I had a Mom come in with a very little boy today and, after letting him tool around the store for awhile, she bought him a Transformers toy. He implored her and swore he'd been looking for this toy 'forever' and the Mom capitulated and a purchase was made.
I should have been warned when I noticed that she didn't really look at what this little boy had been picked up and declared the object of his affection. Sure, he told her he'd been looking for it forever, but he didn't really look much at the toy either. This isn't not a big deal; a lot of little kids get excited at the idea of getting a toy on a trip to the comic shop and, at the prospect of leaving empty handed, quickly beg their parents for something they grabbed randomly. Leaving with a toy that might be cool once you take it home is way better than going home without anything.
I'm not saying this is a great way to parent, I'm just saying it happens.
So not 15 minutes later does the Mom return, bored little boy in tow, and declare she has no idea how to put this toy together. Dude, it's a Transformer and I have all the sympathy in the world for a parent who can't figure these tricky buggers out. To this day as an adult I have a hard time with turning a car to a robot and back again without some serious sit-down time and the instructions. This sympathy engaged, I come over to help her try and work this one out. The little boy has already left his mother's side to go play with the other toys in store.
The Transformer is in two parts. I wince and carefully inspect the Bumblebee for any sign that it broke or came apart on them. I stare at limbs and bumpers and compare them to the diagram that came with the action figure. The Mom is totally uninterested. This is too complicated for her and for her son and she tells me that this is not the first time this has happened. "He'll want some toy, I'll buy it and it'll be will too difficult and then we'll just throw it away," she laments.
I grit my teeth a little harder. Okay, it's one thing to buy a Transformer and not know how to put the thing together, its another to be lazy. It's another to constantly buy your child things that he has only a superficial interest in and then foster this behavior on multiple purchases.
Today I had two parents turn down comics for their kids because they were 'too hard' for their children. Metro has a special section for Marvel Adventures, Tintin, Tiny Titans, Bone and their ilk so that parents don't panic when they see Punisher comics for sale. With just a question, anyone in the store is ready with suggestions for younger readers. But Batman: Brave and the Bold was put back. Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man was put back. If the child you're buying for is not at reading level yet, why not read the book to your kids and get them into reading from being interested and active in your kid's life?
I was reading when I was very young because my brother read me the novelization of the E.T. movie. My mom read me the Scrawny Tawny Lion. I listed to the Dark Crystal on Book-and-Tape. I had Transformers that wee complicated and my uncle showed me how to follow instructions so we could transform them together.
It's not the toy that's too hard. It's not the comics that are too advanced for your kids. It's YOU. Parenting is hard. For me, for them, for the love of God, please try harder.
I'm kind of starting to enjoy these quick bits of furious webcam-ing. This is really what I do on my ten minute break at work if I'm not hungry or aren't reading anything. I set up (harder than it looks as the video is so dark), record, check levels, edit as much as I can with Windows Movie Maker and then head back out to sell more books. It's kind of fun and gets me thinking again. If there are at all entertaining, keep telling me and I'll keep filming bad videos from the stockroom.
So, I'm back to work; nt full time just yet, but I got a head full of projects and promotions and tons of excitement for getting behind the ol' register again. On the whole, it's been exactly what I've needed and the support been just super.
But I love lunch.
Just love it. Work an eight-hour shift, you get that nice juicy hour break right in the middle of the day to just kick back and relax... with comics. And food! All days should have a one hour break of food and comics, but right in the middle of your shift nit's just a little slice of heaven. Look through the stacks, try and remember that one comic a customer had been looking fr and look into it yourself, maybe grab a trade that has a tidbit of info from the comic you last read, kick back in the back of the store (if you're so lucky) and enjoy the recharge of batteries.
Don't get any food on those issues though, or else you just bought yourself some new books.
I actually started out my blog from my lunch break at work, all those many years ago. Taking aside the preview books for that week (man, I miss those), writing up a few sentences on them inbetween bites of an egg salad sandwich, those first impressions would later get written up at home. Reading comics at lunch I think cools the brain down enough to really think about what you're reading but not enough to make you brilliant. Brilliant comes latewr, after digestion, lunch and comics just gets you that first taste.
