Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Places to buy comics should be good, too

Over the weekend I flew back to Pennsylvania for a wedding of a friend of mine, but last Friday I had nothing to do, so I made a pilgrimage 100 miles west of where I live to Camp Hill, a suburb of Harrisburg, and visited Jason Richards at Comic RIOT! Those of you who read Jason's blog know he opened his store a few months ago with the intention of focusing more on independent comics than just superhero stuff from the Big Two, and I was interested to see how it was going and how his "comics lounge" thing was working out. So here, dear reader, is my report.

Now, I have been in a lot of comic books shoppes in my life. My favorite continues to be Excalibur Books and Comics in Portland, but Jason's is right up there. First of all, he understands that comics shoppes are businesses, not hobbies. I like my current comic book store (which doesn't have a web site or even e-mail, as the owner is stuck in the 1960s, I think), but it feels like a place that would be run out of someone's basement. I'm not kidding when I say that they argue endlessly about how many costumes Cyclops has worn over 40 years (that's my "go-to" nerd story when I talk about my store, as I have gone to it before). Jason doesn't think that way. He wants his store to be well lit, clean, modern-looking, and, well, like a business. And he does it well. Here's a couple of pictures of his store:

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The second picture is the lounge area, where he encourages people to hang out and watch television, which at the time was showing cartoons. Jason hasn't left the geekiness completely behind, people! In the first picture, the center bookshelf is completely taken up with independent comics trades. It's a joy to see so many indy books, arranged nicely (some by series, obviously, but some by creative talent, which is a good way to do it) and featured prominently. It's not only new stuff, either, but a lot of older work. He has plenty of superhero Marvel and DC stuff, but it's not front and center. Let's face it - if you want the superhero stuff from the Big Two, you will find it. The indy stuff needs to be featured more at stores, and it's nice to see.

You also notice the wide open spaces and the good lighting. Never underestimate the power of appearances. Again, I have to compare Jason's store to others I have been to. At Excalibur, it's more cramped than Jason's, because they sell back issues and a lot of space is taken up by long boxes. Jason doesn't have that inventory yet. However, Excalibur still has good lines in which to walk, and it is bright and welcoming. It's still a comic book store, though, and it feels like one. Here in Arizona I often go to Atomic Comics, which is also run like a business and not a hobby. It's a chain, so I am a little disposed against it, but I still go there and spend money. Both Atomic Comics I go to (the one in Mesa and the one in Chandler, for ArizonaTeach) are nicely laid out and the staff is friendly and willing to help. There's still a whiff of comic book geekiness, but that's okay - it's comics! Atomic has plenty of independent comics featured, which is nice. The one problem I have with Atomic is that their salespeople sometimes try too hard - I've been collecting comics longer than some of their employees have been alive (okay, maybe not, but close), and I know what I'm looking for. I don't mind them asking me if I need anything, but if I say I'm fine, I'm fine!

I hung out at Comic RIOT! for a while and checked out Jason's inventory. I picked up the first trade of Gotham Central (not bad); Essential Amazing Spider-Man Volume 7 (I LOVE the Essential Spider-Mans); Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards by Jim Ottaviani, which I had been looking for ever since David Carter sent me the free preview, and which I missed ordering from Previews and could not find anywhere (which is why Jason's store is good); the Come In Alone collection by Warren Ellis, most of which I read online years ago but still dig; and Comic Wars: Marvel's Battle for Survival by Dan Raviv, about which I've heard good thing. Jason has plenty of books about comics, too, which is a good thing. Because I am a comics geek, I like reading books about comics, and often can't find them in bookstores, because they're in weird places, instead of, you know, with the comics.

Here's Jason ringing me up. Note again the bold design of the store, with the star painted on the wall.

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I can't stress enough how different Comic RIOT! is from most stores - perhaps it's the newness of it, and eventually it will turn into a nerd hangout, but right now, it's the kind of place non-comics readers would be comfortable in. And because this is a business, you can still appeal to your core demographic while trying to attract new customers, right?

