Tagged: Dewey’s Comic City

Ed Catto: On the Road Again – Free Comic Book Day

Main Street Comics FCBD 8 Carl and WillSaturday was Free Comic Book Day, the amazing annual event where the world celebrates comics by giving away a few free comics to one and all. And by a few comics, I mean millions!

Fifteen years ago, Joe Field had a wonderful idea that was inspired by a Free Ice Cream Cone Day, and it became a reality. And now it’s grown each year to the delight of fans young and old. Kids, parents, teens, hardcore fans, casual fans, curious potential new fans, advertisers, publishers and retailers helped celebrate the 15th Annual Free Comic Book Day.

This year, I broke my personal record and visited eight amazing comic shops in northern NJ, just outside of New York City. And it was really nine if you count my visit to Main Street Comics on FCBD’s Eve.

Dewey City Lady BlackHawkIt was a great day, as witnessed in many stores.

Constant Cosplay

More than ever, cosplay was an integral part of Geek Culture. I could see that more this year than other years. It’s almost a given that every store will have some excellent cosplayers on the premises. The crowd oohs and ahs while taking photos. It’s all about celebrating the creativity and skills of the cosplayers while providing a bit of live theater.

But it doesn’t end there, as many fans, especially kids, are proud to bring their own cosplay to Free Comic Book Day.

All Ages Means ALL Ages

Main Street Comics FCBD 6 Spidey FanFree Comic Book Day summons fans of all ages. Families with young kids are a staple, but many of the comic shops, like East Side Mags and Funny Books, lured the curious into the fray from their respective downtowns. We used to use phrases like “the young and the young at heart” as a euphemism for “old”, but we don’t have to beat around that bush any more do we?

I saw more than a few older fans, and they were just as eager to pick up comics as the preschoolers.

Cool Folks Doing Cool Things

Dewey City Deadpool HarleySeveral stores, like A & S Comics, Zapp Comics and Dewey’s Comic City had artists on hand to provide sketches and drawings for fans. Other shops had some very interesting folks on premises, including:

  • Time Warp hosted Jennifer Lynn Parson, the editor of Luna Station Publishing, a line of books by female creators.
  • Region 99, a magazine that celebrates creativity through diversity, was also at the Time Warp store. Important to aspiring artists – Region 99 sponsors artists at New York Comic Con, and are now accepting submissions. It sounds like a great way for artists to get onto the convention floor.
  • The Einhorn’s Epic Cookies team was at East Side Mags, selling their unique cookie and comic product. I hadn’t had one in a while, and I was glad I did. Yum!
  • Comic Explosion hosted Mike Stein of the Starfleet, a Star Trek club that meets monthly across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • Funny Books FCBD 1 Cap Batman EdParadox Comics offered their annual Coloring Contest – encouraging fans to bring back their colored pages in one week.
  • In the East Side Mags tents was Keiki Explorer’s Club – a summertime club that takes kids on daytrip adventures!

A Yearly Expectation of Geek Culture

Time Warp FCBD 3 Luna Station Jennifer Lynn ParsonsAfter 15 years, Free Comic Book Day is now at that point where all the fans seemed to get it. And they look forward to the fun in a patient way.

The fans seemed to understand that only designated comics were free. They all seemed to know where to go and how to navigate the stores.

But it’s also worth noting that by the 15th year, all the stores seemed very prepared for the crowds. There was plenty of staff on hand and just about all the stores seemed as geared up and ready to sell comics and other merchandise, as they were ready to give away free comics.

TIme Warp FCBD 6 BillAnd most amazing to me is the diverse crowd of comic fans and how they seemed to get along. And I don’t think that only happens on a day like today. There were so many different people attending FCBD, people that would not typically have the opportunity to speak to one another during a typical day. But here they all were – grabbing their comics, debating the latest comic book movie, marveling over the amazing discounts and sweet deals – and enjoying a moment with other people who share a similar passion.

It was a great event and a great party. I’m already looking forward to FCBD’s Sweet Sixteen!