Me, I'm a creature of habit and work at a store conviently located right next to a snazzy litle restaurant. I have a booth, I have my books and I have a cherry coke to toast the first half of my working day. I like reading indy stuff while refueling, the shock and strangeness of a new story or art style taken with a stout and familiar meal. Today, it's Johnny Hiro on rec from the ISB and the long lean art syle and the quirky tale being told goes well with some steak and cheese. It's kind of Seth Fishery and Stuart Immoneny and while I'm not big on the black-and-white 'autobiography', putting a giant lizard atacking your New York apartment to get at your girlfriend whose mother used to be a member of what looks like Voltron... yeah. I could totally read the Hell out of that.
My lunch has gone well. I am full of tasty food, I've just jammed through a few pages of a graphic novel that kept my attention through said tasty foods and now I have a little more ammo when I go back to my shift to recommend a new book to those who might dig it too.
Just all part of the plan.
Okay, so it's one thing to overhype your stuff to the tried and true fans; by this point, we should expect every issue of every comic that rolls off the Marvel assembly lines to fundamentally change our lives and bring peace to the Middle East. No, let's not get into whether or not the issues actually deliver, let's stick with where our expectations should be. Marvel should make it sound like every character will be the axis of their universe because somewhere, out there, that character is to that loyal fan. All their books should crack the internet in half and cause a mad rush to the stores to but every copy and then some. We're fans. We already love your product. Marvel's job is to make us love them more.
The common media needs to be reminded that comics still exist and that they're pretty nifty and cheap entertainment. Honestly, that's it.
Anything more is either going to get confusing and be a waste of time, yours and theirs. I remember watching Joe Quesada on the Colbert Report when Secret Invasion was coming out and asking myself, "Why is he finishing a rather fantastic interview having to explain what Skrulls are?" Seriously, watch 'till about the 4min mark and then imagine the viewer's brain just start translating Quesada's voice into a Charlie Brown schoolteacher. Not even the easy visual gag of seeing Obama or McCain morph into Skrull heads doesn't save the obvious and uninteresting plug. It starts out great, don't get me wrong: using Colbert to tell people who the new Cap was going to be and when the issue came out made it easy to understand and relatable. Telling him that he was still in the Presidential running in the Marvel Universe had the right effect: I remember people coming into the shop to ask if that was true and to pick up at least a Spidey issue to check it out. None of those guys asked for Secret Invasion.
So when Marvel promised 'Civil War-like' promotion of Captain America #600, some of us were already sitting down. Mind you, it could have been mind-blowing: new Cap could have shook hands with President Obama and indeed, the internet might have cracked, just a little. No advance idea of what the book was going to be about or why we should start hyperventilating now, retailers were once again caught with the Lady or the Tiger. Order a bunch and be left with stacks of comics that don't move or order too few and miss that frensied fevor when it turns out to be something huge. We make the orders, hold our breath and...
... wait, that's it? Steve Rogers' return is 'Civil War like'? NO! It's the first thing we all thought and I mean all, fans and non-fans. Yeah, the rubes fell for Superman's death, but fool me once, shame on you. Everyone and their mom knew Rogers was coming back, it's a freakin' comic book trope! You've got to be kidding me that this is what all of that was for! Not only that, it's promotion for the start of a story. Not the result. Not the first appearance. The beginning of a comitment to read this sucker until you get the payoff you expected before the issue came out.
Don't get me wrong, Ed Brubaker has been writing the most consistantly amazing Captain America stories I have ever read. The sun will rise and set and Captain America will entertain and delight you, even if it's just Bucky having a birthday. When I got a chance to breathe the same air as Mr. Brubaker last February at WonderCon, he was as giddy as a schoolgirl when he mentioned that July was going to be huge for Cap. A schoolgirl, people. Don't try and get the image of Ed Brubaker in pigtails out of your head, just know that I'm deadly serious about trusting him with this very obvious story.