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Here Jason says hello and asks people to come to his store! As he explained to me, the problem with his kind of store is that superheroes still dominate the industry, and the two stores in his area sell almost exclusively superheroes. The buzz indy stuff gets on the web is great, but in the real world, the people who buy a lot of indy stuff are spread all over the place, and can't make trips to Camp Hill every week. So the issue is how to get people to take chances with their comics purchases, because people like the familiarity of Batman and Spider-Man. As I've said before, there's nothing inherently wrong with superheroes, but there is a lot of good stuff out there that has nothing to do with superheroes too.

I had a great time at Comic RIOT! Jason is a personable guy (even though he's a Miami Hurricane fan - boo!) and he understands the business. He also knows enough people to get Dean Haspiel and Brian Wood to come to his store for a signing in November. I hope it's a success for him, and I hope he keeps fighting the good fight. If you're in the area, I highly recommend you stop by. And even if you're not, you can still buy a T-shirt from him. He'll mail it to you!

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Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Ditto! Jason and R!ot rock, and are definitely on my Top 5 list of favorite comics shops/retailers. And the T-Shirts are trés cool, too.

10/18/2005 07:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen a couple stores like this, The Beguiling in Toronto for instance, and I always feel kinda weird going in there. I like to go slumming.

Seeing a couple of guys arguing about how many costumes Cyclops has worn puts me at a comfort level, y'know, like "No mistake about it, I've crossed the border into a nerd safezone." I can go through the boxes looking for copies of Alan Moore's SUPREME run or the DOOMFORCE SPECIAL and feel like no one's going to sneak up behind me and snicker. Also, there's the added bonus that likely none of my coworkers or anyone I know are going to be there, because let's face it, whenever ordinary people hear you read comics you're an automatic weirdo.

Going into these artsy new stores they always have copies of pretentious art books about cartooning and the Comics Journal. No offense, but the Comics Journal is the smarmiest piece of shit I have ever seen, and I'm pretty well acquainted with critical research journals, which after reading the CJ I can tell is sort of what they're aiming for. As a reader I find this kind of craving for respectability, like these people hate what it means to be a fan, to be enough to really turn me off comics. I'd really rather be weird where I can and I hope that these kind of shops aren't going to take over.

10/18/2005 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

Anonymous, if I disagreed anymore, my head would explode and I'd shit copies of WIZARD magazine until my ass bled from papercuts.

Admittedly, I'm a snobby TCJ reader guy myself (and, yes, boy, do they not live up to a critical research journal--on that, I agree. But I enjoy it, just like you enjoy DOOMFORCE SPECIAL or whatever it is you like, for its merits and despite its flaws).

I mean, what's wrong with having the pretentious art books AND the capes-n-tights stuff, with some manga thrown in the mix? Sure, a store can diversify by carrying gaming stuff, clothing and figures, but they can also diversify in the comics they carry.

What I like about stores like Riot!, Rocketship, Jim Hanley's Universe, the Isotope, Comic Relief and the other fine retail spots out there is that they're not only welcoming to the well-developed nerds we all are, but they're also inviting to the nerds yet to be, and to the casual browser who decides "you know, this shit isn't for me."

Take for example Mrs. Cunard, nascent nerd. When we first started dating, I noticed a big pile of EC Comics reprints from Russ Cochran. I didn't take it as my cue to start pushing things on her, primarily because comics kind of lost out to other expenses for a few years, and my interest was waning in the wake of the '90s holofoil/kewl/speculation era. But I thought it was neat. Once I started getting back into comics, I had her come in my hometown shop while we were visiting my folks. The atmosphere wasn't conducive to the non-geek. I never really noticed the "talk to the chest" phenomenon until we were getting rung up. I thought it flattering, but it gave her the skeevies. Still, she puts up with a lot of things from me, and added "shop here once or twice a year" to her list of Things I'll Make Ed Pay For Eventually.

Then we were driving around State College one day, and I asked if we could pop in to the shop there. She didn't want to, so I had to promise to be quick. That store, unlike the one in my hometown (which, oddly enough, had boarded up shop sometime before my last visit home) is well-stocked from all angles of geekdom, has nothing really saying HUB OF ALL THINGS GEEKY, and boasts a rather polite staff.

"This isn't so bad," she said, eyeing up some actual EC issues from the '50s.

