Tagged: Comic Book Store

Mindy Newell: Shopping For My New Comics Shop

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So yesterday afternoon I turned on the TV to watch the live Global Citizen concert and caught one of my favorite artists, Yusuf Islam – formerly known as Cat Stevens – performing songs “Wild World” and, joined by Eddie Vedder, “Father and Son,” both from one of his best albums, 1970’s Tea for the Tillerman. I was singing along and getting back into my ‘60s groove when, all of a sudden, right as he started to sing another song, fucking MSNBC went to commercials!!!!

C’mon, are you kidding me? And to make it even more frustrating, the network did one of those “little boxes” so that you could see Mr. Islam singing, but you couldn’t hear him. AAAGH! Global Citizen’s mission is to end extreme poverty around the world, so I found it extremely disturbing and in incredibly bad taste to have a concert meant to raise awareness and encourage support interrupted by “come-on’s” and enticements to buy something.

I changed the channel.

I also went by my local comic book shop to pick up my “reads” and found the door covered with “To Rent” and “For Lease” signs. I didn’t bother parking. Now I have to search out a new place, one that’s close and easily accessible. I could go over to Forbidden Planet in Manhattan (where I believe my friend and fellow columnist Martha Thomases picks up her reads); it’s not far, and it’s in on of my favorite areas of the city, just south of Union Square on 13th and Broadway and it’s a really easy commute for me. I’m really tempted to start doing that, because Forbidden Planet has what I think is the best inventory anywhere – with Jim Hanley’s Universe, aka JHU Comic Books, on East 32nd running a very close second. Jim’s original store is on Staten Island, and it’s still there, on New Dorp Lane, but construction and traffic make that drive a nightmare.

Just did a search, and found Carmine Street Comics on Carmine Street in the West Village, which is even closer than Forbidden Planet, a few blocks south of Christopher Street, the first stop in Manhattan on the New Jersey PATH train. Really like their website – hmm, Carmine just doesn’t sell comics, its an “interactive” store with their community. They have a storefront studio with an Artist Space for illustrators and writers (though watching a writer at work can be pretty boring, if you ask me), plus podcasts, a video talk show, and a webseries. And for comics consumers they have a deal with ComiXology so that you can reserve comics weeks in advance and then pick them up at the store. This is a really interesting place. Definitely checking it out – next weekend, fer shur!! (And I have to talk to Martha about Carmine – I have a feeling she already knows about it.)

There’s 4:00 left in the Giants-Redskins game, Giants are up by 1 (27-26); I’m getting that sick feeling in my stomach I always get with my Big Blue. (Never an easy win with them, and they tend to beat themselves.) Washington has the ball, and is moving the ball down the field with their running game. Now the ‘skins are in field goal range and we are at the 2:00 minute warning. Fuck, fuck, fuck! Defensive line held them to a fourth down. But Washington just kicked a field goal. Now they are up by 2. 1:51 left. Fuck, fuck, fuck!

I gotta go watch this, guys.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Eli’s pass was intercepted.

Game over.

Ah, well. It’s a long season…

And next weekend, a visit to Carmine Street Comics. I think I’ll call Martha.

Mike Gold: Do YOU Collect Comic Books?

Phil SeulingI endured another birthday last week. This is not a big deal, I’ve had a lot of them. Of course, I never get tired of my daughter fussing over me and preparing a dinner of unimaginable excellence, but there’s a point in our lives when such an occasion prompts a review of random elements of our past. Perhaps because my birthday is smackdab in the middle of the heaviest part of convention “season,” this year my thoughts turned to the evolution of the comic book store.

The comic book store evolved from those strange stores that sold old magazines and/or were “white elephant” shops. They hardly are of recent vintage: America’s first nationally-known serial killer, H.H. Holmes, murdered dozens if not hundreds of people in his specially-built World’s Fair Hotel that had secret passageways and trap doors and sealed ersatz gas chambers. One of the few shops on the ground floor of his palace was leased to a back-issue magazine store. This happened back in 1893; the hotel was conveniently located about a mile from the blockbuster World’s Columbian Exposition. Many future shops were located in less comfortable neighborhoods.

