired of Batman. Other characters wax and wane, but Batman just keeps chugging along in a variety of formats and stories. It is a perpetual comics machine.

17. Most everybody, fans and non-fans alike, love Stan Lee. …I know his legacy is a bit more…nuanced than that, but I found it best not to disillusion these folks. Nobody likes a party pooper.

18. Readers don’t mind high issue numbers. They certainly find them less frustrating than constant reboots/relaunches. When Marvel did their “Legacy” initiative and briefly restored original numbering to a lot of their books, my sales went up on them.

19. If something doesn’t have a price marked on it, and the customer says “that means it’s free!” they don’t care for it when you replay “no, it means I can make up whatever price I’d like…ONE MILLION DOLLARS PLEASE.”

20. “Ms. Tree” is a pun. …LOOK, I NEVER SAID IT ALOUD ‘TIL I WORKED IN A COMIC SHOP, OKAY?

21. When people ask me “do you know anything about this Swamp Thing character,” I’ve learned not exclaim John Lithgow-style “oh DO I!” and immediately drop an infodump on them. …Only took about two and half decades in the business to break that habit.

22. As annoyed as I generally was by Wizard, I kinda miss it now that I realize the part it played it getting kids excited about comic books. That was certainly better than today’s kids being, I don’t know, being exposed to YouTube videos about how icky girls are ruining Marvel or whatever.

23. It’s a common assumption that I get to read comics all day at work. Man, I barely have time to read comics at home.

24. As a comic shop clerk/owner, you are assumed to have seen every superhero TV show/movie as soon as it’s released, if not sooner. (NOTE: I’m behind on every CW DC show, and I didn’t see that last Avengers movie ’til it made it to home video.)

25. Every Furry customer I’ve ever had has been nothing less than friendly and kind, except for that one guy who was an annoying jerk, but that really didn’t have anything to do with him being a Furry.

26. Turns out if companies go to the “DEATH OF [CHARACTER]” well too often, the general public will stop falling for it.

27. That said…it took a long time to stop hearing “there are new Superman comics? I thought he died!” from people who weren’t joking.

28. “Comic shop” is just a catch-all for “store that carries any weird thing I can think of” for some folks. I’ve taken calls from people looking for inflatable sheep, or asking if I buy “slightly used” Halloween masks.

29. Role playing games (and collectible card games) have become so associated with comic book stores, people are shocked to discover a shop like mine that doesn’t deal in them.

30. If anyone comes through the door looking for sports cards, it’s only because they want to sell you some, never because they want to buy any.

31. No matter how busy I’d been just previously, when the store clears out and the next person comes into the now-empty shop, there is a non-zero chance of him or her saying “so…slow day, huh?”

32. Nobody wants Woody Woodpecker comics. NOBODY. If any of you write in to say you do, I will have to assume you’re either lying or deranged.

33. If someone tells you they have a comic book at home in Near Mint, it’s probably been set on fire at some point.

34. Just realized that I don’t hear “I remember when they only cost a nickel!” so much any more is because, um, persons of that particular age group…uh, aren’t, um…how can I put this?

35. Nobody who says “I have a copy of the first appearance of Superman” at home actually has one. …I mean, somebody has copies of Action #1 out there, they’re just not going into comic shops and telling the clerks about it.

36. There are a whole lot of Golden Age comic stories that, well, aren’t very good. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT

37. There are a whole lot more comics autographed by Jack Kirby than you think. Some of those comics were even done by him.

38. Anyone looking for Tales from the Crypt comics are generally surprised to find out there are other similar comics from the same publisher (like Vault of Horror, and so on). I mean, if there was a Vault of Horror TV show that ran for years, it’d go the other way, surely.

39. The old Robotech comics from Comico in the 1980s used to sell better at our shop once they were in the back issue bins than they did on the new shelf. Weird, huh?

40. All those foil/die-cut/hologram covers from the ’90s nearly did the industry in, but customers today who weren’t around then for all that nonsense think those fancy covers are great now! I can even sell Turok #1s!

41. The worst damage that can happen to any comic book is cat pee. I will accept no counterpoints to this.

42. Someone will invariably read the “1ST SATURDAY IN MAY!” on the Free Comic Book Day promo material as “May 1st” and show up on the wrong day.

43. Related: it still comes as a surprise to many that comic shops have to pay for the FCBD comics. I know everyone tries to get the word out about this every year, but it’s still news to some.

44. “It’s old, therefore it’s worth money” is a very common belief. Well, I’m old, and I’m worth practically nothing, so there you go.

45. Not every licensed comic, but enough licensed comics based on non-superhero properties eventually do a story involving superheroes somehow.

46. The Number One Giveaway that someone’s come from another hobby to try their hand at comic book collecting was when I repeatedly was asked for “comic book Becketts in the early ’90s. Nothing else ever came close.

47. “Crumb comics” is slowly becoming the generic term for “underground comix.”

48. Folks who haven’t been in a comic book store in a while are always surprised to discover Spawn is still being published.

49. Turns out if you carry a variety of product in an organized, welcoming store, you’ll acquire a diverse customer base, including plenty of women and children. Who knew?

50. Also found out that blogging is a fun way to not only educate others about the industry and day-to-day realities of selling comic books, but also a great way to promote one’s business, organize one’s thoughts about running said business, and maybe learn a little more about just what it is I think I’m doing. It’s also a fine way to connect with the many wonderful people out there on the internet (no, really, there are some!) who have supported both my shop and my silly online endeavor here for so many years. Thanks, everyone.

50 1/2. I also learned that blogging brother Andrew shares his birthday with me! Happy birthday, Andrew!

31 Responses to “50.”

  • BK Munn says:

    Happy Birthday! Many happy returns and thanks for the blog! (I get many of the same sort of interactions in my record shop!)