The next time we were in Manhattan, we were staying a block or two away from Jim Hanley's Universe (which was my "other" shop growing up--I couldn't always make the trip into the city, but when I did, it was on), and she asked, "Is it like the one in the Poconos, or like the one in State College."

"Better than State College."

Man, she loved that store. She started checking out the Gemstone EC Archive editions there, which gave me Christmas shopping ideas.

So, she's a casual reader now. If she's in the mood, she'll ask if I have anything I think she might like. She found the Crayon Shinchan manga on her own. And she's surprised me by going into the local store here, picking me up things like the R. Crumb Handbook or even the Ultimate Spider-Man trades.

She'll never be a regular customer, I don't think, but it's nice that if she's in the mood to find something for herself (or to buy something for me), she can walk into a store and not feel out of place.

As a reader I find this kind of craving for respectability, like these people hate what it means to be a fan, to be enough to really turn me off comics.

Being a fan doesn't have to mean anything. A fan can just be someone who likes something, whether it's debating who'd win, Thor or Silver Surfer, or whether Jaime or Gilbert is the more talented Hernandez brother. If we weren't fans, we wouldn't be going out of our way to blather on entirely too long in a Comics Should Be Good comment section (or anywhere on the internerd, for that matter), because we would be engaging in other activities that appealed to us more.

You say you don't want these shops to take over. I don't want that either, exactly. But I don't see how having them around hurts anything; in fact, I'd wager it helps more than anything else.

10/18/2005 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I was going to respond to Anonymous, but Ed did it so beautifully. There's nothing wrong with being a huge geeky superhero fan, and Jason certainly caters to them - he has trade paperbacks of superheroes out the wazoo AND up the ying-yang, but it's nice to see him trying to cater to the non-fans and the people like me, who have lost a little bit of interest in standard superhero fare over the years (despite remaining a hardcore fan). Sure, there's comfort in the comics stores that flaunt their "geekiness," but not everyone likes that, and if a casual fan who wants to get further into reading comics goes into one of those places, they might get turned off quickly, and that's no good.

I don't even read TCJ, so I'm not really that highbrow. I like other stuff than who dies in Infinite Crisis, though, and it's cool that some stores are starting to recognize that.

And I don't mean to get personal, but you need to be prouder of being a comics geek. Who cares what "ordinary" people say? What, those "ordinary" people who collect Hummels or obsessively read about Britney Spears' demon child? Or those "ordinary" people who paint their face at football games? Yeah, real ordinary. Flaunt your love of comics, pal!

10/18/2005 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

[PLUG]And you can flaunt your love of comics by wearing one of those "I Read Comics" t-shirts Jason produced to sell at Riot.[/PLUG]

Although, after seeing Alex's shirts at Rocketship, I think Jason's got stiff competition in the Dope Geek Fashion awards.

10/18/2005 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

While I can understand anonymous' hesitation about "stores like this," what I liked about R!ot is that Jason offers a nice balance of mainstream and indie, without any condescending attitude, while primarily focusing on providing a pleasant retail experience to everyone whom walks into his store. He didn't bat an eye when I rolled in with my wife, two friends, and our four kids combined! Rocketship, on the other hand, does give off a certain sense of TCJ snobbishness (online, at least) that I tend to find off-putting. I still plan to check it out one of these days, though.

Ed: The Poconos store, is it the one in Stroudsburg? (Or is that East Stroudsburg?) Main street, comics & gaming mix?

10/18/2005 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

That'd be it.

10/18/2005 09:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The DOOMFORCE special was a one issue offshoot of Grant Morrison's DOOM PATROL run. Written by Morrison, art by Keith Giffen and Mike Mignola.

And guys, I know what you're saying, but here's my argument for the nerd kingdoms rather than another squeaky clean, just like every other retail store, comic shops:

I like going through back issue bins. The dirty, grungy cloisters are filled with random issues of one-off greatness. For every issue of IRON MAN, which has always sucked, you can find issues of Morrison's DOOM PATROL and MARVELBOY, the BORN AGAIN arc from DAREDEVIL, hell the pre BORN AGAIN issue where DD fights Gladiator by the same MILLER/MAZZUCHELLI team that is their best work ever, AZTEK, early HELLBOY, Moore's SUPREME,FLEX MENTALLO, O'Neill and Cowan's QUESTION series and whatnot. I have yet to find an arty store that has original runs of either of these series. True nerd domains are full of this shit.