There weren’t any comic books in 1893, but the concept of back issue comic book retailing came onto its own in the post-Wertham late 1950s. These places paved the way to what we might think of as the “comic book store.”

I say “might think” because those original comic book stores only sold back-issue comics. There were few media chachkas. After a while several cut deals with their local independent magazine distributors to get new comics in through the back door, but if a local drug or candy store complained the new comics rack in the old comics store disappeared.

New York Comic Art Convention Program 1969Then Phil Seuling happened. Phil was the lynchpin to many very important events in the evolution of comic book fandom. He started selling old comics in 1958; ten years later he hosted the first New York Comic Art Convention. In those sainted days of yore, comicons offered fans guests, panels, some movies, and a large room full of people standing behind card tables with a mass of sometimes-organized old comics, filed in all sorts of file boxes that, at the time, were not specifically manufactured for that purpose. Today, those dealers look exactly the same as they did in 1968, only older.

People came to these shows to fill in the holes in their collections while socializing with similar addicts. Eventually some of them mated, but I digress. Long-box diving became a ballet, one that also played out in those comic book shops in the low-rent neighborhoods.

Then Phil Seuling happened again. In 1972, Phil made arrangements with the comic book publishers of the time (Marvel was a bit late to commit, but only a bit) to sell brand-new comics directly to comic book shops through his East Coast Seagate Distributing company. They started out in increments of 25 and Phil said they were selling to “comic book clubs” to avoid pissing off the legitimate retailers (ha!), but the comic book medium had forever changed.

Both publishers and product grew like Topsy, and eventually some smartass revealed the “true” cost to retailers in keeping, maintaining and selling back-issues. It was a very labor-intensive vocation, at least for most retailers, and before long they needed space to sell more profitable new comics, toys, tapes, costumes, prints, cards, and, of course, POGs.

World's Fair HotelSo old comics became harder to find. No problem; the publishers were thrilled to help those who actually wanted to read their wares by reprinting those stories in books – the kind with spines. These had the added advantage of being salable in “traditional” book stores (you know, like Borders) and on that new “Amazon” thing.

Today I walk through the convention floors – they used to be called “huckster rooms” – and through comic book stores and I see a vastly diminished presence of the back issues that put fans and fandom in business. I don’t necessarily miss them, no more than I miss those great old buggy whip factories. But it makes me wonder if fans still collect old comics for the purpose of reading.

Sure, graded and entombed comic books abound, but I have no doubt that someday somebody is going to disinter one of those vacuum-sealed copies of Action Comics #3 graded at 5.8 and valued into six figures and discover the guts of Planet Terry #7.

Yep. That screaming sound you just heard came out of the guts of a couple dozen of my good friends who possess innumerable sealed rarities.

Time marches on, and I’m okay with that as long as it swiftly marches across the backside of Donald Trump. But, yeah, there’s another habit that goes as we age. It’s called “Hey, kids, get off of my lawn!”

 

Mindy Newell: Quality of Life

Law & Order SVU Comic Book Guy

I just finished watching an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – it’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m addicted to the USA network marathons of the show on Sunday afternoons. The episode was actually one that I’ve never seen before, and it turned out that the perp was the mildly developmentally disabled – what we called retarded in the bad old days – owner of a comic book store. Perpetuating the stale old myth that anyone into comics has to be emotionally and intellectually limited with sexually perverse lusts. Way to go, SVU! That really pissed me off. (And yes, real comics were mentioned, including The Avengers and Justice League.)

On Friday I stopped by my brother’s house; it turned out that he and my niece went to see Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Martha (as fellow ComicMix columnist Marc Alan Fishman calls it) and both were completely disgusted by it. “Ridiculously violent,” my brother said. “Stupid,” said my succinct niece. “We live in a violent world, and the movies reflect that,” said I.

