Tagged: Midtown Comics

Joe Corallo: Five Points for New York

This past weekend was the inaugural Five Points Festival at Pier 36 here in Manhattan. It’s a brand new fan convention organized by Clutter and Midtown Comics. The festival focused on comics and toys on the Saturday and Sunday, with the Designer Toy Awards Friday night, which is run by Clutter. I went with ComicMix’s own Molly Jackson, and we both ended up enjoying the show.

In honor of this being the Five Points Festival, here are my five points about the show.

  1. Great comics guests for a first time show! Midtown Comics really stepped up to bring in a few out of towners like Bryan Lee O’Malley and James Tynion IV, local or pseudo local heavy hitters that don’t appear here too often like Greg Capullo and Sean Gordon Murphy, industry legends that go back to the dawn of the Bronze Age  of comics like Joe Staton who I just chatted with here at ComicMix a couple of ago, and indie comics people like Tee Franklin, a champion of diversity. Fans of Midtown Comics who have been to a lot of their signings over the years would be familiar with many of the names, but they went above and beyond to bring in a great line up for a first year show.
  2. The toys. Molly is far more toy literate than me, but walking around the convention with her was like getting a 101 class in toys. Everything from Funko Pops for about $10 to one of a kind designer toys worth several hundred dollars were on display. They had toy sculptors at tables doing signings and incredibly designed and carefully detailed figures with lines just waiting to see them. It made me wish I was a bit more into toys, but then I remembered I don’t have that much room at home to put them anyway.
  3. The food trucks. They had a nice fenced off area you could access after getting into Pier 36 with a good half a dozen food trucks. The first day we were there we went with some amazing BBQ sandwiches and the second day we had Phil’s Steaks. Molly’s order got delayed at Phil’s Steaks and they upgraded her sandwich and gave her a free order of fries. Couldn’t have asked for better service. Molly and I agreed that they could have used more tables and chairs outside for all the hungry con goers. Hopefully next year.
  4. No panels. Okay, I know some people don’t care about panels and would rather just walk the show floor. I get that, and I’ve done that at my fair share of shows as well. I also get that the venue maybe wasn’t equipped for room big enough and quiet enough to hold panels. They are one of my favorite things to go to at a convention though, and with all the big names in comics and toys that were available it really would have been great to see a few panels. Nothing crazy. Maybe like how MoCCA Fest does it where they just have two panel rooms and a few panels in each room a day. I bitch and moan about conventions that have panels off site, but maybe next year having some panels taking place down the road from the venue would be a good idea. It almost feels like a waste to have Nick Spencer, Scott Snyder, Bryan Lee O’Malley and all these big names and to not get to see them talk about their latest projects. On the plus side, we didn’t have to endure panel audience questions in which people talk about themselves for minutes on end then don’t end up really asking a question. Maybe Molly and I should have a panel about panel questions one day. I don’t know if we’ll take any questions though.
  5. The venue. Pier 36, while possibly not being able to hold panels in it, was a perfectly sized venue for this convention. The con felt well attended without it becoming impossible to move in the venue, you could hear everyone, easily accessible bathrooms without long waits, perfect temperature inside (for me at least), a separate area reserved as a lounge for guests, and a charging station for exhibitors. It really was a nice set up in many ways. A fancy press lounge would have been nice, but as I was there with a Press Pass I’m a bit biased about that. The venue only suffers in that it’s a bit out of the way for most people. The only train close to it is the F and it’s about a ten minute walk from there. And because the F was a bit of a mess this past weekend it took some people a while to get there. I know that’s outside of the control of the convention, but if it is at Pier 36 again next year make sure to give yourself a little extra travel time.

Overall, I really enjoyed Five Points Festival. It was a good show in it’s own right, many of the comic guests and other vendors seemed to do well with sales, and this show fills a void left after ReedPOP stopped doing Special Edition NYC which was a fun show that I miss and was in some ways more fun than NYCC.

Anyway, I haven’t watched the new Twin Peaks yet, so I have to get going. No spoilers please!

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: Nerd Rage – Is It Clobberin’ Time?