  • G23 says:

    #30 is so painfully true. That market just fell down a well. Happy Birthday, btw!

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    11. Things could be worse. If you had been running a comics shop in the late ’60s, you’d have had people coming in asking “Where’s Goober?” (Goober Pyle, on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW/MAYBERRY R.F.D., was the TV character then most likely to be seen reading comics. A now-forgotten show called ARNIE probably has the distinction of being the first to make jokes about comics being “relevant” and something an adult might read–Arnie mocked his college-age son for reading a comic called “Lizardman,” and the son responded by insisting that it dealt with the serious issues of the day.)

    12. When I worked in a book shop, I was in charge of the Graphic Novels section. Once someone came up to me with a stack of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” collections, and asked if we had any more comics based on video games.

    17 & 24. Don’t wait to see CAPTAIN MARVEL on DVD or Netflix. The opening tribute gains a lot if you are surrounded by people going “Awwww…”

    28. Seriously, inflatable sheep sounds like a profitable sideline.

    32. The Woody Woodpecker comics always bothered me because, in them, he has a nephew named Knothead and a niece named Splinter. What sort of parents give their children such names?

  • Thom H. says:

    Happy happy birthday! You know the comic-buying (and -not-buying) public so well. Thanks for sharing your hard won knowledge with us!

  • Walaka says:

    Happy Birthday, Mike! I wish you were my LCS! And here’s to many more years of funnybook sellin’ and comix bloggin’.

    (Oh, and Turan – >I< remember Arnie. Though not that episode…)

  • Rob March says:

    Feliz cumpleanos, mi hermano!

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    How poetically just that today is Wednesday. I hope it’s a great, fun birthday for you, and I wish your store was my LCS, too.

  • Bill D. says:

    Happy birthday, Mike!

  • Patrick Gaffney says:

    Wouldn’t “Mister Tree” be the pun? It has all the sounds?

  • Bill D. says:

    Also, for all the shit Liefeld takes, I’ve rarely seen a creator be nicer to their fans at a con, and that goes a long way with me.

  • Chris G says:

    Happy birthday, Mike, and thank you for the many years of enjoyment your blog has given me!

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Happy Birthday Mike!

    #12 drives me crazy, and I don’t even work in a comic store!

    Regarding #49, I’ve heard it said that one reason few comic shops carry extensive back issue selections nowadays is because they’re a turnoff to new customers (“I have to read all those to understand comics? Forget it!”).

    Have you found that all those back issue longboxes actually have that effect, or is it solely a matter of presentation? (That is, if you have dozens of beat up longboxes scattered haphazardly around your dimly-lit store, of course it’s a turn-off, while neatly lined up boxes in their own corner are fine?)

  • Bill M says:

    Congrats! Enjoyed reading this list – and learned some things! (Long-time reader, first time commenting. #lurker). I have some old comics from when I was a kid…

  • stavner says:

    Happy birthday, Mike!

  • Rob Staeger says:

    A very happy birthday to you, Mike!

  • Adam Farrar says:

    #44 isn’t true. You’re worth your weight in sterling! Though with Brexit that’s a little shaky right now. But still!

    Happy birthday!

  • Rich Handley says:

    Happy birthday, buddy!

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    Happy Birthday Mike! You may not be mint condition but you’re well loved.

  • Ward Hill Terry says:

    #13 anyone claiming to be inspiration for Maggie or Hopey would have to be at least my age, and I’m five years older than you!

    #44 You’ve got the eye upgrade. That ought to worth something on the trade-in.

  • Daniel T says:

    No, “Mister Tree” has too many sounds.

    36. Are there people out there who look to Golden Age comics for a full aesthetic experience? There’s definitely great art back then but most of the writing, well… I think DC maybe holds up best in that area, along with Captain Marvel and basically anything Jack Cole did. I’m partial to a lot of Quality material, but I’m not sure if it’s as good as I think it is or if it’s mostly because of my affection for the art/characters. Timely/Marvel stuff is almost uniformly wretched.

    Oh, and Happy Birthday!

  • ExistentialMan says:

    Happy birthday to the funniest man I’ve never met – but hope to some day!

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    Extra muck-encrusted birthday mockery preview for Mr. Sterling:

    http://momentofcerebus.blogspot.com/2019/03/house-of-cerebus-cover-color-comparison.html

  • Casie says:

    50?! Where did the time go? No, seriously, where is it?
    Thanks for the education, inspiration and laughs. Online and in person.
    Happiest birthday to you, Mike!

  • #15… *sigh*
    damnit… we’re old.

    So, uh…HAPPY day, Mike!

  • Joe Littrell says:

    22a. Even though Wizard Magazine has been gone lo these many (8) years, there will still be people who come in asking where the most recent issue is. This question will, without fail, be preceded by proclamations of how much they love comics and how long they’ve been collecting.

    51. The customers who proclaim themselves “your best customer” are never your best customers. In fact, they’re very often the people you know are doing something shady, and you’re just waiting for the proof you need to ban them from the store.

  • Chance says:

    Happy birthday! Long live yourself, your blog, and your shop! I remember when you first opened!

    I also remember when comics were 35 cents, and I’m still alive! Barely.

  • Brian says:

    #33 The comic, the home, or both?

  • Brad says:

    32. If someone ever translates the Freddy Milton stories…

    And I remember when comics were TEN CENTS (twelve for most of my formative years),

  • Eric L says:

    40- I’m at the comic shop almost every week and I’m constantly surprised to see that SPAWN is still being published.

  • Eric L says:

    Whoops. The one above should be 48.

    The real 40 comment is that those cover always looked cool. The problem was there were too many of them and they’d go from ways to celebrate a milestone issue to a way to boost sales for issue 38.

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