Category Archives: Shop Talk

Comics Are For Kids

“Kids are our future.”

You’ve all heard this. Whether it’s spoken in response to climate change, supporting girls to begin working in STEM fields or politics, or comic books. While I have opinions on many things, I’m an expert on one thing.

From day one, I wanted my store to have a vast all ages section. And not for the reasons many stores do. I have no interest in putting a child in a corner so their parents could get rid of them for a while. I am not a babysitter. I wanted somewhere kids would willingly go, a space that was all their own. I’m still building on that, but the section has come a long way since Variant Edition opened.

I’ll admit, there have been some drawbacks. Money is tight, so I can only grow the section when I have some room in the budget, but I’ve been able to find some amazing books along the way. There was the time a customer (who has two sons) asked if there could be more books with young boys in them. I had been growing the section for a fictional Young Danica, finding more and more books I felt would have had a positive impact on me as a child. I had neglected to add books with positive male characters. He was also kind enough to remind me to focus on books with boys, sans “punching is the answer” (you would be amazed to discover the number of male-focused books that contain this). I have the weirdest blinders on when I’m ordering, and a lot of my customers who are parents have been helping me immensely.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for books about talking out problems, about girls going in STEM careers, LGBTQ+ kids being loved and accepted, princesses who run their lives, dinosaurs who are helpful friends, anything positive that will help build a kid up strong when the world comes knocking to crush them down. And yes, I look for books that I believe make me stronger, even now.

Business talk time. When I see other comic stores ignoring what is a huge and growing market, I get sad. Angry. Disappointed at their unwillingness to be a better business. Yes, that makes my job easier, but wouldn’t it be nice if all children could go to any comic store and find something magical, just for them? Brandon and I work hard to market comics to all age ranges. It would be so easy (and limiting) to market to people our age and up. People who have been reading comics for decades and are somehow more “justified” to be in a book store. I see a lot of customers stepping on their child’s wonder, possibly destroying a habit before it’s formed.

You can’t raise a reader if you begin by teaching restrictions (and no, I’m not talking about age restrictions – I always read above my age group, but I realize there are limitations).

There is no such thing as a “boy comic” or a “girl comic”. There are stories, and if your child is interested in it, and the content is age appropriate, give it a try. This could be the gateway to a future career. It could be the start of a passion. It could just be a wonderful phase of reading about dinosaurs. We all had those. We’re not all archeologists, but wasn’t it nice to dream about digs in Egypt when we were 8?

Morning Retail Thoughts // James Cameron’s Avatar Comics

Lots of comics retail thoughts brewing in my headspace these days, and not a lot of time to make full articles out of them. So? Occasional blog posts.

Whenever there’s a big comic convention, a lot of comic publishers like to unleash a few choice bits of news to ride at the top of the pop culture tidal wave – and this weekend’s New York Comic Con isn’t really different.

There’s been a lot of cool things announced so far (I’d keep an eye on my Twitter feed for some of the choice bits), but one of the biggest has been the news that Dark Horse will be cornering the Avatar comics market after nabbing a 10-year licensing deal for James Cameron’s Avatar series of movies. Naturally, the internet had some opinions – and so do I.

One thing that can’t be argued: this has the potential to be big. Whether you loved, hated or are indifferent to James Cameron’s Avatar, that movie was seen by a lot of people, and has become a part of the pop cultural landscape. The audience for this can, and should be ridiculously huge. The biggest problem the series faces? Marketing.

For all of the good product they put out, Dark Horse is pretty terrible at marketing. They announce books and completely discard any sense of marketing once the orders are in – and in some cases, they discard the marketing before that point. A new issue one came out from them this week. Can you name it? And what’s it about? I was surprised to see it in the shipment, and I order the damn things for a living and take special care to keep an eye out for new beginnings.