For the record, I’d like to thank the following New Jersey comic shops, and their hard -working staff, for throwing some great parties today:

  • A & S Comics, Teaneck
  • Paradox Comics, North Arlington
  • A & S Comics FCBD 2Comics Explosion, Nutley
  • East Side Mags, Montclair
  • Time Warp, Cedar Grove
  • Dewey’s Comic City, Madison
  • Funny Books, Lake Hiawatha
  • Zapp! Comics Cards and Toys, Wayne

And one more thank you to Main Street Comics in East Middletown, NY and More Fun Comics and Games in Denton TX, where my brother and my nieces celebrated FCBD.

Ed Catto: What Makes the Best Comic Shops?

Deweys Comic City

In his weekly New York Time column last week, the New York Times’ wine expert Eric Asimov wrote about how to pick a wine store. He stressed that if a person cared about wine and wanted to drink better and more confidently, the best thing one can do is to find a good wine store and then cultivate a good relationship with the staff.

There’s an enormous amount of choices for wine and good stores help consumers select and choose more wisely. They might do this with the way they arrange the wines, or with a friendly and knowledgeable staff or even through handwritten recommendations placed near the wine.

As I reach this wine column, I was drawing the inevitable parallels between wine stores and comics shops. Geek culture also offers such a diverse tapestry of choices. It can be difficult for fans and consumers to navigate through it all without a little curated help. So I reached out to a few smart geek friends to learn hear about their favorite comics shops. Here’s what they had to say:

First up is Dan Greenfield, the editor of the 13th Dimension. As a suburban guy who commutes into New York City, he had some interesting thoughts:

MidtownComicsByLuigiNovi“The best stores are the ones that are clean and make you feel welcome. It’s a simple business approach, really: ‘Be a good store’,” said Dan. “Nobody wants to go into a creepy, grimy hovel, and nobody wants to be ridiculed for their choices. I really look forward to going to Midtown Comics’ Grand Central location on Wednesdays. There’s a real “Cheers” vibe. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and really helpful. The place is brightly lit, too, which really does make a difference. I know a lot of the staff by name and they greet me when I come in. It’s great.”

“I might be spoiled by being in New York but there are more good stores than bad ones around here. There are plenty of choices. But I do know some of those old school, stereotypical stores are still out there. And I’m not knocking old-school stores per se. I love the classic, overstuffed comics shop but if the person behind the counter is gross, I’m never coming back. If they’re friendly, cool, helpful and well stocked, then I’m happy.”

Andrew Walsh is a life-long reader/collector and a regular at New York Comic Con – both as a fan and a professional. He’s often talked about his local comic shop, Comic Zone, and I asked him to elaborate on what makes this store in North Syracuse, N.Y. so popular.

Comic Zone“Why do I love Comix Zone? First: the people,” said Andrew. “Greg the owner (for 25 years) is the coolest! Answers any email, any dumb question, orders all the wacky stuff I read (and that no one else reads). Always smiling, always chatty. Bend over backwards to find something for you, old or new.”

“The three dudes running the register have all been there for years and years. Each Wednesday, I feel very much like Norm, from Cheers. Everybody knows my name. They see me coming and have my weekly pulls already on the counter.”

“I’m always walking into the funnest ‘geek’ conversations. Employee vs. employee, or vs. customers. As you know, us geeks are opinionated, and like to share our opinions. These are conversations you can only have at a comic book store! The PTA meetings aren’t discussing pros and cons of the different Batman actors, and who was the best! (Ahem – Adam West, by the way.) The neighbors at our block party aren’t bashing 90’s Image comics (horrible). Only there, on Wednesday, is where all things nerd are passionately discussed!”

“Comix Zone is awesome at customer appreciation. Several times a year there is “The Big Sale!!” Any back issue priced at 6 bucks or less is 99 cents! And, anything over that is 1/2 off. Wow!! In today’s pricey comic book scene ($6 bucks for a copy of Dark Knight #3), you have to be choosey. I make a mental note of something that looks good, and then when “Big Sale” time comes around, I get there early and swoop them up. I’ve gotten some really good arcs on the cheap! And an even bigger Wow!! for holiday time. Black Friday is almost the same as “The BIG Sale”, except that everything under $6 is 49 cents!“

Rochester _Andrew_Rita_CAjpg“Finally, for one more bout of customer appreciation, the “Weekend Before Christmas BIG Sale” rules. The first 100 people in line get grab bags of 30 bucks plus comics and posters. And ten of those sweet bags contain $100.00 gift certificates. I’ve been lucky to get one twice in the last three years. Boy do I feel appreciated!”

