Shopping Local as Part of the Grand Design, Part 1 of 2
Howdy! It’s Chad again!
Today’s actually going to be my tangential build-up for next week’s review. It’s all about context, so for today, we’ll look at a Free Comic Book Day 2018.
Free Comic Book Day happens each year, and it’s an experience unique to the world of comics. Publishers of all sizes join together on the first Saturday in May and produce specifically labeled samples of their products. Usually, Marvel will put out one or two books highlighting an upcoming event. DC usually reprints one of their bigger issues from the year. Archie, Valiant, Dark Horse, Image, and a bevy of other companies send out samples of their finest wares. Sometimes it’s a reprint, sometimes it’s a preview of multiple books, and sometimes it’s a brand new story. New England Comics puts out a new Tick freebie every year! You can see the list weeks ahead of time at Free Comic Book Day. I always try to push FCBD as a great jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers. I don’t see many other industries joining together with such a cool initiative. There’s no free movie day, or free candy bar day. There is Free Comic Book Day.
Free Comic Book Day is a unique beast for me. I load up with freebies for sure, but it’s the one day of the year where I really drop some cash willy-nilly as well.
I usually start the day with my kiddo at a shop that’s really good at events and kid-friendly, then double back a bit and hit up my go-to local comic shop that’s less kid friendly in the event sort of way but more kid friendly in that my comic shop guy knows my kiddo by name and jokes with him and is really cool. That way, my kid gets first crack at anything that might catch his interest at the more kid-friendly shop, and I get while the gettin’s good at my go-to local stop. I’m fairly certain the number of books I snag drives my local guy batty, but he gets my business year-round and I’m in his shop every other week or so picking up new books. In my defense, Free Comic Book Day is a lot to digest. I see it as an opportunity to expose myself to books I wouldn’t normally pick up, you know, if I had to actually pay for them. I’ve had multiple occasions where I’ve gone back to my freebie stack and found books that I’ve purchased that I never would have otherwise thanks to FCBD. Dynamite’s Lone Ranger, John Lewis’s March, and the annual Tick freebie all spring to mind as inspiring purchases I wouldn’t have otherwise made thanks to the samples. That doesn’t count the other books like Pokemon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Riverdale, etc. I’ve been able to pass on to others thanks to the event. It’s much easier to let a book go when it was free in the first place.
Then, if time permits after my regular shop, I might even hit up another place to snag extras for my friends or coworkers that might not be comic shop regulars but could be interested. I’m always hoping that freebie might be the thing that finally gets somebody into comics and I’ll have somebody else to compare notes with.
Now, if my quest for freebies makes me sound like a cheap sonnuvagun–that’s true. I love me some freebies! But usually, at each of those stops, I allow for certain indulgences I wouldn’t normally pick up during my semi-regular shop visits. Usually I pick up a trade or two of something different, or snag a run of a book that I’ve heard a lot of good things about, but I’ve avoided because I’m too cheap normally. Plus, if there are any good sales going on, I’ll check those out, too. I think of it as my way of saying “Thank you” to my local proprietors for participating in Free Comic Book Day and making it such an awesome day. I genuinely appreciate events that make reading in general more accessible, let alone comic book reading. It’s worth it to override my cheapness, even though most of the things I pick up can be found cheaper either at a convention or on Amazon. Here’s the link to next week’s book, btw, from Amazon: X-Men: Grand Design Treasury Edition, Volume 1.
Yeah, I see the hypocrisy there. I’m always torn in the great debate: is it more important to shop local and keep the mom and pop shops going, or is it more important to do what’s best financially, and find my goods and services for the cheapest amount? Usually that second option involves shopping at some mega-monolithic ginormo-corporation that’s set out to destroy mom and pop with their low, low, prices, one click shopping, and free shipping.
I do both.