Honestly, a lot of Dark Horse’s books sell on the idea itself, and the creator’s ability to maintain and mobilize a fan base. Hellboy(which my autocorrect insists upon calling Shelby), Umbrella Academy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Avatar: The Last Airbender are all series that have fairly rabid and entrenched fans – and this has been cultivated by the creators, and how they’ve handled either the property as a brand, or themselves as a brand. Their success comes from people wanting to talk about the books, and not because there was any prompting from Dark Horse itself. It’s honestly why you’re seeing such a sizeable gap from what Star Wars is selling now at Marvel, and what Star Wars was selling under Dark Horse. Even with high profile books like The Star Wars, which adapted George Lucas’ original bonkers Star Wars script, the needle didn’t rage ping off the charts. The books were always good (Dark Horse books usually are), but the efforts always stop there.

If this new Avatar venture is to be successful, Dark Horse is going to have to dig in deep. They’re going to have to find some marketable names, and form a solid publication plan – but more than that, once they have that in place, they have to do a full court press on getting word out. Not just “look at who we have writing this, isn’t that cool?” They have Greg Rucka writing an upcoming Dragon Age book, and I’ve forgotten about it’s existence several times over – and I love Greg Rucka. And let me tell you: Marvel hasn’t offered me one opportunity to forget he’s writing a Star Wars tie-in right now. Both are properties I don’t normally care about otherwise. See the communication gap?

This could be huge. It could bring in a lot of eyes – but people need to be aware. And yes, it is my job as a retailer to make people aware, but it’s always hard when a publisher doesn’t make the effort to keep noise going and build interest.

And yes, there’s absolutely more to explain here, but work is about to start. Must go off and sell comics to the wonderful people.

Hey, did you know that Greg Rucka will be writing an upcoming Dragon Age book? That’s pretty cool.

The Wednesday Crowd

When this goes up, it’s Wednesday, and I’ll be in the middle of new comic book day at the store. I always love new comic book day, because it gives me the chance to see some of my favourite people once a week, nearly every week.

In our spare time, Danica and I have been listening to this podcast about a comic store in the states that closed down after decades of serving a community. The stories they tell in this podcast are somewhat harrowing and perfectly describe society’s platonic ideal of an unfriendly, unkempt shop. When we listen, we’re generally flabbergasted at things like how there are sections of the store that are completely inaccessible (the dusty manga section) or the plethora of verbally abusive signs that roam free in the aisles – but despite this, I’ve come to recognize something that’s universal in terms of running a comic store, and that’s the strange sense of family that develops between yourself, and the customers.

If you’re running things well, a lot of your customers pop up frequently, many of them appearing each and every week to pick up a new batch of comics. These people quickly become part of your life. More often than not, I see many of our customers more often than people I would consider to be very close friends. I certainly see them more than I do any member of my family (other than my wife and the cats). These are people who, no matter what age you met them at, grow with you through the years. They find companionship. The break up. They buy houses, change jobs, get kids, or dogs, or cats, or hedgehogs. They tell you stories about their life, or… well, or they don’t, but you still see them each and every week, and you still smile at each other and recognize your mutual appreciation for each other and comics and the culture that you share in together.

It’s a great feeling, having this strange sense of place and family, and Wednesday is always the peak of that. New comic book day. As always, if you’re in the area, I’d love to see you at the store – even just to say hi. Especially, just to say hi. As wonderful as the shop can be, it’s also a black hole of time and energy, and it’s seeing everyone walking through those doors that make it all worth while.

MEANWHILE…

It’s been quite the week already, hasn’t it? I promised content, didn’t I? Again, we’ll see if this carries on through to the end of the intended thirteen weeks, but whatever.

Yesterday was kind of huge. In the Variant Edition Regularity (which you can subscribe to here) we announced the store’s next two Gender Is Not A Genre events. The first, is a generational panel of women from different backgrounds talking about their experiences with pop culture and genre in a male dominated society. We’re holding that one on October 10th at 7pm, and will be announcing the participants over the next few days. The second, is a Skype interview and signing with the one and only Kelly Sue DeConnick that will be taking place on November 15th at 4pm.We’ll be providing details about how you can get books signed by Kelly Sue when we have all the shipping details locked down.

In addition to that, Danica wrote up a fantastic organizational post over at the Something Different blog as we all prepare to declutter in advance of our first big Community Geek Swap on October 3rd.