“The store is well lit, always clean, super organized. It has a great sound system, and big TV’s on the wall. I’ve walked in on Ghostbusters probably every three weeks. Raiders of the Lost Ark was on this week, “said Andrew. “Nothing inspires comic book commerce better than a John Williams soundtrack!”

Art Cloos is an educator with a passionate fan streak that runs a mile wide. He writes frequently about comics for Gemstone. Art is always a friendly and familiar face at the many tri-state area comic conventions.

“My standard by which I compare all other comic shops was the first comic book store I ever went to, Little Nemo’s in Forest Hills Queens NY (followed closely by the great Mike’s Comic Hut on Northern Blvd in Queens NY and which deserves a story all its own),” said Art.

“I remember it being near the corner of Ascan Avenue and Austin Street and later discovered Mike Carbonaro had a store right around the corner. This was probably in the mid 1970s when my dad drove me over there after he got home from work one day during the week (we lived in Flushing/Bayside at the time) after a lot of begging on my part.”

“I discovered it thru ads in Marvel Comics and not yet knowing about the Little Nemo comic strip thought the name was rather odd. I later learned that it was one of the earliest comic shops in the country but at that time I did not know that. For me it was the idea that there was a store devoted to just comics that really got the juices going for me and I had to get there and see it ‘live’.”

“In that tiny place I discovered more vintage comics, posters, and original art from the Golden, Silver and the at the time very new Bronze Age on the walls then I ever thought I would see in my entire life.

“It was as over whelming to me as going to my first Phil Seuling Comic Art Convention was in 1974. Of course it smelled like a comic shop with that great paper smell that vintage collectors love. Being a young kid I had no real money to spend but I remember buying something (I suspect a Detective Comics) and I remember the owner whose name I did not know then, Joe Parente, put away a Batman Annual for me on a shelf making the point (quite loudly too) that it would be there when next I could convince my dad to bring me back with money to spend.

“So when you ask me what makes a good comic shop I think Little Nemo recognizing that the comic shops of today probably cannot replicate the sense of wonder that people felt when they entered Nemo’s for the first time but which the best ones still try their best to emulate in some fashion. “

TV Covention KickoffLast weekend saw a valiant effort in the many of the nation’s comic shops. The In-store Comic Convention was designed to be a comic convention in your local comic shop. Interviews and fun promotions were shown locally in participating stores.

I enjoyed the convention at Dewey’s Comic City, a great store in Madison, NJ. For over 20 years, local entrepreneur Dan Veltre has been making geek culture for fans – and this weekend was no exception. I look forward to more great events like this in the future.

And yes, aside from always-enjoyable wine tastings, I don’t thing wine shops have anything on these retailers.

Ed Catto: On the Road, On Free Comic Book Day

You’ve doubtlessly heard of Dante’s Inferno and his seven circles of hell. But did you know he had a couple of sequels, including Paradiso (i.e., Paradise)? I touch upon this I think that for so many geeks across the world, Free Comic Book Day is a uniquely shared day of celebration. This year, for this mini-paradise, I embarked on what was a sort of Circle of Free Comic Book Day: a seven store marathon FCBD pilgrimage to learn how it’s changed and why it’s a bigger deal each and every year.

1 Erika and Quincy FCBD momI live just outside of New York City in New Jersey, so I mapped out a plan of action to visit several stores for the 14th Annual Free Comic Book Day. Created by entrepreneur, retailer, visionary and all-around-great-guy, Joe Fields, this holiday has now grown to a worldwide event, distributing an estimated 5.3 million comics, engaging national sponsors and rivaling Black Friday as a geek-centric retail blockbuster.

By its very nature, reading is a solitary event. On the other hand, comics, graphic novels and geek culture are inherently social. Free Comic Book Day offers a bridge across this divide. One of the magical transformations of FCBD is that it turns the experiences of reading/collecting, and typical one-on-one experience between the retailer and the customer, into a shared, event-like experience.
Based on my own very geocentric observations, here’s a few emerging trends I saw in my day long pilgrimage:

4 Mom & Daughter CosplayMore Women, and more Moms. There’s been a lot written about the very healthy explosion of women participating in geek culture, and I saw so much evidence to support this. There many women – on their own, with kids, with other women and with significant others. Of particular note were the moms with whom I spoke. They are a new breed. They are fans that keep up with it along with their kids. The first mom I spoke with, Erika, brought her son Quincy and his friend. She revealed they’ve been buying comics since last free comics day, and was a lapsed Elfquest reader. The boys liked Spider-Man and Batman, but she showed her true colors when she explained she was going to pick up the last two issues of Saga because she was a month behind.

