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


§ 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

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.

It’s like Free Comic Book Day in July…

§ July 15th, 2013 § Filed under free comic book day § 4 Comments

…just like that one year when Marvel didn’t have a movie opening in May, but it did in July, and God forbid we not have a Free Comic Book Day that wasn’t tied to a Marvel movie. Anyway, as I promised way back when, all those two months ago, here are some of the other photos taken by Semi-Occasional Employee Mark of this year’s FCBD event:

A shot of one and 1/3 tables loaded with comics, just prior to opening the doors to the waiting hordes:

A slightly blurry photo of the slightly blurry Employee Timmy and Employee Aaron and Employee Aaron’s moustache:

Kempo, wife of Employee Aaron, doing terrible things to comics with her mighty elbows:

And here I am, crashing Kempo’s photo op with my ridiculous head of hair:

Goku finally meets the one foe he can never defeat:

And here is Goku again, back in happier times prior to his terrible beating:

So there we go…a little scrapbook of additional Free Comic Book Day memories, to keep with us in our hearts until the abject horror of having to prep for FCBD 2014 seeps in.

The day after the day after Free Comic Book Day.

§ May 6th, 2013 § Filed under employee aaron, free comic book day, pal casie § 9 Comments

I did indeed get a free comic. And so did the several hundred folks who passed through our doors on Saturday, most of whom didn’t get just one free comic, but many free comics pulled from the several tables we had set up for funnybook distribution.

This shot:

…is from much later in the day, when we’d taken down one of the tables once we were out of a handful of titles. But this should give you kind of an idea of what was goin’ on at our store for pretty much the entire day. And yes, that’s a shelf of pogs. There is no escape.

Here’s a shot from sort of behind the register “island” near the front of one side of our shop…that’s Employee Fredat the far right behind the register there:

And here’s the boss, Seth himself, posing with a box of Bongo comics, Employee Timmy lurking just over his shoulder:

Part-Time Employee Aaron and his lovely wife Kempo manned and womanned the Cash Only register we set up on the other side of the store, with only the occasional bout of violence:

And then there was this fella, Customer Brandon, who helped out a bit, too. I think he’s dressed up as someone from Speed Racer or something, I’m pretty sure:

Special thanks to Pal Casie, who dropped off a box of cakes and cookies, decorated in such a way that clearly indicated they were all meant for me and not for any other of those crummy employees:

Those were the only pics I managed to take; Employee Mark took more photos but hasn’t yet sent them to me, but as soon as he does, I’ll toss ’em up on the site. One of those photos includes me, so consider yourself warned.

Anyway, remember how in this post I mentioned I was going to de-emphasize the distribution of our free comics in age-appropriate bags…a bag of freebies for kids, one for teens, one for grown-ups. Well, I de-emphasized the heck out of it since I ultimately decided not to bag any of the comics at all. The goal was to keep some stock of freebies through most of the day by not giving everything to everybody. And I have to tell you, that morning, as I was unloading and stacking all the comics on all the tables I had a moment of panic. “Oh man, we’re never going to get rid of all of these, I shoulda bagged ’em, oh we’re screwed,” which is a variation on my usual FCBD pre-opening panic that no one’s going to show up and that it’ll be a disaster.

Shouldn’t have worried. We were slammed from the second we opened our door at 10 AM, and the store was crammed full with people until mid-afternoon, when things slowed down to just merely insanely busy. Seth and Employee Mark even had to function as gatekeepers for a couple of hours, standing at the door and letting customers in only a few at time, and we still had a line stretching around the interior of the store, down one side, across the back wall, and forward by the tables as they head back towards the the register and the exit. As previously noted, the shots of the store above were later in the afternoon, when folks were just heading straight in from the door toward the tables, when the crowds were slightly more manageable.

Also as previously noted, we had a second register set up for cash only transactions, having learned my lesson from last time when we had register lines a mile long. As it turns out, not a whole lot of people carry cash nowadays, but enough did to help lessen line wait times at least a little.

Back to this year’s free comic distribution test (i.e. “Mike was too lazy to sort out the comics into bags this time”), there were two main results. First, yes, as I’d hoped, the comic stock lasted a bit longer this time around. In fact, for the first time in a few years, I still had a small assortment left over, enough to fill a small Diamond shipping box, which is quite the reduction from the many dozens of Diamond FCBD shipping boxes I originally received. That’s probably a combination of the non-bagging and of my increased orders this time around. That’s okay…we’ve left some out for anyone who couldn’t make it in on Saturday.

Second, it did increase customer wait time as everyone picked out the comics they wanted instead of just grabbing a pre-packed bag or three and running off. Nobody really seemed to mind, however, and the wait time wasn’t that long.

Another thing I did this year was take a bunch of those bargain-priced comics we still had hanging around (all those 50-cent Invincibles and $1.00 “Image Firsts” and 25-cent Vampirellas and such) and put those out for giveaways, too. And that giant stack of free Marvel Point Ones that Marvel overshipped to us a couple years back, and that one issue of Garfield that, ahem, I may have accidentally overordered by entering the wrong number on the order form and not noticing…all put out for giveaways, all gone.

AND I think I am finally, finally out of that Avatar Comics Robocop freebie from years ago. I thought I was done with it before, but more keep turning up. But I think I finally unloaded all our backstock of books from FCBDs past. …Well, it wasn’t more than two or three shipping boxes’ worth, so it wasn’t that much, but it still feels good to have found good homes for them.

We didn’t have any in-store signings or other planned special guests…there just wouldn’t have been room…but I did briefly greet pal Nat; got to see the bearded visage of Matt Digges and his non-bearded niece; reader Dave Z., who makes the trek from Bakersfield every year to get free comics that had been personally touched by my filthy, filthy hands; and hugged Gina, my former editor at Music Confidential magazine.

In addition to the goodies pal Casie brought us, Heather from the local library brought us a tray of cookies, thanking us for providing a bunch of this year’s FCBD books for them to distribute. And Employee Mark’s uncle Jay brought us his candied balls. …Before you ask, yes we did. How can you not.

End result: the busiest, most successful Free Comic Book Day yet…gave away more comics than ever before, and made more money than ever before. I’m not trying to be crass by mentioning the money thing, but it’s important to note that the expense of Free Comic Book Day…the cost of the comics, the employee wages, the trapeze artist, the stunt drivers…was more than covered.

I have been sent a few stories, in comments and via email, from people whose own FCBD experiences at their local shops were less than exemplary. I’m sorry to hear it, but I’ve also heard from folks who had wonderful times, so maybe things have been improving on that front. Like I’ve said many, many times before…it doesn’t take much to make Free Comic Book Day into an event, and boy, what an event we had this time around. Plus, I think I’ve convinced Seth into letting me spend even more money for Free Comic Book Day next year.

I should also note the efforts of Employee Robert the Friday night before, who did a lot of set-up rearranging part of the store to accommodate the free comic distribution. EFFORTS ARE NOTED.

And yes, I know that’s Goku…don’t send me emails.

Free Comic Book Day…is TODAY!

§ May 4th, 2013 § Filed under free comic book day § 4 Comments

Go get your free comic books already. And send your best wishes to me, as I give a bazillion comics away at our shop.

I’ll let you know tomorrow or Monday how it went. In the meantime…enjoy some comic books!

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