And finally, this coming Monday is the big Indigenous Representation in Pop Culture Panel with Richard Van Camp, Patti Laboucane-Benson, Kelly Mellings and James Leask, and in preparation for that, we running content all week at the Something Different blog, hopefully offering some insight into some of the issues that will be discussed. First up, is a whole batch of articles by panelist James Leask.

STAY TUNED…

Today, there should be a new episode of Yegs & Bacon going up that we’ll link to in tomorrow’s round-up – possibly alongside a fresh episode of Podcast! The Comics! And tomorrow, a new Doctor Whooch arrives, and we’ll be talking about the first episode of Series 9, and our livers scream in agony.

Also? More big news that I can’t even hint at, but we’ll be screaming it all around the internet in just a few hours. Just you wait.

Really?

Written to the tune of Thirteen by Big Star for some reason or another.

As I attempt to beat this keyboard into submission, I’m greasing the wheels by hitting up some easy fodder – specifically, a pet peeve about how certain people conduct their business. There’s a story, of course. There’s always a story.

The following happened an undetermined number of days ago, and is paraphrased due to my inability to remember specifics.

So.

A man walks through the front door of the store. Danica and I smile and greet the man. We ask him if there’s anything he’s looking for in particular. He is not (he is). After spending a bit of time wandering, I decide to see if the man is in the mood to chat. I attempt to talk to him about comics while he peruses our $1 comics sundae bar. He reacts positively, and there’s a bit of a back and forth. And then:

“So how’s the store doing?” the man asks.

“Pretty great, actually,” I say. And it’s true. The store is doing far better than we had originally predicted, and I’m glad, because it means I get to sleep at night instead of living in a world of terribly night sweats.

His face scrunches up with confusion upon taking in this information, “Really?”

The word is positively dripping with disbelief. My face shifts from a mask of actual happiness to one that merely appears to be smiling. I spend the next few minutes talking vaguely about business specifics while he casually retorts with scepticism – after all, how could you possibly make money selling comics?

Eventually, he leaves empty handed. As it turns out, he was never interested in checking out comics, but wanted to know why such a store existed and decided to ask in one of the worst ways possible.

Danica and I ended up having a quick conversation after his departure in which we are both amused and enraged. To this day, I remain flabbergasted by the whole ordeal. And the worst part? It will happen again. It won’t be the same person, but someone will still ask with the expectation of doom and gloom. All I can really do is run the best god damn comic store that I possibly can alongside my dearest companion, and our intrepid business partner. Because the best revenge is always living well.

The Next Phase

Over the past couple of months, a lot of people asked me what I was going to do after leaving Wizard’s – the comic store I’d been working at for over eight years. For the most part, I’ve been telling people to keep an eye out because… well, because I wasn’t quite sure myself. I knew I wanted to write more, and that I wanted to take more control of my placement in the world, but beyond that, the options were pretty wide open. In the end, a few strange and wonderful life-shaped curveballs brought me to this:

In 2015, I will be starting my own comic shop.

You can find a bit more on what prompted the decision at Comics Beat, where my first retail column of the year is up. As for what the store will be called or where it’s going to be… well, stay tuned. I’m not trying to be coy, I just don’t have everything locked in yet, beyond the fact that I’m bound and determined to make this happen and I don’t want to blow some of the hows and whys before they become solid, tangible things. Just know that when everything’s ready, you’ll all be among the first to know.

Until then, keep a tight eye on this site. In addition to the odd small update, it’s going to keep track of what I’m writing and where, in addition to the big announcement when it happens.

Oh, and thank you all so much for your support over the years. Without you, none of this would be possible and… well, honestly, without you none of this will be possible, so thank you thank you thank you, and we will definitely talk soon.

Shop Talk // RIP John Byrne

“A lot of collectors lost their collections in the Calgary flood. I saw it happen, you know? Laaaaaaaht of people lost their lives. John Byrne died in it, I think. I saw it, I think.”

-A random walk-in customer. The same guy who lays claim to having murdered Frank Frazetta. But that’s another story.