Lauren, another mom, kept here two adorable daughters from getting unruly as she explained she loves Vertigo’s Fables, the Avengers and Saga. Gladys, a mother of two making a mid-day FCBD stop with her family (and another young family), explained that he loves Harley Quinn and was ravenous to read anything with this breakout character.

5 Dad and Son CosplayTwenty-something fan girls were out in force as well. One woman, waiting in line at 4:30 during my final visit of the day, explained she’s a regular buyer, but had to miss last year’s FCBD as she was scheduled to work. She had just finished her shift and headed straight the The Joker’s Child comic store. At Funny Books, cosplay was encouraged and one woman was cosplaying Harley Quinn while another young woman proudly showed off the skirt she had made – and the fabric was adorned with female-empowerment magic items.

Sales Stronger than Ever. Dan Veltre of Dewey’s Comic City said that this year’s FCBD looked to eclipse last year’s event, and that “Free Comic Book Day is now bigger than Black Friday, bigger than Midnight Madness.” But FCBD is more than just a big one-day party. Every retailer realized it’s either the start of a new relationship or a way to strengthen existing ones, and then plans accordingly. Some offer coupons, some provided extra free comic books and one retailer, A&S Comics, encouraged customers at checkout to join their Belly loyalty program.

Creative Cosplay. A few years ago, FCBD might be a time break out a comic-themed T-shirt. This year, it’s an opportunity for many fans and retailers to cosplay. What a fun day for so many kids to cosplay, or the parents who encouraged them. Lego and DK Publishing, two Free Comic Book Day Sponsors, held costume contests in select stores. (Full Disclosure: Bonfire/GeekRiotMedia developed and managed this sponsorship.)

And many retailers got into the act too. Paradox Comics had a bouncer Harley Quinn and a Captain Marvel, with a FCBD, enticing drivers to stop by. Funny Books’ Spider-Man and Black Widow posed with fans, and the storeowner joined the fun as Captain America.

Community Focused. As more and more traditional retailers become less connected to their community, comic book shops seem to be taking the opposite approach. East Side Mags’ owner Jeff Beck worked with the local library to create a banner that fans were invited to draw on during FCBD. This will be on display thorough the summer. Other retailers, like A&S comics, worked out deals to create special coupon offers with other local businesses.

Long Lines and Deep Passion. Every store, throughout the day, I visited had a line full of fans waiting to join the celebration. Zapp Comics explained they had fans camping out starting at 3:30 am Saturday Morning, and there was a long line when they opened their doors at 8:00 am. They ran out of their FCBD comics by 12:30, and by afternoon were offering select current titles they had pulled off the rack so as to not disappoint fans. Some stores, like Dewey’s Comic City used the line wisely, with tents and free sketching from up-and-coming artists from the nearby Kubert Art School. Funny Books hauled the back issues out onto the sidewalk for a 50% sale. “The Free Comic Book Day Weather Gods are smiling upon us once again, “ said Steve Conte. And at the Joker’s Child, there was still a 20-minute wait to get in at 4:30 n Saturday afternoon.

A Busy Day. And as usual, the comic shop retailers were ones that customers turned to for help and recommendations. And sometimes retailers were simply the person with whom they could share the joy of the day. For most of us, neighborhood grocers, pharmacists, barbers and bookstore owners are a thing of the past. I’m glad, as were all the folks in the communities I visited, that we still have local comic shop retailers.

Special thanks to these great retailers (listed in the order of my FCBD visits):

2 Circle of Free Comic Book DayA&S Comics – Teaneck, NJ

Paradox Comics, North Arlington, NJ

East Side Mags, Montclair, NJ

Dewey’s Comic City, Madison, NJ

Funny Books, Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Zapp Comics, Wayne NJ

The Joker’s Child, Fairlawn, NJ