I hate being scolded by somebody who as soon as you open the cover yells "This isn't a library!" Or who make you drop off bags at the front counter.

I would much rather hear talk from fans who are excited that Superman Prime is back than someone pissing on and on about what's wrong with Bendis' writing. I can read a thousand pages on Ronald Syme's studies of Tacitus and love every minute of it, but a ten minute rant or exploration on why Bendis is bad or that ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN sucks, or praising Garth Ennis is enough to make me shit.

Oh, and goddamn it, why does every clerk in these new stores have the ironic black frame nerd glasses? It just strikes as posturing. Like all nerds everywhere are enrolling in uniforms.

(As a side note I will step up to the plate and defend ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN, somewhat feebly. I thought the "goddamn Batman" line was hilarious. Robin/Dick Grayson functions as a surrogate for the reader. He's not a superhero when the story opens, just a kid, and he plunges right into Batman's world ASAP. No friggin' around exposition wise, just shoot his parents in the head and drop him in. He sees Batman for the first time and asks who he is. "Who am I? Are you dense? Are you retarded or something? I'm the goddamn Batman." In other words "I'm a goddamn superhero, we've only been around a hundred friggin' years. You know who I am." This is kind of a neat comment on how the ALL-STAR line is a lie. There is no new audience for Batman. Everybody knows who BATMAN is.)

And no, I'm not proud to like comics. Comics are for kids. Adults should be able to read stories that run longer than 22 pages. If someone who's not a fan catches you reading one you're immediately regarded as infantile. It doesn't matter what their hobbies are, liking stories about cartoon men who dress up in tights and fight each other is far, far, lower. And I will not choose to advertise something on a t-shirt or whatever that will get me kind looks like I'm pitifully retarded. Normal clothes will do just fine.

10/18/2005 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

If you're that ashamed, why stick with it? I honestly don't get that. I'm not ashamed of it, and my degrees are in the "big boy books," and I'm hoping to get more degrees in that field soon, so it's not like I don't read things other than comics (although it's fair to say that some fans do seem to read nothing but comics, and that's OK, but I'd be bored if I did it that way).

No one's ever looked at me like I was pitifully retarded for wearing a t-shirt that says "I Read Comics," or for reading a copy of LOVE & ROCKETS. Not even for reading a copy of YOUNG AVENGERS.

I mean, there are so many other reasons to look at me that way.

Why care what other people think, though? I'm not ashamed to read anything, even if a large segment of the population where I live looks at you funny for reading anything, let alone a comic book.

If it really bothers you what people think, you could, you know, come to the elitist snobby snob side. I mean, we're getting press all over the place for the same three or six comics by people who may not have actually read them!

I kind of like your take on ASBARBW, by the way. I haven't read it, but that's the first time I've seen someone make that comment.

As far as comics being for kids... no. Comics is a medium. The medium itself is value neutral. Whether or not people want to associate it with superhero comics and kids stuff is irrelevant.

10/18/2005 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Soar said...

Not to derail either the "my nerd-on is better than YOUR nerd-on" or the ComicsR!ot love, but I have to agree with Brian's shout-out to my home comics store, Excalibur, in Portland, OR. A little over a year ago, I went wondering into comics shops in the area looking for a particular manga a 'net-friend had recommended. The first couple stores I tried were not a success - in one I opened the door and was blasted by music so loud I wasn't even sure what genre it was and in another I was viewed with great suspicion by the grumpy group gathered around the gaming table toward the back of the store. In another I was asked if I was looking for something for my children (grrrrrr). In another I was told that they "didn't do" manga, in a voice that suggested I had asked for something filthy. At Excalibur, I got what I was looking for, plus I got a chance to talk about the things in literature, life, movies and art that interested me - along with the fact that I'd read comics as a kid/early teen. I walked out with the manga I wanted plus Watchman, a couple of volumes of both Astro City and Starman, Rucka's Whiteout and B. Clay Moore's Hawaiian Dick. And now I have a pull-list close around 40 titles.