Supergirl_v.5_36There are two sides to every coin. I usually write the incredible passion fans have for Geek Culture. This week I’m thinking about Nerd Rage.

This term probably started as a way to describe frustrations in video gaming. But it is now generally used to describe the intense anger that arises when fans vehemently disagree with development plans or ongoing creative efforts for a brand, mythology or intellectual property with which they disagree.

You’ve seen many examples of Nerd Rage. During the yuletide release of the new Star Wars movie, it seemed as if the whole country waited with bated breath for the core fans’ judgment. There had been months of speculation prior to the debut. Would fans approve or shake their virtual fists with the fury of Nerd Rage?

Sports radio is, in many ways, founded on the concept of Nerd Rage, although they’d never call it that. “Real fans” offer their own opinions on the activities, plans and choices made by coaches, teams and players. And all too often, the fans are angry. That makes good radio, I guess.

The-angry-fanboyAnd closer to home, this past month DC Comics announced their mythology would be undergoing a “rebirth.” Fans anxiously gritted their teeth in anticipation of yet another rejiggering of the fictional background and histories of the characters.

“Nerd Rage is not a joke – fans get upset when their favorite mythologies are changed,” said Gerry Gladston, CMO/CLO of Midtown Comics. As a long-time fan and one of the architects of a best-in-class comic retailer, Gerry has a unique perspective on the ramifications of Nerd Rage.

“Midtown Comics’ long term official observation demonstrates that a large percentage of fans tend to cool off after the initial exposure to their Nerd Rage trigger, and often embrace it if they deem the new direction to be of high quality and to add substance to the mythology,” explained Gladston.

angry-girl-wallpaperRich Johnston is the founder of BleedingCool.com, a leading geek focused news site. With his knack for uncovering rumors of industry changes, he routinely offers prophetic glimpses that often trigger Nerd Rage. “The things we love, inspire passion. People damaging the things we love, inspire hate,” said Johnston. “There’s only so much nerd rage because there’s so much love in the first place. Just sometimes that love … can be seriously misplaced.”

A little while back, Fast Company ran an article called “Why Being Hated Isn’t the Worst Thing For Your Brand.” Tom Denari explored the idea that brands being noticed, and achieving a level of salience, is more important than being liked. He also noted that it’s natural that brands that are loved by many, like The Yankees or Duke University, are also hated by many.

But when it affects sales of a brand or product, that’s a problem. “In cases where a new direction for a mythology is not found to add substance, nor otherwise make sense, Nerd Rage can cause fans to jump off,” said Gladston. And that’s what happened with DC Comics’ last few rebooting initiatives.

article-1283295-0395DFA4000005DC-224_233x333J.C. Vaughn, Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing explains that there are no simple answers in these new directions. “It’s easy to come up with the editorial-or management-driven dictates that have chased readers away in comics, but I’d like to concentrate on one that sparked a fair bit of outrage before it came out and then turned out to be one of the greatest runs in comics history. For years, there were two deaths in the Marvel universe that were sacrosanct, Uncle Ben and Bucky. And then Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting brought back Bucky, made him a Soviet-era pawn responsible for deaths across six or seven decades, and Cap’s foe. Tell me that twelve years ago and I would have thought you were insane (even then, though, I wouldn’t have thought you should be killed). And the result was a truly great, long run on the comic and a wonderful film.” That film, of course, was Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Vaughn concludes that story-driven changes often justify creative change-ups. “We’re talking about fiction after all. On the other hand, we’ve seen the fallout of change for the sake of change.”

But there is a problem when Nerd Rage becomes irrational.

“Nerd Rage is sort of a big boat and a lot of things from irritation and justifiable anger are getting lumped in with out-of-control vitriol that truly has no place in civilized discourse,” said Vaughn.

“Make a website because you know Greedo did not shoot first? Rag on George Lucas for such decisions? Sure thing. I’ve got your back. Saying or posting that a reporter should be killed because she doesn’t ‘get’ Star Wars? Are you kidding? Do you have no sense of proportional response? The world is a pretty horrible place. Comics, movies, books, and video games are among our escapes. And you feel comfortable saying someone should be killed for thinking other than the way you think? You are the problem, not the person you’re criticizing,” said Vaughn.