I love my local shops. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where I’m within a short drive to about a dozen different comic shops. I know that many people don’t have that opportunity, for as popular as comic culture is right now–the business of selling comics often happens on razor thin margins, and the big 2 certainly don’t make things easy on shop owners. The whole ‘set up a pull list three months in advance’ model certainly doesn’t make things easy for bringing in new customers. Then, add in threats from legit digital publishing, non-legit digital downloading, competition from bookstores, online chains, Walmart exclusives, the continuously increasing cost of comics, etc. It’s not easy.
Each of the local places is different (even stores that are part of the same chain). One place in the city is great because in addition to comics, they carry Japanese action figures I don’t traditionally see anywhere else. Their sister store has a great kid section and trade selection. Another place has a music and movie store attached. One place has a whole room of dollar comics that I could spend days flipping through to find unique stuff. One of their sister stores I avoid like the plague. Then, there’s my local go-to shop, conveniently located next to a pizza place and a chinese restaurant. It’s everything I need in life, all located in the same plaza.
I’m also fortunate in that my comic shop guy is really great at running his business. My monthly pull list pretty much runs on auto-pilot, but if I come up with a book that I really want to read, he will track it down for me. In dire cases, he’ll even network with other shops to ferret out what I’m looking for at a very reasonable price. Once, when my dog chewed a copy of an out of print Captain America omnibus I borrowed from Ghost Andy, the guy searched high and low for weeks to get me a copy–and he sold it to me for a discount. Another local chain store actually had the book in stock, but they were really (surprisingly) rude when I asked about it. I dropped my stack of books I had in hand that day and walked out. I don’t have time for that. It wasn’t the first time I’d had a poor experience at that particular location, and I’m not going out of my way to support a business that is abusive or abrasive to customers. Now, I only go to that chain as a last, last resort. Or if I’m stuck in the mall waiting for my family. One of the two. Meanwhile, the local guy who hustled got a regular customer for life. If you can find a shop that treats people humanely and works for you, by all means, support that shop!
Then, other times, I’ll think of a title that I wanted to read five years ago that’s all wrapped up now. Local shop has all the trades (at or close to retail price), but Alexa can track down the trades for 50% off or more–with free shipping–and a video service that gave the Tick another tv show. So I go there. I link there, too, for the sake of convenience.
Still, I would encourage our wonderful readers whenever possible, to get out there and support your local places. When I was a kid, comics weren’t hard to find. They were in grocery stores, newsstands, mom and pop drug stores, book stores, etc. I used to not mind as a kid when my mom took me out shopping. No matter where she went, I would find the closest comic rack and post up there until she was done.
Today, despite the fact that comic properties are all over tv, movies, and video games, many people don’t know where to find a comic book. Those newsstands, mom and pop pharmacies, and bookstores are mostly all gone. Kids don’t know they still make comic books. Parents don’t know where they can preview a book or get advice on what is appropriate for their kids–enter the comic shop. It’s not always as convenient or cost-efficient, but it is a great way to meet other comic fans and discover new, cool stuff to try. It’s a great way to have a shared experience in and around comic books. Many times, you can find great deals that you won’t see anywhere else. Finally, it’s a great way to keep this industry that I love going. If people don’t frequent our local shops, then we won’t have local shops. How will I pass the time when my wife drags me shopping? Where will I get my weird Kamen Rider Shodo Japanese action figures? What will I do while my pizza is cooking–just wait around like some savage? I think not! Support your local comic shops!
I doesn’t even have to be Free Comic Book Day to show up, either. It helps, but that first Saturday in May is a ways away. While you’re waiting for it to roll around again, take a friend with you next time you go and check out some cool stuff. They might find the book that inspired that movie they liked so much, or maybe they heard about something on a podcast and want to give it a try.
Stay tuned for my next update, where we’ll get into the nitty-gritty on one of this year’s FCBD purchases: X-Men: Grand Design.
If you’d like to leave a comment, I’ll be
surprised delighted to hear from you!