« why is this day not like any other day? | Main | blogger dreams: bring me the head of eugene volokh! »

when i rule the comic kingdom

I went to Borders this weekend and, as usual, headed over to the Graphic Novels section. And, as usual, that section was populated by the dregs of the earth.

Is there some code of comic book fan ethics that I havenít received? The one that says you must smell like you havenít showered in eight days and your clothes should look like you slept in them and you should have the personality of a wet mop thatís dripping with both dirty water and sarcasm?

Every time I go to Borderís itís the same thing. Thereís a small crowd of under achievers gathered around the anime books and Marvel collections, practicing their mouth-breathing and crotch-itching while they read. They never buy. They always read.

The last time I was there, I got into it with one of the neanderthals who wouldnít move from his spot even though it was obvious I wanted to get a book from the shelf. I ended up calling him a fanboy, and that was like a stake through his heart. I think he spontaneously combusted.

Iím a comic book geek. I admit it. But Iím not like them. I didnít read the entire Akira series while sitting on a stool at the local bookstore.

In fact, I was trying to buy the first Akira volume yesterday when I was thwarted by a drooling fanboy. I mean that literally. He drooled. The spittle hung from his mouth for a few seconds before it dropped onto the Art of Hellboy. My stomach turned. My appetite for Akira disappeared.

Why donít I just go to a comic book store, you ask?

Thereís three comic book shops within a mile range from my house.

The first is a single-person run shop that was once a used-book store. The guy follows me around the place, repeating the same lines over and over. You like Frank Miller? You like Frank Miller? Have you read 100 Bullets? You like Frank Miller?. The selection in the store is not worth the aggravation of being shadowed by a 400 lb parrot every time Iím in there.

The second is the one we used to call the Star Wars Store back in the day. It was a small shop on a side street that specialized in Star Wars figures and had boxes upon boxes of indie comic books to browse through. They eventually moved down the block to a huge space. They have a great toy selection, but they insist on grouping things together into sets, so you canít buy individual figures. They pride themselves on their glass-shielded displays of old action figures that sell for the price of a college education, yet they donít carry enough new toys at reasonable prices to let you do anything else but stare wistfully at the displays. The comics section of the store might as well have a huge sign that says Marvel Whores. Enough said.

The third store is a small, narrow shop that sometimes carries the indie comics I like to read and has a good selection of figures and back issues. The problem is they are also the Grand Central Terminal for Magic gatherings and Yu Gi Oh! tournaments and whatever other card games the kids are playing these days. I know that in the far reaches of the store there are boxes filled with great back issues, but I donít feel like elbowing my way passed the pimply-faced kids and overgrown teenagers speaking in the language of the Cult of Cards to get through to them.

So Iím left with a 40 minute car ride to Port Jefferson or a 40 minute train ride to New York City if I want to find some Slave Labor items or back issues to complete collections or something besides superheroes.

Iíve been thinking about opening my own comic shop. Iím pretty sure I could find backing. There are plenty of empty spaces available around here. Justin would be more than competent at running the store full time.

I just wonder if there is a call for it. How would I go about finding out how many comic book fans there are around here that would clamor for the indie stuff that canít be found anywhere else?

I would love to have a full anime section that doesnít have Dragonball Z as its main attraction. There would be an imports section and a reading area (with a No Drooling sign) and I would never, ever hold a Pokemon tournament on the premises. I would have a whole area just for comic art. Sure, I would stock all the Marvel and D.C. stuff, but I would carry heavy doses everything else. People would never come in and ask for some obscure title like Creed and have the person behind the counter look at them as if they were crazy. You wouldn't have to watch the salesperon make 100 quizzical phone calls as he tries to find you a copy of Blade of the Immortal - Blood of a Thousand.

I have a million ideas on how to make it work, but right now itís just a huge fantasy rolling around in my head that I like to shake around every once in a while.


Re:code of comic book fan ethics:

You forgot "must live in parents' basement"

Personally, I just think it's a shame that they don't make Groo comic books anymore....at least I don't think they do. I'm telling you, a Groo animated series would make a mint...

All of the Borderses and Barnes & Nobleses near me have crappy graphic novel sections. All I want are the trade-paperback editions of all those X-book miniseries', "God Loves, Man Kills," and "Days of Future Past/Present", etc, and they never have them. They have every damn Akira tome, from Volume One to Volume This Never Happened In The Movie, but no 1970s/80s/90s X-men collections.


Try asking for Johnny the Homicidal Maniac issues--THAT gets you weird looks! I gave up looking for a second set and now just guard my original set with my life!

Sometimes I forget how lucky I was when I collected comics. In Durham, my supplier was Books Do Furnish a Room, which while it did have a 350 pound proprietor, also had very interesting and ecclectic Indys available. In DC/Virginia, I bought from Big Planet Comics.

My suggestion, go to the Slave Labor Graphics website, and buy stuff directly from them. Same for other comics creators you like. And go to SPX, or APE and meet the creators face to face, and buy their books there. They get a bigger cut that way.

Aimee, you can get Johnny right off of Amazon!

Where do you live, Massapequa?

I used to live in Mt Sinai, the next door neighbor of Port Jeff.... and I never knew there was a comic book store in Port Jeff, but then again I had one just down the street in.

I have you beat anyway, I once had to drive to Jersey to get a comic book I wanted.

dont you mean 400lb carrot?

[instert family inside joke laughter here]

If you were there you would be cracking up at Lisa's comment, too.