What’s that old Oscar Wilde quote? “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Ed Catto: Murphy Anderson – A Legend and a Gentleman

kryptonite_snack2

The world lost just lost another shining light: a brilliant artist who regularly shared his vision of heroes and adventures as he created countless pages of comics and an upstanding gentleman who shared his vision of living life with courtesy, kindness and class as he led by example.

Jet-Pack Captain-Action MURPHY ANDERSONMurphy Anderson passed away Friday at age 89. He had been struggling in recent years, but it’s still a crushing blow to those who loved the man and his work. Murphy, a prolific comic artist, was in facet one of the first wave of “fanboys” to turn professional. He was a big Lou Fine fan, and you can see wisps of that great artist’s work in Murphy’s figures and rendering. Murphy was also an enormous Buck Rogers fan and would one day professionally illustrate the adventures of this hero. He had a rich career in comics’ Silver and Bronze Ages, but also enjoyed great entrepreneurial success, managing the Army’s PS Magazine and running his own color separation business.

Murphy was an especially important artist in the Sixties, establishing the artistic gold standard of many iconic heroes for a generation of fans. His Justice League covers showed the world exactly how the leading DC heroes should look. His images of heroes like Hawkman and the Atomic Knights provided clear and engaging thrillers with solid storytelling. And his inking over so many great artists, from Gil Kane to Carmine Infantino to Curt Swan, provided something close to a house style that reflected the refined, best-in-class attitude of the DC line of that day.

Murphy was one of those rare artists who could compose fantastic stories with full artwork (pencils and inks), and yet, with his fine and precise inking, partner to make almost any artist to a little bit better. Even usual pairings, like Murphy inking over Neal Adams’ innovative and hyper-realistic pencils, produced memorable artwork, visual singing in perfect harmony.

JLofA-1A Gentleman and His Women

The females that Murphy drew were consistently pretty, but demure. They all combed their hair, had applied their make-up ‘just so’ and had spotless complexions. Any young man would feel confident in bringing a girlfriend who looked like a Murphy Anderson woman home to mother.

For me, that all changed when DC adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars series. In this series, a cavalry solider adventures on Mars amidst exotic landscapes and bizarre aliens. But many of the Martian cultures eschewed excessive clothing. And the strip’s love interest, the beautiful Dejah Thoris, was no exception. She was a raven-haired beauty with whom the hero was madly in love. And when Murphy drew her, it was very easy to understand why any man would be head-over-heels for her.

This series also provided Murphy opportunities for creative and non-traditional panels and page layouts. But these innovations were lost to many of us, as the eye was distracted by the beautiful figures and lush inking.

Years later, during one of my lunches with Murphy, I brought along several John Carter comics issues of Weird Worlds for Murphy to autograph. I hadn’t realized it before, but his son, Murphy, Jr., who often accompanied us, was a dead ringer for John Carter!

gospel-supermanMan And Superman

For me, the quintessential Superman will always be inked by Murphy.

As the Silver Age wound down, Murphy’s inks on Curt Swan’s 70’s Superman helped update the character, making him a little hipper and more relevant. Murphy’s inks rejuvenated the strip, with a more realism, longer sideburns and a vulnerable humanity. For me, the images of Superman casually eating a Kryptonite meatball (the deadly substance was temporarily rendered harmless) helped humanize the character in ways previously never imagined.

Murphy was a one of the most polite gentlemen I’ve ever met, and surely was not comfortable with being asked to “fix” the Superman renderings of Jack Kirby in Jimmy Olsen or Mike Sekowsky in Supergirl. But he was a true professional, and the editorial dictate of the day demanded that Superman look “on point”. And while I hate to see other artists’ work modified in this manner, now one could argue that a Murphy Anderson Superman sure looked like the real Superman.

