Monday, January 4, 2010

Support Your Local Shithead

I've been at this little bloggity for just over a year now, and you, dear reader, may have noticed that whenever I tell you about a comic you can't live without, I implore you to go down to your local comical book retailer and fork over your money to them rather than to a major chain bookstore or convenient on-line outlet. I've asked you to eschew the ease of Internet shopping for the hands-on touch of a live human retailer specializing in the greatest medium known to civilized man. I've attempted to appeal to your sense of fair trade by pointing out that not only does supporting a small businessperson add to the feel-good ledger of the soul, but is also less of a blow to the pocketbook. I've done all this because it's one of the very rare causes I feel is important enough to forgo complex thinking and take the black-and-white, right-or-wrong view.

But we all know how full of shit I am.

When you get right down to it, comic book stores have a reputation for being murky dens of testosterone-fuelled nerd-dom, rife with pale virgins avoiding the sunlight and employees with the customer-service skills of the DMV. And if we're being honest here, it's a reputation generally well deserved.

Back in high school, my regular comic shop was called Amazing Comix, on N. Magnolia Ave., near Madison, in scenic El Cajon, CA. The owners had a few other stores spread around the county, but I believe this was their hub store, since they themselves seemed to work there the most often. Nice enough folks, I guess, but Christ, if they'd been running any other business, they'd have starved to death years before.

Here's a f'r-instance: almost out of the gate, Image Comics began developing their iron-clad infamy for shipping books late, beginning with the sixth issue of Spawn. Nowadays, late comics are nothing to lose sleep over, especially since I've got so goddamn many to read anyways. But at 14 years old, I found the months-long delay in this continuing saga to be excruciating (as opposed to how I just find the saga itself excruciating in general at my age now). The week it finally arrived in stores, I rushed down to the shop that Saturday morn to find it not only missing from my bag, but also nary a copy to be found in the store.

The fuck?

It seems silly now, but I was thoroughly crushed. Naturally, I expressed my disappointment to the owner lady. To her credit, she at least seemed sincerely sorry to inform me that, alas, the distributor had shorted them, and that it may be two more weeks before I could get my sweaty hands on a copy.

O, lamented Sisyphus knows not torture so grand! said I (or words to that effect).

Yeah, she says and, as if to console me, mentions how good the issue is; in fact, she herself had personally acquired five copies.

Yeah, well, at least you got--wait, what?

Yes, dear reader, this was the early 1990s, and speculation in comics futures was the latest craze. And I do mean that literally. Such a craze was it that this nutty broad could say something like that to me without batting an eye. Never mind that I, as a loyal paying customer, was to have a copy reserved in advance according to my pull-list agreement, an agreement in which I had never fallen short on my end. Never mind that I would actually read the one (1) copy I wanted to pay cash for right then and there, while (at least) four (4)(!) copies she had would sit encased in mylar, bringing joy to none. No, none of that mattered.

It never seemed to occur to her that I might take offense at this, much less take my business elsewhere. Because really, what choice did I have? I wasn't old enough to drive, and it was already an hour-and-a-half bus trek to this shop for me. What am I gonna do, beg? Yell? Pop my zits at her? As formidable as that last option now seems (how my horrible acne would have helped then, instead of hindered!), seriously, even had I done all of the above, after all was said and popped, I was still gonna come crawling back the next week and the week after that. And why? Because I was a pale virgin avoiding the sunlight. A doormat, a schlub used to being pushed around. And none of that put me in a very exclusive club amongst comic book collectors.

What's your point, Jimmy?

There's no reason--here's my point, dude--there's no fucking reason why anybody should have to put up with shit like that from any merchant. And it's my educated opinion that the reason a lotta comic shops treat their customers like this is because we're like junkies: willing to do anything for a fix, and so out of shape and jacked up that we're easily handled in case of trouble. One of the main reasons I cooled it on my comic collecting in the late '90s was the shitheel business practices within the industry. But when I started collecting in earnest again, I put a little effort, a little elbow grease into it, and researched the stores in my area and found one where the owner wasn't out to cut my throat, but was in fact as big an enthusiast as I am. And you don't have to take my word for it, just check out the San Diego Comics page on Yelp (you can even catch a glimpse of my fat head if you look close).
I've been shopping there now for just about 8 years, and working there for nearly 5, and I think you, dear reader, know me well enough to realize that I'm not gonna frivolously devote that large a chunk of my time and money to anybody or anything.

So don't go to your local comics retailer out of some bullshit punk-rock ethos of mine to support the little guy, especially if that little guy is an asshole. If your local comic shop won't order you the stuff you want or laughs at the clothes your mom dresses you in or just generally makes you feel like you're a pain in the ass, then by all means, shop on-line or at Border's. But first you need to get a grasp of the situation, find out where your money should be going. And you can't do that without knowing all the options.

And five copies of Spawn #6 in near-mint ain't worth the paper they're printed on, then or now. So fart noise on you.


Laura said...

Well said, Jimmy. There's always been something that bugged me about the whole "buy local" campaigns. Not that I don't like to buy from local vendors or support the little guys, but what if the little guys are assholes? What if they have a shit selection? What if I just don't like their store, their smell, their attitude? There's a million reasons NOT to buy local; the only reason to support a local business is because you genuinely believe it is better, in some way, than a big chain that doesn't give a damn about you, personally. Cus really, no one in the business world gives a damn about you, personally. They just want lots of people to buy, buy, buy. Like this here Lady Gaga thing, with the edited versions. You can't get a NON-edited version? Gimme a break. And gimme my money back. It's a screw-job, is what it is.

But once you find a company that'll do things right, hold onto 'em for dear life!

Josh Converse said...

Well put, sir.

When I grew up there was a place in Kalamazoo called "Fanfare Comics and Cards" (still around, I think), that pulled that same speculation bullshit with the MacFarlane "Spiderman #1" and all the bagged variant covers. Yeah, that piece of garbage. And then again with Lee's X-men #1, I think that year or a year later. It started to make more sense to spend money on dope. Therefore, Fanfare is to blame for fifteen years of incessant drug use. At least I missed out on "Youngblood."

Quick plug for Chicagoans--Variety Comics on N. Western Ave is run by a dude, who when I asked what was good these days, had the honesty to say "almost nothing." Then he turned me on to a few things like Grant Morrison, etc. (yeah, I was out of the loop that long)