10/18/2005 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Mo, Mo, Mo - that wasn't Brian, that was me giving Excalibur the shout-out. Remember: on this blog, if the post is good, it's probably me. If it has pathetic aspirations to goodness, it's probably Brian.

I always thought the staff at Excalibur was excellent and very knowledgeable. It's good that they haven't lost that in the four years since I left the area.

10/18/2005 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Soar said...

Lol, Greg, but you and Brian, uhhh, look so much alike here on the 'net. I mean, you're the same font and everything....

Sorry about that; I promise to check my attributions in the future.

10/19/2005 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Don't listen to Greg, Mo!

I am the one who loves Excalibur!

I love the shit out of it!!

10/19/2005 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to take issue with something Anonymous siad. Every comic store I've been to that's run like a business doesn't yell at its customers for looking through an issue to see if they've read it before. Nine times out of ten for me, it's the owners of the geek havens that do that to me.

Anonymous #2

10/19/2005 01:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian (not Cronin) said...

Not to derail even further, but Ed, which store in State College? There were two in town when I was there, and I patronized both, but I loved the atmosphere at Book Swap. Is it still around?

10/19/2005 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

Well, it's called Comic Swap, but if I recall correctly from when I interviewed the current owner a year or two ago, it used to be a book store too, so I'm thinking it's the same place. It's the only comics store I know of in State College, but I'm not from around here.

It's not my regular shop--I buy comics closer to where I work--but it's my favorite place to spend extra money without having to drive more than a half hour.

10/19/2005 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I forgot to ask you which shop in State College, Ed, so thanks to Brian. I used to got to the Comic Swap in the early '90s when I went to school there, and you're right - it was a bookstore, and the staff was very polite back in the day. Good to see they're still a cool place to go.

10/19/2005 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger layne said...

Jeebus Anon #1, how conflicted are you? You rail against TCJ's snobbery, but the second sentence of your first comment is "I like to go slumming."
Do yourself a favor and stop buying comics. You'll sleep better.

Anyhoo, I would kill for a R!ot in my neck of the woods. I'm tired of backing into WarHammer displays. I want to shop like a real boy!

10/19/2005 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

What, there are two comic shops in State College? Sheeshamunga. One day I'll visit some mates out there as a flimsy excuse to go to the comic shop. But for now, I'll try to convince them to look for back issues of Flex Mentallo for me.

Aaand I'll try to avoid that Stroudsburg one if it's that bad. Of course, if it was the only game in town and I had no other choice, I would brave the fearsome catacombs. I've done it before.

Of course, whenever I find a good shop, it closes on me in a snap. There was a great shop that I went to near my old Philly neighborhood that had the best back issue sales ever, but, you know, a few trips there and suddenly it vanishes.

Oh, right, and I'd kill for one of these "high-falutin' pretentious shops." Then we can all talk about beret prices.

10/19/2005 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Anonymous: I think you've got some self-esteem issues that go way beyond comics and your retailer preferences. Or else you live in some really f'ed up Red State that even Dubya feels uncomfortable visiting. As for longbox diving, I prefer eBay and conventions for that these days. The selection, prices and the atmosphere are usually preferable to the average back issue store.

Bill: The shop in Stroudsburg - The Encounter, as Ed reminded me - isn't anywhere near the worst I've ever been in. It's Geek Central, for sure, but it's a pleasant enough setup that my wife doesn't refuse to pass through their doors. Unlike, say, Gotham City Comics here in NY, or the Time Capsule, outside of Richomnd, VA.

10/19/2005 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian (not Cronin) said...

Looks like there's lots of Pennsylvanians on this here blog.

When I was at PSU (also in the early 90s), the two comic shops in town were Diana's, a clean, well-lighted place on Calder Way, and Book Swap, which had more of a basement-ish feel. I patronized both at first, but over time I gravitated toward Book Swap because of their books, RPG supplies, and friendly conversation. There was nothing wrong with Diana's; it just wasn't my favorite.

I believe that Diana's is gone now, and Book Swap is now the Comic Swap.