One time as a child, my family was visiting my dad’s alma mater, Cornell University, for his Homecoming. After the football game, we were shopping at the campus bookstore and I found a curious book. It was called The Gospel According to Superman by John T. Galloway, Jr. The cover showed Superman, rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, flying over a small town church. At that time, the last thing I was interested in was theological philosophy, but I somehow knew this was legitimate and important because it had the ‘”real” Superman on the cover. And although I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, the “real” Superman meant an image rendered by Murphy Anderson. My mom and dad thought I was nuts when I started begging for this strange, hybrid book, but as they were more understanding than even Ma & Pa Kent, in the end they relented. I read the book, but I really loved that cover.

Captainaction1exclusiveAbout this period, there was a life-sized Superman poster offered via mail order in the DC comics. The 6-foot poster, rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, was impressive and overwhelming. Superman was flying up through the clouds complete with a peace sign hand gesture. I’m not sure why, but I brought it to my Second Grade class and it was hung on the blackboard for a day. I might have trying to impress my beautiful teacher, Mrs. Beardsley, but that’s another story for another day. I’m sure my thinking then was “What woman wouldn’t be impressed with Murphy Anderson art?”

The first time I met Murphy was in 1984 at an Ithaca Comic Convention. Now, the year before I had the distinct pleasure of being the inker for a penciled Superman image provided to us by Curt Swan. It was a valiant effort, but I was certainly no Murphy Anderson when it came to inking. As you have gathered by now, my visual“ gold standard” for Superman was the character as inked by Murphy Anderson.

At the convention, I thought maybe this provided me a kinship to Murphy Anderson. While I’m sure he was mentally rolling his eyes at me, I recall his overwhelming politeness. He almost made me feel that he and I were part of an exclusive club, having both inked Curt Swan. That’s preposterous, of course. But somehow Murphy’s most amazing talent, far beyond his art skills, even surpassing his entrepreneurial efforts, was his amazing ability to make a person feel special by just speaking with him.

Ready for Action

Flash Murphy AndersonMurphy was the quintessential artist for one character even though he never drew the character’s comics adventures. In 1966, Murphy Anderson was chosen to be an important contributor to a toy called Captain Action. Much the same way that Barbie could become a teacher or an astronaut, or GI Joe could become an infantryman or a frogman, Captain Action could become other superheroes via costume sets. For many of these toys, the packaging artwork was expertly provided by Murphy.

He created images for the packages featuring heroes like Batman, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Superman, Aquaman, Superboy, Robin and Aqualad. As the line progressed, Murphy also created impactful representations of Captain Action on in a variety of poses for expansion sets. And when the line was extended to include heroines, Murphy outdid himself with gorgeous packaging illustrations for Batgirl, Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Mera, the Queen of the Seven Seas.

Years later, Joe Ahearn and I would acquire the rights to Captain Action and one of the first things we did was to bring Murphy back onto the project. How thrilled we were when he agreed to pencil and ink a new Captain Action comic cover! He agreed to recreate the classic Batman and Robin rooftop image, which was originally a poster by penciled Carmine Infantino and inked by Murphy. In the updated version, it’s Captain Action and his sidekick, Action Boy, on the rooftop, as Lady Action flies by in the Sliver Streak. Gerry Gladston, the CMO of Midtown Comics, loved the idea and we made the cover an exclusive variant.

We had discussed him doing another cover for Captain Action. The vision for this was to pay homage to Justice League of America #1’s cover, where the Flash and Despero were playing a game of Kalanorian chess – using JLA chess pieces. My vision was to have Captain Action facing off against Dr. Evil with chess pieces of all the Captain Action costume sets, but it wasn’t meant to be. At that point, Murphy just didn’t feel he could pull it off with the standard of excellence he demanded of himself.

* * *

Murphy was a Tarheel, who made good in New Jersey, and was surrounded by a loving family and adoring fans. I had studied his thoughtful inking for most of my life, but when gifted with his friendship, I soon realized that there were so many bigger lessons to be learned from this humble, kind-hearted man. Murphy we’ll miss you and thanks for showing us how it’s done.

