Comic Book Galaxy: Pushing
Comix Forward


My name is Mike Sterling, and I sell comic books for a living.

1. A father comes into the store with his young son. I don't believe I'd ever seen them in the store before. They saunter over to the glass counter, and the son begins to peer through the countertop at the comics inside.

I ask "Is there anything you're looking for?"

The father immediately snaps back at me with "NO! The second we walk in the store, you're all over us! Get off our backs!"

2. A mother and son come into the store. The son is clearly interested in comics, poking through the new comics shelves and paging through some graphic novels. The mother is clearly not interested...not quite to the point of tapping her foot impatiently and checking her watch repeatedly, but close.

The son finds the comic he wishes to purchase, and shows it to his mom before bringing it to the register. His mother shakes her head, and says to him "Why do you want to read these things? Do you want to be like one of these people?" She gestures to my coworker and myself as she says this.

3. Another mother and son are looking for comics. The mother is particularly hypersensitive to anything she believes even approaches inappropriate content. How hypersensitive? She thought Spider-Man comics were too sexual. 1960s Spider-Man comics.

My coworker and I bend over backwards to help her find comics that don't offend her easy task. Despite believing that perhaps she's being a tad overprotective, we keep that to ourselves as we do our best to find something for her. We do this several times over a period of weeks.

She's also a writer for a local free paper, where she eventually has an article published regarding her ventures into the world of comic books. In this article, she talks about visiting her local comic book store, where she describes the employees as "apathetic."

We apathetic employees, who spent a great deal of time trying to meet her particular needs, with no complaint on our parts.

She hasn't returned to our store since the article was published.

4. A young woman accompanies some friends to our shop. The friends are comic readers, the young woman is not. As the others shop, the woman proceeds to look through various comics and graphic novels in order to pass judgement on them. The judgements are, in general, variations on the word "sucks." "This sucks." "This is sucky." "Sucktacular."

She doesn't appear to be doing this to tease her friends, as they aren't nearby as she's doing this. She apparently needs to declare every comic in the store as being beneath her.

5. A man comes into the store and browses the shelves. A few minutes later, another man enters the store, whom the first man was apparently waiting on. The first man hurriedly places the book he was currently looking at back on the shelf. As the two men depart, the first man says to the second "Can you believe grown men actually write and draw these things?"

6. There was a fellow who used to come to our store every week to purchase the latest releases. He never says a word. Ever.

I know he can talk. A couple of times I've seen him at other locations -- the mall, the grocery store -- where he was clearly talking to other people, so he's not mute.

But he won't talk to us.

"Is this all for you, sir?"


"Did you find everything you were looking for?"


"Sir, I believe Armenian dwarves have set fire to your sandals."


Nothing we say elicits a reaction. He just stares at us, gives us money, takes his change, and leaves with his comics. His mouth never opens once.

We're just not worth talking to.

So what's the point of all this, aside from picking at scabs long healed over? Some of the incidents mentioned happened quite a while ago...for example, that customer that never spoke to us I haven't seen in years. I guess he's moved out of the area and has since found another comic shop where he also doesn't speak to the employees.

I suppose if there is a point to these memories, it's that it makes me appreciate my good customers even more. The ones who don't treat us with contempt, who do enjoy interacting with us, even if it's nothing more than a smile and a "thank you" at the counter. Even if it's just a wave and a "thanks!" as they're leaving the store, having just browsed briefly and decided to buy nothing.

A little bit of simple human courtesy can go a long way to making our jobs...anyone's jobs...that much more bearable. We do this because we love comics, and we enjoy and appreciate our customers...we certainly aren't doing this to get rich, by any means.

So to you 99.9% of our customers...thank you for your business. It is greatly appreciated.

To the rest of, would it kill you to be civil?

If you have any questions, suggestions, or complaints, please feel free to e-mail me at cbg (at)

-- Mike Sterling

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