My favorite shop in the Philly area in the 90s was the "Cave" in Glenside. It was the least cave-like comic-shop I've ever seen. Clean, well-let, right in the middle of the downtown shopping district -- very respectable. The staff were friendly and knowledgable, and seemed to like little kids hanging out there. Loved the place. Of course, it only lasted a few years, as far as I know.

10/19/2005 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guy: I live in a really f***ed up rural area. The nearest comic shop right now is about a five hour drive away.

No conventions, as far as I know, and I've been looking off and on since I was ten or eleven, have ever been here.

Bands, when they tour, don't even come here. The unemployment rate in the rural areas is about 40% of the eligible workforce. If you don't conform to the standard idea of "normal" gossip travels fast and your life becomes a hell on earth.

Layne: Yeah, I used the word "slumming" because I'd rather go into a full-on comics store than one of these "not really a comics store, but something better" places. I prefer to go the full way, rather than halfway.

And believe it or not, I like comics. I think that in a lot of cases they're better than what a lot of book publishers are putting out, with the exceptions of maybe Verso publishing and Seven Stories Press. But that doesn't blind me to the fact that there's a real stigma associated with them that I'd rather duck.

10/19/2005 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

There was a comic shop in Glenside and I *didn't know about it*??? Dammit. Now I'm sad. I've been going to the dentist there for my entire life.

10/19/2005 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Brian (not Cronin): Thank you - I've been trying to remember Diana's comic store for a while, and couldn't remember. Nice place in the alley there - I heard it went under.

I went to the Cave a few times - also a decent place. You should be ashamed, Bill, for not knowing about it. And you call yourself a comic book geek!

10/19/2005 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

I prefer to go the full way, rather than halfway.

It's not going halfway, though--it's going a different way.

I mean, from my folks house, I could go through the Lincoln Tunnel or the Holland Tunnel to get into New York City. Either way, I end up in Manhattan.

If you want to duck the stigma, though, I can't fault you--your situation sounds different from mine (and, shit, I thought I lived in the sticks!).

10/19/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Charlie Agnew said...

I could say that I'm a regular in Jason's store, and it was weird to see your pictures. like, "hey.... i know that rack.... hey... i know that chair..... hey, i know that goatee..." It's a great shop and I'm glad to have it in my area, and aside from the fact that I can get what I want to get there, I get what I didn't even know that I wanted. Don't take that in any sort of negative way, it's just that jason has consistently pointed me toward books that I'm thoroughly enjoying. At the last place that I was at before he opened it would have been something like, "Oh, cool... you like Warren Ellis? You should read his run on Ultimate Fantastic Four!", ....... not that i don't like the fantastic four.....

10/19/2005 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger Charlie Agnew said...

So.... I didn't really read through the rest of the comments on this page before, so I may now want to address a couple of ideas now that I have.
Most of these ideas may be from a man named anonymous.
The thing with the glasses. I have these glasses. They help me see. Maybe I've been reading by lamplight like Abraham Lincoln so now my eyes are so weak that they can't work right without correction, maybe it's genetic... who knows, they work... and can you say the name Buddy Holly.
I wasn't even aware that there was a social stigma of reading comics anywhere. The last I heard of there being a sort of kids vs. adults thing it was in fifties. When the majority concensus even viewed comic books as a medium of entertainment. The nineties boom doesn't count, because that was just as an investment opportunity, not as an actual opinion. Anyway. I've read comics where ever I've worked on breaks and out in public... I know that this may be too much for you, but I've even read comics in front of my girlfriend... Dramatic, I know.

10/19/2005 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

whenever ordinary people hear you read comics you're an automatic weirdo.

In my experience, reading comics doesn't make you a weirdo. Being a weirdo makes you a weirdo. Reading comics is just reading comics. All of my coworkers know I read comics and they don't think of me as subhuman. I'm the guy that sits in that cube over there and files reports with the government.

10/20/2005 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave Carter said...

To completely change the topic:

If anyone else is looking for Bone Sharps... and your local comic store (or book store) doesn't have it, you can get it through Amazon (at 30% off too!)

