Monday, May 1, 2000

The Mount: Introduction and Bad Comic Shops

Hello and welcome to The Mount… a new monthly column where I get to talk, discuss, scream and just plain rant about things in the comics world in general or things in certain comics that I find just plain annoying. Why? Because you demanded it! Well, because I demanded it anyway….

For this first column, I'd like to talk about bad comic shops. Or more specifically, MY bad comic shop. I live in a city of 60,000 in Middle of Nowhere Texas. As such, I have no other places I can go to get the new Starman without driving over 120 miles, so I have to go to "Store A".

Store A has the four hallmarks of a traditional bad comic shop…

1.) They Order 75 copies of the New Flavor of the Month, while under-ordering the old

True Story: When Danger Girl first came out, my comic store decided not to order a copy of The Flash, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Robin or any DC books that came out that week except JLA, so that they could afford to order more issues of what Wizard said was going to be "the biggest hit book ever". Naturally the clerks began trying to push the book on everyone who walked in the door… even the kids who just came in to buy baseball cards. It's like at McDonalds, where they ask if you want a "Nice Hot Apple Pie" TM, no matter what time of day it is or what you are ordering.

The same thing happened when Fathom first appeared and then later with Tomb Raider. Of course each of these books has gone on to become a huge hit. Tomb Raider in particular has gone on to be successful, but I credit the four big things the book had in its favor from the very beginning. A popular game series to build on and mass marketing… And the other two? Put it this way… I doubt that many people are buying it for Dan Jurgens' brilliant writing.

And even when there isn't a special new T&A comic coming out, they typically order only one issue each of some monthly books and specials. This leads into….

2.) Can't/Won't Get Subscriptions or Special Orders on a Steady Basis

This past month, "Shop A" didn't get even ONE copy of Detective Comics or Legend of the Dark Knight, both of which I have been subscribing to for over a year. I ordered a copy of The Sandman:World's End trade paperback 6 months ago… and it still hasn't show up. My Starman figure? I gave up on that after two months and got one on-line for a fraction of what they charged me. Speaking of Starman, that's a pretty good way to lead into…

3.) Outright Hostile Clerks

Don't get me wrong. I've clerked before and I do realize that there are days when you become convinced that you must have been a mass murderer in a past life and that having this job where you must deal with an endless line of fools is your punishment.

I realize that its not easy having to tell a group of kids for the seventeenth time that day that no, you do not have any new Pokemon cards, there will be no new Pokemon cards until next Wednesday and would they please stop having their moms drive them up to the store every hour to check thankyouverymuch?

That said, is it really that much trouble to ask you to have to get up from the computer where you are hunting for photomanipulated images of Agent Scully in a Jean Grey costume for one second so I could inquire about my subscriptions? Could you please not roll your eyes when I ask about special ordering a Morpheus action figure? And I don't expect you to smile or dance for me when I come in the door, but if you could please refrain from saying "You actually read this?" in a condescending, "What a loser" tone when you see the copy of Birds of Prey in my file, I would really appreciate it. After all, I somehow manage to refrain from commenting upon how your inability to get a date might be tied to your apparent belief that a 44-18-38 figure on a 5'8 woman is normal.

4.) The Quarter Bin is Larger Than The Archive Section

This may not be a bad sign per say. It is all-dependent, like many things, upon the contents and distribution. Here is a rough breakdown of the contents of "Store A's" quarter bin (about sixty short boxes).

--- 10% Old Issues of Gen-X
--- 12% Old Issues of Gen 13 Boot-Leg
--- 16% Old Issues of various Rob Liefield Projects
--- 32% The Last Six Issues of What was the Flavor-Of-The-Month about a year ago. (Wow! Fathom #1 for a buck!)
--- 10% Issues of Spider-Man: Year One
--- 17% Old Issues of various Rob Liefield Rip-Offs
--- 2% Stuff you'd consider buying as a cheap alternative to toilet paper.
--- 1% Actual Readable Comics.

NOTE: This study has a 1% Margin of Error

So what can we do about it? We the poor and downtrodden trapped in the middle of nowhere? Well, you might try the comic racks in the bookstores at the mall. Granted, Waldenbooks and B. Dalton aren't likely to carry some of the odder titles or anything outside of the big three (DC, Marvel and Image). However, if you're looking for your core heroes (IE: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern), odds are you can easily get them at a decent bookstore. Nation chain bookstores can also be a lot more reliable about special ordering Trade Paperbacks than small stores. Depending on your area, the store may in fact have a very large TP collection in their store. I was able to get The Sandman:The Wake from a Barnes and Noble in Dallas after "Store A" took four months to tell me my order got canceled somehow.

On-Line comics shops are also becoming popular. However, I can't speak about them, since all the ones I looked at were credit card only and I don't have one. You might want to consider that option if you can afford the shipping costs.

Or you can just complain to the manager about the rude clerks. Complain about poor service. Complain about poor stock. And then get a column in a magazine and complain some more and encourage a bunch of other people to complain with you!!

Or not.

Of course that's just my opinion. I might get sued if I say the rest.

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