A Tale of Three Comic ShopsA column article, The Squeaky Wheel by: Kyrax2
Before I got into comic books, I knew the location of exactly one comic shop. It was a bit out of our way-- a tiny, poorly-lit, grubby place with boxes and boxes of back issues. I knew about it because my husband used to go there to fill in the gaps in his bronze-age Marvel collection. Sometimes I went with him. Eventually he got tired of it. When I asked him why he'd stopped going there and starting searching out the comics online, he shrugged and said, "The owner was a jerk. I got sick of his attitude."
It was true. Every time we went there, the owner was surly and unpleasant to us, making us feel unwelcome from the moment we walked in the door to the moment we left. We were always polite and respectful, but he acted like taking our money was a chore, and heaven forbid we should actually ask him where we should look for a particular issue.
After I got into comics, I started out looking for them the same way I look for everything else: online. I discovered early on that, while I could purchase individual issues online, unless I was purchasing several at a time, the shipping cost meant I would be paying more than I wanted to. However, I could also subscribe to certain comics through DC's website. Subscribing offered a significant discount off the cover price, and shipping was included. I would have to pay $24.99 up front, of course, but I would get twelve new issues for almost a dollar off the cover price of each.
Still, I decided to seek out other local comics shops in my area. Comic shops sounded like fun, interesting places to go, and, even as a new comics fan, I knew that you're supposed to "support your local comic shop." I found one near my house and headed over one day with my family to check it out.
It was newer than the other one, and cleaner. In addition to a few boxes of back issues, it had a glass case filled with Magic cards. The wall was filled with comic books. My daughter had finger paint on her hands-- the remnants from a birthday party she'd attended that morning-- so the first thing I did was take her to the restroom at the back of the store. We passed by the group of Magic players in the corner, from whom emanated an odor that I can't really put into words.
The bathroom wall was covered with various comic posters, mostly of women in suggestive poses.
We came out (holding our breaths as we passed through the back of the store a second time) and headed up front just in time to hear my husband ask the guy behind the counter if he had a new, popular comic title in stock.
"No," said the man. "We're sold out of it. We won't get any more in for several weeks."
It's difficult to convey in text how dismissive, even hostile, his tone was. His entire attitude came across as, "You're not a real fan because you didn't request this title weeks ago, and you shouldn't be wasting my time asking for it." My husband asked him another question, about whether they sold any of the posters they had on the walls. The man mumbled something about getting them online. Neither of us managed to catch what he said, but I was left with the impression that he really wasn't interested in us or our business.
I don't have a problem with a comic shop selling Magic cards. They're just trying to survive, after all, and there can be good money in cards. And if they do sell Magic cards, maybe they can't really help having odoriferous young men in their shop.
But we get better service at our local 7-11. We left, feeling neither obligation nor desire to return.
I discovered, quite by accident, a third comic shop not far from where I work. It's well-lit and clean. The owner is polite, and he has at least one female employee. It's a bit...sterile-- no posters on the walls, not much in the way of figures or t-shirts. There are two small boxes of recent back issues in the back of the store. Overall, it kind of feels like a Barnes and Noble for comics and trades-- quiet and, honestly, rather dull.
It's now the comic shop I go to when I want to buy comics.
For the past couple of months DC's been offering a really amazing subscription deal: buy 4 subscriptions and get the 5th for free. Thirty-one of their new fifty-two titles are available for $24.99 for twelve issues, with Justice League and Action Comics coming in at $29.99 for twelve issues. They also offer six different kids' titles by subscription for $24.99, and any of these can be included in the deal, for a total of thirty-nine comics to choose from.
Say I subscribe to five of the $24.99 titles. The total with the discount comes out to $99.96 for sixty issues, or about $1.67 per issue. That's 45% off the cover price. Or looking at it another way, it's like buying six and a half issues at the cover price and getting another five and a half issues for free.
Wow. That is a really excellent deal. And it sure makes DC's protestations that they can't possibly reduce the cost of their digital versions without undercutting the local comic shops sound awfully hollow. They could offer the same deal for their digital versions and the comics shops would get the same percentage either way: zero. They could always make the link available to subscribers by a day or two after release if they wanted to simulate potential mailing delays.
I like subscribing to things. I like getting things in the mail, even if I don't always read them right away. I'm not a collector, and I don't care much about re-sale value, but I love a good deal. And I love having the opportunity to tell a company when they're doing something right. I subscribed to Marvel for the first time after reading about Miles Morales, because I was excited about the comic and I wanted to show my support (I haven't regretted it at all). Subscribing to DC's 5-for-4 deal would be a six and a half issue commitment for me on five different titles, yet at the same time, it would send a message to DC that I like those titles enough to commit to them, and that I want to see more like them. It would let me support almost twice the number of titles for the same amount of money (60 issues as opposed to 33). The deal stacks, too-- you can get ten $24.99 subscriptions for $199.92.
I asked the owner of the store if there was any way I could subscribe through them, so they could get a cut and I could get the deal. They said there wasn't.
I love supporting my LCS-- by which I mean, my Local Coffee Shop. I've never been to a Starbucks, but I'll go out of my way to go to my favorite locally-owned cafe. I've bought t-shirts with their logo on them. The atmosphere is great, the people that work there are friendly, the food is yummy and the venue unique. We frequent two different used record stores, both locally-owned, both with awesome, friendly employees.
But I just don't feel the same attachment to any of my local comic shops. I certainly won't go to the first two I mentioned, and I see no reason why I should-- I have better things to do than pay people to be rude to me, especially when I've given them no cause to whatsoever. As for the third shop, it gives me the absolute bare minimum necessary to get me in the door: the owner and his employee are polite, if not exactly outgoing, and I can get the comics I want there. But I feel kind of like I'm stopping at a gas station or something every Wednesday. It's an extra trip I could just as soon do without.
I know there are super awesome comic shops out there. Every time ComicsBulletin.com's own Kate Leth talks about her workplace, Strange Adventures, I want to move to Canada just so I can go there. It sounds like the coolest, funnest place to work, ever. If I had a shop like that near me, I would go there all the time.
As it is, though, I'll probably take DC up on their offer and the local seller will get left out of the loop. It's the best deal on new comics out there. I'd feel guilty about it...but how much emotional attachment do you have to your local gas station?
Do you love your local comic shop? Tell us why! Send us an email at email@example.com or tweet us @ComicsBulletin. Be sure to include a link to the store's webpage (if they have one) and their address. We'll include the best stories in an upcoming article!
You can listen to the audio version of this post below:
Squeaky Wheel Logo by firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyrax2, in her secret identity, is:
A. A part-time model.
B. An ace World War I pilot.
C. A mild-mannered office manager.
She has a bachelor's degree in:
A. Was sent to Earth by her real parents to escape the destruction of their home planet.
B. Is secretly a robot who can remove her own head.
C. Loves comics and reads any she can get her hands on. (I know, this one's pretty farfetched!)
A. Races ultralights for fun and profit.
B. Used to have a crush on Kitty Pryde.
C. Was born during a total eclipse of the sun.
In her spare time she enjoys:
A. Reading (books and comics), writing (fiction and non), gaming (everything from tabletop wargames and RPGs to Cardcaptor Sakura, Tetris, Rock Band, and DCUO) and watching TV (mainly anime, animated superhero cartoons, and Rifftrax).
B. Building emissions-free vehicles out of recycled materials.
C. Alligator wrestling.