10/20/2005 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie - No, it doesn't suprise me. In fact, that's just the kind of idiotic response I was expecting. I was wondering how soon this would turn into some nerd showing up claiming bragging rights, boasting "I've got a girlfriend! She knows I read comics, hell she reads comics too!" It seems to be the nerd trump. Whenever you want to act superior, bring the legitimization of your opinion into play; the fact that there's at least one person out there who knows you, what your interests are, and who's willing to fuck you.

The fact is is that I'm sure 99.999% of those who post on this forum have a girlfriend or wife. Mine has no interest in comics and I have no desire to indoctrinate her. I don't come to breakfast and talk about DC's editorial direction through mouthfuls of cornflakes, I don't wave issues of Sandman under her nose, and I have no interest in hauling her through the door of a comic shop. She returns the favour by not dragging me into craft stores or giving long lectures about cross-stitch and crochet, and I'm fine with some of our hobbies remaining perfectly seperate. I know it's kind of a fad to do the missionary thing and try to convert people, with even a creepy column on CBR on how to seduce girls into reading comics, but I'll be flat out honest: it's creepy. I'm not going to go "Look honey! Comics! Buy one! Read one!Validate me!" Propagating the Comix Cult and selling your friends on spandex is weird, is creepy, I don't like it and I won't be an advocate for it. If comics need better sales they can put out better product and lead it out into the firing line on the newsstands and in grocery stores. If there are fans that put together stores that are more like second homes for the fanbase those are the ones I want to support, and not on the stipulation that for God's sake, they should clean up a bit.

As for any kind of stigma about reading comics publicly, the typical experience, as far as I know, is described by Scipio of the Absorbascon and David Campbell from Dave's Long Box in their experiences with reading Wonder Woman during lunch break in Scipio's case, and bringing Born Again to school in Dave's. There are links to each of their sites here on this page and I'm sure you can find the postings easily enough. As for myself, I have to say the "Oh, you poor simpleton!" reaction is the most common whenever I've hauled out a copy of whatever title it is I might be reading. (Shit. You know, I can even think of a story that presents the stereotype of comic readers pretty accurately: The Beard-Hunter issue of Morrison's DOOM PATROL. That's how you look to other people, kids. You are the Beard-Hunter.)

But originally I didn't post here to argue this topic. What I started off saying was that I prefer the full-on comics stores with all their trappings of enthusiasm to cleaned up antiseptic ones that seem ashamed to even hang up a poster. I stand by that.

Anyhow, just to be constructive: my favourite "traditional" comic store, I'll tell you since no one asked, would have to be Strange Adventures in Halifax, which is a tiny hole-in-the wall, looks like somebody's basement, carries lots of good product, has a couple of couches where you can read an issue before buying and even puts out a self-published title for local talent once a year. They don't immediately disarm you of your packages, refrain from assaulting you with a loud greeting, but can talk about runs and recommend things if you want them to. And look, what is it with this "Can I help you with anything" question that I always get in these pretentious new stores? Look, if I didn't know how to read I wouldn't be here. So what am I supposed to say, "Is the latest issue of Seven Soldiers any good? Oh, wait, you're a different person with different tastes than me, and even if you do like it, the things you like might be different than the things I like, so maybe, since I can read, I ought to take a look at it myself. So no, fuck off." Anyhow, it goes without saying that the staff at Strange Adventures is friendly, and it's a good store, although I'm not sure if they'll be friendly to me anymore, seeing how much hate and disdain I seem to have generated on this comment thread.

P.S. I've always thought it would be a good idea for comic stores to reintroduce the concept of fan art. Award a prize of a couple free issues for anyone who brings in the best superhero drawing you can hang on your walls. You could have a couple of categories: under thirteen, thirteen to seventeen, and seventeen and above. Post all attempts you receive on a bulletin board until the end of the month, frame the winners, hang them up behind the register, and give the rest back. That's what I want to see from comic stores, not the "we've left our geekiness behind!" plea of desperation.

Also, thanks Ed Cunard, for actually debating the points of argument rather than just going for lazy and lame personal attacks like everyone else.