Heh. Try being a female who is into gaming. Take your avg. drooling comic fanboy, multiply it by...oh...say...infinity to the nth degree and you 've got the joy of dealing with you avg. male gamer.

I had to stop going to one gaming store because the owner couldn't fathom that I had breasts AND I was going there to buy stuff for myself instead of for my boyfriend/brother/father/male friend/etc. Ridiculous.

Michele, if you can't deal with a cloud of fanboys at someone else's store, how are you going to deal with them at YOUR store?

I'll have a "fanboy only" section. Drool bibs and free posters of Comic Book Guy included.

The book store graphic novel buyers are all insane.
No, really.

Either that or have an Invitation Only store... ;)

Why don't you just suscribe to what you want over the net?

Because it's not the same as being in a comic book store.

I have spent entire days going through the dollar boxes at comic shops and entire afternoons going through the section with all the collected issues.

Collecting wouldn't be half as much fun without hunting the stuff down in local shops and getting my hands dirty by digging through boxes.

I still miss my comic store from my college days, That's Entertainment in Worcester, MA. Tons of room, huge seleciton of back issues, and the gamers were mercifully kept in a room of their own away from the comics.

You don't have to be female to be thought out of place in a comic book store. Just be anything other than a stereotypical fanboy.

I'm a guy in my fifties who's been an avid comic book collector since childhood. (I did manage to make it through this Mother's Day without once thinking of the time my mom burned my entire collection of EC's, though.)

The biggest comic book store in town was across the street from my old office and I used to drop by there frequently after work. Whenever I showed up as The Old Dude in the Tie one of the clerks would follow me around asking "Can I HELP you?" over and over, as if the only reason I could be there was by accident, perhaps having mistaken the place for my nursing home.

Disliking contact with smelly cretins in a casual level displays a certain degree of self-preservation; but the consideration of putting yourself in daily contact, let alone a dependance on said pong-y fatheads, speaks of a self-hatred of such sadomasichistic proportions that I can only fear for your emotional well being.

Stephen- who sells comics and used books for a "living".

Ok. If people here were going to suggest a particular comic to read, which would it be?

Just to let you know, I was a fan of Batman (the serious ones not the campy shit) - I still have copies of Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns. For me, it's always been about superheroes that don't turn big and green or can stretch from the top of the Empire State Building to the street below, but about the ones like Batman or another one of my favorites, Daredevil (though I am loathe to see the Ben Affleck movie)

Lately I have been looking at some of the newer stuff (mostly because the art is just amazing), but at the same time I am hesitant to plunk down almost 3 bucks for what could turn out to be total crap.

Any ideas?

BTW Michele, I LOVE these stories. This particular one reminds of when I was in my late teens and playing Dungeons and Dragons. I loved playing, but there were people that were just TOO into it. We invited some guy to play one time and he started freaking out because we wouldn't announce when we were going to talk out of character. Weird.

When your hobby becomes your job it sucks some of the fun out of it. It's more fun then a job you hate, but you find yourself without a hobby. I was once lead guitar player in a somewhat successful bar band. We compromised a lot for food. And it took me a while before I could absolutely uncritically enjoy music again. Now banging the guitar is a great hobby again and (in addition to blogging) great therapy. I also occassionally jam with others.
I mention it for this reason: so you can avoid that trap. If that's your dream, follow it. Life is short. But make sure the day never comes when you need that Pokeman tournament to survive.

Jay, in the mainstream world, I'd recommend Gotham Central, Daredevil (start with #26, which begins Brian Michael Bendis's run), and Garth Ennis's run on Punisher. That'll get ya going.

As for the female gamer thing. Yeah, I've definitely seen more problems with females in gaming stores than comic stores. My girlfriend had to verbally put a few gamers in their places to get some respect. And there's still a few people who can't resist commenting on the fact that I run a table of five females and one guy (besides myself). Usually some comment regarding my "hoarding" of these supposedly loose women. I think this impression comes in part from the Heavy Metal school of Female Barbarian on Savage Beast fantasy art.

However, this could also result from the lack of experience many "hardcore" gamers (those who live at the gaming store) have with females refined enough to be horrified by their fatal alergy to hygiene. Trust me, comic book shops have nothing on the denizens of a Gaming store. Anyone who's been there can vouch. A Febreeze fumigation would literally melt the flesh from some of these people... I shit you not.

On to Jay's point, I reccomend the Raijin Comics magazine. Its about 200 pages or so divided amongst 7 or 8 comics. The current lineup is pretty eclectic, with Fist of the Blue Sky (the precursor of Fist of the North Star, with a MUCH better story), Keiki (a period piece featuring a flamboyant samurai), The First President of Japan (an excellent political comic), City Hunter (booyah), and Slam Dunk (high school basketball/high school romance from the guy's angle), amongst others. Better yet, these tasty 200 pages are 5 bucks, unflopped (original left to right, leaving the artwork as the artist meant it), and released on a weekly schedule. I seriously reccomend it to anyone into manga.

If it's a good superhero comic you're looking for, there are two kinds: "New X-Men" and everything else. I gave up on superhero comics back when I was a teenager -- I'm currently one of those art-comics elitist, going so far as to write The Comics Journal's weblog -- but this one actually drew me back. Grant Morrison's the writer (you know, the Arkham Asylum guy) and he's taken the barebones world Chris Claremont built and radically altered it, turning it into a very well-done sci-fi soap-opera. It's the only superhero comic I read, and the only one I recommend without hesitation.