Chuck Todd interviewed George Clooney, who hosted two California fund-raisers for Hillary Clinton on Saturday and Sunday, on NBC’s Meet the Press this morning. Tickets cost between $33,400 and $353,400 to hobnob with Hillary and other bigwigs (raising $15,000,000). Clooney agreed with Todd that this amount of money is “obscene.” He then went on to say:

“I think what’s important and what I think the Clinton campaign has not been very good at explaining is this, and this is the truth: the overwhelming amount of money that we’re raising (and it is a lot) but the overwhelming amount of the money that we’re raising is not going to Hillary to run for President, it’s going to the [Democratic] ticket. It’s going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress. And the reason that’s important…to me is because we need – I’m a Democrat so if you’re a Republican, you’re going to disagree – but we need to take the senate back. Because we need to confirm the Supreme Court justice because that fifth vote on the Supreme Court can overturn Citizens United and get this obscene, ridiculous amount of money out so I never have to do a fundraiser again. And that’s why I’m doing it.”

I get what he’s saying, I really, really do. But it still doesn’t feel right or sit well with me.

Clooney also said that, although he is a Hillary backer, he will totally “feel the Bern” if Sanders gets the nomination and will be absolutely happy to participate in fundraising for him if asked to do so by the candidate.

I just wonder…would Bernie ask?

We all talk about “quality of life.” Euthanasia proponents wear the phrase on their t-shirts. And we are told to have, what’s called in my trade, “Advance Directives,” so that if we become unable to articulate our medical treatment desires for whatever reason, our wishes are already written down and notarized and signed, sealed and delivered into the hands of our, as we say in the trade, “healthcare proxies” who can advocate for us when we can’t advocate for ourselves.

I saw my father. He definitely has no “quality of life.” He receives what is called in the trade “palliative care.” He is not in pain – thank God! Though since he cannot really communicate anymore, God knows what kind of inner, emotional pain he’s in. I like to think that when he sleeps or when he is in that dream-state into which I and the rest of my family cannot cross, he is sitting in the cockpit of his beloved P-51D Mustang – the one with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 two-stage, two-speed supercharged engine (the definitive version) because one time my mother asked him where he was, and he said that he was “in the hangar.”

My mother and he will be married 68 years this June. There were times when I thought it was over, done, kaput. They are everything to each other. Does he dream of their courtship, of their wedding day, of their early years together?

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

My father is not an android.

But does he dream?

Mike Gold: Comic Books Take A Hike!

Gold Art 140101It was a small notice in one of the media newsletters, a pick-up from Publisher’s Weekly: Marvel Halts Sales of Periodical Comics in Bookstores.

According to Media Bistro, “Marvel has ended sales of print single-issue periodical comics through trade bookstore channels. This will not affect the sales of book format graphic novels through those retailers. Several earlier accounts reported that Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble were dropping single-issue comics. According to Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating, the removal of single-issue comics from B&N and other book stores is Marvel’s decision.”

This is not the end of an era. It’s the final death throes of an ancient era, a time of candy stores, corner drug stores, newsstands and newspaper wuxtras.

And that’s okay by me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love print. I love those 32-page pamphlets. I enjoy going to the magazine racks at Barnes and Noble. But let’s note that the decision to pull the pamphlets from the two largest American bookstore chains was Marvel’s, not the retailers’. And Marvel is simply being realistic.

Newsstand sales, as opposed to direct sales to comics shops, sell only about one-quarter of the number of copies sent to the newsstands, on average. Or, to put this in more political terms (I am what I am), for every four trees chopped down for newsstand comics, only one gets turned into stuff people actually pay to read. And the publisher has to ship these books and may have to accept returns (that’s a long story; trust me). That’s a hell of a lot of oil being wasted.

And for what? Clearly, the publisher isn’t making much (if anything) off of newsstand sales. The news dealer isn’t making very much, and policing comics racks is work-intensive. Better that such material is sold as e-comics, which carry a carbon footprint of a baby oompa loompa, and in anthologies.