Black Canary Murphy Anderson

Ed Catto: The Retail Panel That Started 35 Years Ago

Maxwells Another one of the panels I moderated at San Diego Comic-Con was called “The 7 Comic Shop Archetypes.” “Who Will Triumph, Thrive and Survive?” was the admittedly over-the-top subheading. The purpose of this B2B panel was to explore the business aspects of this retail outlet that serves as both the sentry guard and encouraging ambassador for the exploding world of Pop Culture. In many ways, comic shops are on the frontier of one-to-one customer service for many communities and customers.

IMG_2923I was excited to start this panel on that Saturday of SDCC, but I think it really started way back in the ‘70s. I clearly remember that point where I had graduated to buying my own comics each week. Before that, my dad had bought me a comic each Sunday after our traditional Italian Pasta Dinner. He’s a very generous guy, and sometimes still buys me comics. Now I had reached a point where I was really into purchasing comics myself with money I earned. Imagining myself as a “world’s greatest detective type,” I took great pride in discerning the shipping schedules for all the comics.

I learned that Thursday was the day they’d rack the new comics. And then I decrypted the Marvel monthly schedule. The Avengers always showed up on the first week of the month, then Captain America and Thor the second week, Spider-Man was the third week and Fantastic Four was always the last week of the month. This was well before the Diamond Previews catalog existed, and I was still a couple of years away from discovering fanzines like The Comic Reader.

So each Thursday I’d ride my bike down to Maxwell’s Food Store at Five Points in Auburn, NY. In typical upstate New York fashion, this was a wonky place where five roads intersected. Maxwell’s, a family owned store, was a kind of “prototype 7-11” style convenience store. When I was there, the stock boy always lurked about, suspicious that I would steal comics. After a while I tolerated that. But I never got used to the “aren’t you a little old for those funny books?” stare from them all. Thankfully, I think that’s stigma’s finally been erased for today’s comic buyers.

One day, on my way home, with my stack of new comics, I saw an incredible sight. Right next to the local barbershop, a man and a woman were moving boxes into the tiny storefront. (We never got our hair cut there – he wasn’t Italian). And they had a sign out front: Kim’s Collectible Comics and Records.

Wow!

I was jumping outta my skin. I introduced myself and pestered them, anxious to go into their store. But they just weren’t ready and explained they were opening the next day. They gave me the “come back tomorrow” line, and I sure did.

The next morning, I was there waiting for them to open up…. and, as you can guess, I went back again and again.

Since then, I’ve always had the good fortune of having a great local comic shop in all the places I’ve lived:

  • Comics For Collectors in Ithaca
  • Million Year Picnic, New England Comics and Newbury Comics in Boston
  • Chapel Hill Comics when I was doing my graduation work at UNC (“Go ‘Heels! Dook sucks!”)
  • Joker’s Child when we settled down in New Jersey
  • Midtown Comics & Jim Hanley’s Universe were perfect for a weekday visit when I commuted into NYC

And now I’m lucky that I can always rationalize a comic shop trip when I’m traveling.

Comic Shops are an important lynchpin for Pop Culture. They also represent a vanishing breed of community-based retailer. Most of us no longer have a neighborhood butcher, a neighborhood vacuum-cleaner-repairman or a neighborhood bartender. Even the person who does your hair probably doesn’t have an exclusive relationship with you. Some of us are lucky enough to have independent, neighborhood bookstores, but not many.

But to many consumers, comic shops are the place where they can find a friendly advisor as they walk down the perilous path of pop culture. And at the same time, they provide a real world “water cooler” opportunity to speak face-to-face with someone passionate and knowledgeable.

Last year at this time, Business Insider proclaimed, “The Comic Book Industry is On Fire, and it’s not just the movies.” Reporter Gus Luben talked about the increase in graphic novels and comics and about the perfect storm of media exposure and conventions. They projected the sales of just comics and GNs at $870 Million at that time. As you’ve been seeing if you’ve been paying attention, that’s all just increased and intensified in 2015.

In my job, as I help connect brands with pop culture in authentic ways, I know that more companies and marketing agencies take geek culture more seriously. Smart marketers understand how important comics shops can be in developing those conversations and relationships. You didn’t have to attend my SDCC panel to understand that.