Tagged: ComicsPro

Ed Catto Was Kidnapped by Comic Shop Retailers!

They say what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas, but in this week’s column I’m going to let the proverbial cat out of the bag.

As you may recall from last week, I was recently in Las Vegas at the GAMA trade show convention. This annual gathering is designed to help game store owners (and comic shop retailers) learn about upcoming products, learn best business practices and network.

In my role as a marketing consultant, I was helping a company called TCGplayer.com launch a new platform for retailers. It was hard work to get everything ready in time for the show, but it all paid off with fantastic results. And for a guy like me, it was especially fun to be onstage in a room of 300 retailers and introduce the company’s CEO during the keynote speech. By the end of the show, I helped deliver results that far surpassed their expectations.

Now I’m not sure if I’m a glutton for punishment or if I just really like hanging out at comic shops. But when the trade show ended on Friday, I embarked on a “Vegas walkabout” to visit the local Las Vegas retail shops.

First off was Ralph Mathieu of Alternate Reality Comics. Ralph’s a focused, upbeat retailer who is also a passionate fan. In fact, his amazing wall of original artwork at the back of the store is a bold testament to his passions.

I had met Ralph many years at a ComicsPRO event. Like GAMA, that’s also a trade organization for retailers, but ComicsPRO focuses more on comic shops than card stores – although there is a lot of overlap in both organizations. Back then, I think I met Ralph in the BOOM! Studios Mobile Party Bus… but that’s another story for another day.

Anyways, it was invigorating to see Ralph, and his co-worker Hannah, at his wonderful store. Just as I was wrapping up my shopping, a boisterous quartet burst through the doors!

These bad hombres were comic shop retailers from the GAMA trade show who, like me, were on the local comic shop trail. And there were faces I recognized:

  • Chris Brady is the owner of 4Color Fantasies in California’s Rancho Cucamonga and one of the leaders of ComicsPRO. He’s a wise retailer with a sharp eye and a catalog of great stories. He also brought two other folks from his retail team.
  • Brave New World’s new owner Mike is a big retailer with a big laugh. After a successful marketing career, Mike recently took over this legendary California comic shop. He’s cut from the same cloth as Mongo’s Vultan, Prince of the Hawkmen – he’s full of confidence and drinks deeply from the cup of life!

Once we realized we engaging in similar local retailer visits, these guys kidnapped me (i.e., invited me to tag along) and off we went!

We stopped at two more retailers:

  • Cosmic Comics is a fun store with gorgeous back issue file cabinets. Co-owner Brian Fudge came out from the backroom to chat us all up a bit.
  • MaximuM Comics has several locations and we dropped in at the one in Henderson, NV. That’s a nice suburb of Vegas. We were there on St. Patrick’s Day, and I was especially impressed with their sale on comics-with-green-characters: Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hulk etc.

It was fascinating to spend the week with 400 retailers at the GAMA show, but even more interesting to visit actual retail locations with a few of them. These retailers studied each store we visited with inquisitive and evaluative eyes. They were looking for new retailing ideas. They wanted to know the problems solved with every retail choice. They were instantly able to evaluate everything they saw.

On the way back, we happened across a broken down Mercedes Sprinter van. It was filled with long-legged Las Vegas Dancers and they pleaded with us stay with them and drink martinis while they waited for their tow truck to come.

Well, that part is a total lie. The reality was much more mundane. We wrapped it all up in the early afternoon and went back to our hotel rooms for a nap, and presumably to read our new comics. And, you know what? That was a pretty awesome way to spend an afternoon in Vegas.

Molly Jackson: Breath of Fresh Air

ComicsPro Logo

Last week was the ComicsPRO Members Meeting. In case you don’t know, this is a gathering of the comic industry, creators, and retailers to discuss the future of comics. A lot of interesting bits of news comes out of these meetings but one thing in particular really grabbed lot of attention. Image Comics head Eric Stephenson gave a speech encouraging change and growth for the industry.

You can read the entire transcript online, but some of the highlights included a look back to the history of comics, an encouragement in creativity, a discouragement of too many titles, and a call to think long-term. As he put it “If you – if any of us – are putting short-term needs ahead of long-term thinking: Stop. Stop stunting your own growth by doing things the way they’ve always been done.

My favorite part of the speech still is “If you are a creator – a writer, an artist, both – the legends of yesteryear have done their work. For decades now, we’ve all been standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s time to stop. Let them have their rest. Now is the time to create new characters, to explore new worlds, to tell new stories.

This speech says a truncated version of things that I have asked for in my columns. While it doesn’t specifically call for diversity, he does mention female supporters of comics during his speech. He also mentions that new creativity and voices are needed and should be given room to grow. I can only hope that this call will bring women, LGBTQ, and racial minorities into the view of comic publishers, so that new, diverse stories can be created.

Reading this speech made me feel hopeful and inspired. Someone out there (and at a major player, no less) cares about the future, not just the present. Someone is looking at what the past has cost us but is trying to learn from it rather than repeat it. As someone on the fringe of the industry, I care if it’s here in two decades. As a fan, I care that there is someone who wants to evolve stories rather than rehash them. In fact, it inspires me to create, to envision and to be bold.

There are real challenges ahead for comics, including ways to bring in new readers, rising costs of printing, and digital comics hurting brick and mortar stores. Now, this speech won’t instigate immediate, widespread changes in the industry. No one believes that it will. However, my sincere hope is that it sparks discussion. Real conversations about the current and future state of comics. And as fans, I think we should all hope that the stories keep getting better, new worlds keep getting created, and new creators lead the way.