Yes, there’s a loss-leader argument, but it’s very dated. The argument goes “New readers and people who don’t live near comic book stores can discover the thrill of comics by stumbling across them at Barnes and Nobles.” Fine, except that most newsstand comics are from Marvel and DC, and both companies are completely obsessed with “event” (read: stunt) marketing that require a reader to buy dozens of comics in order to understand the epic story… and some of those issues often are sold only via direct sales. So there is no jumping-on point for newbies.

Mind you, I could be wrong but I don’t see Archie, Dark Horse, and other publishers that are not OCD-compliant exiting the market as fast. They have high visibility books, often with impressive pedigrees such as Star Wars. But the economics of comics publishing are such that I can’t see them holding on to returnable sales to general newsstands.

I see Marvel pulling out of traditional bookstores as the logical thing to do. It’s probably the harbinger of things to come.

Of course, the way these guys have been doing the past couple of years, it’s pretty easy to see Barnes and Nobles and Books-A-Million going the way of Borders, Dalton’s, and Brentano’s. That’s a major shame, but it’s a shame of a different color.

So if you’re dependent upon one of these outlets for your comics fix, go buy an iPad. It’ll be around a lot longer, and you won’t strain your back lifting long-boxes.

Oh, yeah. And Happy, Brave New Year.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweeks

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Martha Thomases: Love Your Friendly Neighborhood Comics Shop

Thomases Art 131213Have I mentioned lately how much I like comic book stores? Even as more and more of my friends buy their comics digitally (and I buy more of my prose books digitally), I still like to get my comics in hard copy. I like to get them on Wednesdays when I can. I like to get a big stack and find a comfy chair.

And yet this morning, when I woke up with an uncharacteristic and bewildering tummy ache, I didn’t reach for a pile of singles to take with my to the bathroom, or to my comfy chair. Instead, I wanted to read original graphic novels.

So I was interested to read a conversation among comic shop retailers about how they like original graphic novels – or OGNs, as they call them.

If I might over-simplify, most don’t. I mean, they like them, but most of their business comes from customers like me, who buy single issues month after month. Some say that, even among their regular customers, the higher-priced items are bought online where the customer can get a bigger discount (often bigger than retailers gets from their distributors).

I get this. Stores find their customer base and then do their best to serve that base, providing the products they want and, with luck, also providing products they don’t know about but will love when they see them. A great store will look for ways to broaden its base, attracting more and more customers over time.

Perhaps I am inferring more than is intended, but I also sense that some of the retailers are saying that since OGNs don’t do well for them, that it is a waste of time for publishers to print them. And that kind of thinking makes me crazy.

When I worked at DC Comics in the 1990s, the marketing department spent a lot of time, money and effort working with the direct market. This makes sense, because it represented something like 85% of our sales. At the same time, to satisfy this market, we would often delay shipping books to other markets (that is, bookstores) so that comic book shops could have a month to six weeks to exclusively offer the product.

And this made me nuts.

I’d like to say it made me nuts for altruistic reasons, that I favored a free market or equal opportunity or something. Instead, my ire was selfish. It was hard to get critical attention for a book that wasn’t available in a bookstore.

Leaving the plight of publicists aside, however, there are lots of other reasons for publishers to offer OGNs. Comic book stores no longer serve every possible customer for graphic story. One retailer mentions Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, saying its a best seller for him, but not doing nearly as well as most collections. And yet, the longest line I saw at the Book Expo trade show this year was for Pope’s autograph, primarily booksellers and librarians.

Those markets also move a lot of books, frequently to an audience that wouldn’t go to a comic book store. Artists and writers (and publishers and publicists) should be encouraged to make money in every possible market available to them.

Which brings me to what I read today. I don’t think any of these are designed to be direct market bestsellers, but I bet they each have a sizable potential readership.