10/20/2005 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger jason @ RIOT said...

y'know, "anonymous," i wasn't going to say anything (considering this thread started as a glowing review of my store), but when you personally attack my customers, i have to step in.

obviously you have self-esteem issues if you're that paranoid that someone is internally making fun of you for reading. vanity issues aside, who really cares? would you rather be seen as the guy who picks his nose and talks to himself? or the overweight guy who has greasy hair and never speaks? everyone can make fun of anyone for any reason. (hell, just the fact that you don't have the 'nads to use your real name is sad enough).

no one was crowing about having a significant other. this isn't a "my dad can beat up your dad" argument. Charlie was merely pointing out that he has no porblem reading comics in front of the one person whose opinion really matters to him. christ, i'd rather be seen by everyone as a literate goofball than a guy too scared to be himself.

as far as comic stores go, you have the right to your opinion whether a single person agrees with you or not. i know when it comes to RIOT, everyone who walks in my store says "your store is beautiful. it's comfortable and inviting. it's easy to find what i'm looking for here." that's not just positive for the comic retail industry, it's a good thing for ANY business to aspire to.

you obviously have your own preconceptions about what comic books are. from your own comments, we can deduce that you see comics as juvenile, semi-intelligent and almost exclusively based on superheroes. i can tell you right now, you're not my target market.

people need to get out of the conservative 1950s rut and realize that today's comics appeal to ALL age groups and cover every topic and genre imaginable. comics have won prestigious awards from Pulitzers to Hugos and everything in between. comics have been turned into award-winning movies, television shows and video games. hell, there's an Aeon Flux comic out right now based on a movie that is based on a cartoon (and i'm sure will soon be turned into a video game as well).

bottom line: comics ARE mainstream. maybe the people who are giving you funny looks are the weirdos...not you.

10/20/2005 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why thanks, Jason, my name is Phil.

I do have the "'nads" to use my real name, but since I've never posted here before I didn't think it was either necessary or particularily relevant.

You're wrong if you assume "from your own comments, we can deduce that you see comics as juvenile, semi-intelligent and almost exclusively based on superheroes". I do have copies of Maus, Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine, Stuck Rubber Baby, Gregory, the Quimby the Mouse backups Chris Ware did for Speak! magazine, Optic Nerve, Black Hole, David Boring, and many, many others.

And no, I'd rather not "be seen as the guy who picks his nose and talks to himself? or the overweight guy who has greasy hair and never speaks?" because I'm not either one of those guys. I'm a competitive weightlifter and work as an engineer if you want to make fun of either of those.

I am aware that "today's comics appeal to ALL age groups and cover every topic and genre imaginable. comics have won prestigious awards from Pulitzers to Hugos and everything in between. comics have been turned into award-winning movies, television shows and video games." The video games I can't speak for, but the television shows and movies have been shit.

I started off simply saying that the kind of store you run isn't my preference, nothing personal or the like, before this thread became more of a "make fun of the fans" thing, so I'll just reiterate that, hopefully without too much rancour.

Good luck to you and your clientele.

10/20/2005 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

Also, thanks Ed Cunard, for actually debating the points of argument rather than just going for lazy and lame personal attacks like everyone else.

Phil, because I am not Ed Cunard, I, therefore, must fall into your other category of "everyone else." In rereading my post, I can see how you would have interpreted that as a "personal attack" if you literally assigned the pronoun "you" to...well, you -- Phil. However, I was using the pronoun colloquially. As such, I was not stating or implying that you're a weirdo. I don't even know you. If you perceived this was my intent, for that I am sorry. I was not directing my use of the word "weirdo" at a specific person. I was simply trying to communicate that I think weird people are weird in spite of their reading material, not because of it.

10/20/2005 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous f. chong rutherford said...


i miss fanboy rampage. thanks for bringing it back for old time's sake fellas!


a big jerk

10/20/2005 09:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you all want to see the perfect blend of snobbery and geekness, check out The Laughing Ogre in COlumbus, OH. Gib, one of the owners, was an Eisner judge this year, yet still takes time to read pretty much all the preview copies of books from Marvel and DC. He's hosted Danzig, Kurt Busiek, The guy who sorta play Darth Vader in the first three movies (except for his voice and his face when they took off his helmet (yeah, can you tell the guy was a friggin' jerk?) anyways, he's had 'em all. Check it out if you get the chance.


10/21/2005 09:21:00 AM  
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