Rick Geary’s Madison Square Tragedy is the story of the murder of Sanford White by Henry Thaw, a story I was familiar with mostly because of Ragtime. Geary’s storytelling is straight-forward, full of detail that brings New York City in the early 1900s to life. With very few words but a deft use of faces and body language, he conveys the tensions among the high society of the time.

And then I reached for Harvey Pekar’s last book, Yiddishkeit, which is two years old but I’m just getting to it now. It’s a history of Yiddish culture going back to the Middle Ages, but my favorite parts are set in New York from the late 1800s to the present. There’s some chronological overlap with Geary’s book, but I don’t think any of the players knew each other. My knowledge of Yiddish comes from Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth, Sholom Alecheim and Isaac Bashevis Singer (whom Pekar loathes), but I loved this book. It reminded me that my people have a long tradition of fighting for social justice while arguing amongst themselves.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my tummy is better but it’s snowing out and that comfy chair is calling. I’m going to check out the highly recommended Cursed Pirate Girl. With luck, I’ll also have a cat in my lap.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Marc Alan Fishman: R.I.P. Collect-ability

Marc Alan Fishman: R.I.P. Collect-ability

Fishman ArtA fine friend of mine – a comic shop retailer, convention promoter, and all around great geek – tasked me with a topic for the week: the death of collect-ability. As a collector himself, my friend postulated that “[It seems like] Marvel Comics no longer has any ongoing series, and everything they create now is a limited series.” Interesting thought, no?

For those paying close attention to the racks these days (which I admit I’ve not… but more on that later), they’d note that within the big two, no issue is numbered over the forties. Between Marvel NOW and the New 52, the industry has taken a shine to newness as the gimmick du jour. Gone are the long-running series that toppled in the hundreds before they were relaunched into new volumes. Serious collectors would amass each issue into their glorious bags and boards, stacks, and boxes.

Devotees of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Action Comics, or Detective Comics would “ride the run” as it were. Through the high times and low, the collector made a simple statement: I want all of this. When the volume ended, a new line in the Overstreet is made and thus, said geek has the ability to opt out and move on. It might also be appropriate to hypothesize that when a volume ended, it did so not at the height of its quality or popularity. As my buddy Triple H might say? It’s always about what’s best for business.

Let us dive into that then, shall we? As a retailer, a #1 is a boon for business. It’s the universal jumping on point for a reader. Sales charts proclaimed that the New 52 was an initial success. As were several gimmicks revolving around funny numbers. Marvel NOW got into the same tactics, albeit under slower pretenses. At the end of the day though, all the ongoing series now sit in their infancy, and it is perhaps leading to an antsy fan base changing titles the way they surf the Internet. Keep producing #1s and you spark the base for a quick jolt of sales each time. The same way TV launches their seasons of new shows. The same way movie studio reboot and relaunch franchises when they want guaranteed money.

I personally am not getting any book with Wolverine in it. I freely admit though that when I see a new Wolverine #1 with a new team I stop and think “maybe I should get in on that kooky Logan business…” Hell, whilst driving home from the New York Comic Con, my Unshaven cohort declared that Matt Fraction was going to write a new Silver Surfer series. Given that I loved the new Defenders mini he did (which I bought, oddly enough, because it was a #1 and I was low on books to buy that week it debuted…), there I sat, hands on the wheel thinking that it’d be worth a try. By the way, I hate the Silver Surfer. He defeated Kyle Rayner in Marvel Vs. DC in the 90’s and I’ve never forgiven him. Yet, the allure of a #1 and a creative team I like is enough to sway my snarky heart. Scary, no?

My unnamed pal noted his sadness that his newer customers would “never get to experience of watching a series / character / creative team grow”, and those words ring true. Ron Marz’s run on Green Lantern anchored my teen years. By watching Rayner grow from a newbie ring-slinger to the true torchbearer of the corps, I built a life-long love of the character. Do I feel the same way about any character I’ve read in the last several years? Hardly.

I love the Superior Spider-Man right now, but I know that love is entirely fleeting. Much as I’d hoped Dick Grayson would hold the cape and cowl of his mentor for more than a hot minute, I knew that the industry I wallow in is one of transitory entertainment. Nothing lasts longer than the sales figures allow them to. When Walt Disney’s petulant corpse and the unseen Brothers Warner loom in the darkness with gluttonous desire, the idea that a paltry four dollar rag be given years to find a voice and mature is as impossible as a mouse actually piloting a steamboat. It’s a small world after all, and it doesn’t run on dreams and candy. It runs on movie and merchandise revenue. Comics these days serve their purpose more for maintaining rights, and collecting otaku for monetary tribute. The business model for doing that simply doesn’t take into account anything more than a bottom line in the black.

One thing I’d be remiss to mention here is how my very own studio has thought of production. Our Samurnauts concept was built to be presented as a maxi-series of mini-series… if that makes any sense. Knowing our audience as we did when we started, it was hard to not want to make everything last only long enough to make it into a trade. Then slap a new #1 on the next mini, and make everyone start back at the beginning. Simply put? When I walk past an indie table, and see a series past even four issues? I’m already walking past for fear of the costly barrier to entry. While the series itself may be absolutely amazing, as a fan, I freely admit that I’m always less likely to buy-in when I know there’s a backload of material to catch up on. Comics aren’t seasons of shows on Hulu or Netflix; they’re commitments of dollars, and as such I’ve ended up becoming a slave to newness.

I open the argument to you, the people of the court. Are Marvel and DC doing you wrong by continued experimentation, relaunching, and ADHD production? Or do you like the idea that you’re never too far away from a jumping on point? Do you find the pulp of today to be too transitive, or do you like to consume your sequential fiction one micro-series at a time?

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

 

The Point Radio: ARROW’s Aim Is Still True


As ARROW  hits the halfway mark of the TV season, fans and critics alike say it keeps getting better. We go backstage with the creators and cast to find out how they got this far, and what lies ahead for new characters including one played by fan favorite John Barrowman. Plus How about Captain Kirk, Ron Burgundy or Spock doing your voice mail message? It can happen if you hurry.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Howie Mandel’s Got Holiday Game

It’s a Christmas tradition at a lot of holiday parties. You might call it “Secret Santa” or “White Elephant” but now it’s getting super-sized and coming to NBC for five consecutive nights. Howie Mandel joins us to talk about what TAKE IT ALL will mean to the landscape of primetime television, plus Neil Gaiman hits radio and WALKING DEAD fans can keep the fear going with a new iOS game.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Kurt Sutter On SONS Bloody End

SONS OF ANARCHY will be wrapping this season on a particularly bloody note, which has been the tone for the last few months. We talked with series creator Kurt Sutter about his plans to keep the tension and betrayal coming. Plus everyone is waiting for the 2nd part of the direct-to-DVD DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Bruce Timm & Andrea Romano join us to talk about what we will and won’t be seeing in the next part set to hit stores in 2013.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

What we’re thankful for, and how you can help ComicMix (and thank you for asking)

At this time of Thanksgiving, we’re thankful to each and every one of you who keeps coming back to the site because you like the people, or the comics, or the occasional snark.  We all know how tough it is out there, not acknowledging that fact doesn’t make it any less tight in the wallet. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history. But we’re glad that you’re here, reading and occasionally commenting.

We’d also like to ask you, if you’re doing any shopping at Amazon this holiday season, do it through us and help us keep the lights on. If you want to support ComicMix every time you shop at Amazon, bookmark this link and use it whenever you do your online shopping.

We are NOT asking you to forgo shopping at your local comic store, far from it. Please support your local shops. If you don’t know if you have one near you, go to our Comic Shop Locator. And if you’re running a store that’s not listed, please add your comic store to our database.

Things may be a bit light over the next few days with holidays and tech stuff, so enjoy yourself and watch out for crazy drivers and rogue TSA agents.