But that's me. I'm a fan. I'm already sold and this is just trying to be the cherry on top of my awesome Cap sundae. For the average man on the street, hearing that the start of a story will be coming out on a Monday ("You mean they still make comics?") bringing back a character from the dead becomes a joke on NPR.
Lemme show you how it's done: this Saturday, June 20th, at 10am, I am returning from the dead.
I'm serious. Go to Metro Entertainment this Saturday and see Yours Truly sell you a goddamned comic again because I've finally got the Doctor's OK to go back to work.
That, my friends, is a payoff.
You see, sometimes cool things happen to you and others have coolness thrust upon them.
This is a little of both:
That's right. At my hometown comic shop, at my place of employment, Mr. MATT FREAKIN' FRACTION is going to be live in person sitting not ten feet from where I type this. All the way from Kansas City, Missouri, he's going to grace the shores of sunny Santa Barbara for this once in a lifetime signing event.
I haven't said anything about it because I keep thinking something terrible is going to happen but no! It's true! Our more complicated dreams of an exclusive store interview were eroded by reality to the point where I was at least able to send him some questions by email which he answered with grace and aplomb. Really! Check it out! This is so awesome-sauce.
So if you happen to be in the Southern California area and free this Saturday, please drop on by the store and say Hi. Shake the man's hand.
Metro Entertainment (SANTA BARBARA'S BEST AND BRIGHTEST FOR COMICS TOYS GAMES AND MORE - sorry, got a little promo tourette's there) sent me and the store manager to local university UCSB to spread the word about our shop, our big event coming up on the 18th this month and about what we sell. It was beautiful, the weather was perfect, people were generally surprised and enthusiastic and a good time was had by all.
And then there was this girl.
About the third person to come up to our little booth by the sea was a college girl with big Jackie O shades on. "What is this all about exactly?," she asked us with a clinical eye and I stood tall as I gave her the schpeel about who we were and what we did. "Does this do well for you?," she followed up and at first, I thought she was talking about the booth promotion. No, it turns out she was asking if comics did well. I told her comics were had sustained themselves throughout the years and they were doing quite well indeed thank you. With a trite smile and nod, she delivered her parting comment and went to the next booth over.
"Well," she told us. "Good luck with that."
So things have been rather quiet in the world of snappy judgments over here as with the middle of August hitting, we're starting to hit that all important crucial time in comic shopdom known as 'they're starting to go back to school'.
Now, i won't lie and say that even a good portion of our customers are kids, but I will say that a lot of them are college-aged or just hitting that particular bracket and sadly, people are moving, resettling into a new apartment or getting that one last trip out of their system or worse... cancelling their comic pull list.
But never fear, I also happen to live in a high density tourist area and August is your last chance to get that thrill in. So, my store's been shoring up the 'big' online store, passing around the business cards and prepping for that big signing in October. Sales have been pretty good, up from last year and we're hoping this will aid us throught he dead zone that is September.
So I'm gonna do some catch up.
At the Marvel: Your Universe panel, i was able to not only praise the panelist for putting out two great books at the same time the Iron Man movie hit, but ask them why we got two very very very different books on the stands that were as far away as possible from the Incredible Hulk movie came out.
"We can't always bat a thousand," noted Quesada, mentioning that If you look at track trecord, they're good at publishing the book in question. Dan Buckley jumped in to note that creatively, they hit their stride with Iron Man and didn't need to change a lot to make Iron Man fit the tone of the movie. matt Fraction was noted for his communication with the writers on Iron Man: Director of SHIELD and matched everything very well between current continuity and movie tone. Hulk, on the other hand, is a bigger challenge because creators have to be able to 'stretch their legs' and do what they want without a corproate influence, suggesting to me that I load up customers on trade paperbacks ($12.99 and up) instead of new comics (as low as $2.99) for new readers. Last Year, Buckley noted, they pushed the character with events like Planet Hulk and World War Hulk and, while they had nothing to do with the movie, they it put the character out in the public eye.
Kevin Feige (president, Marvel Studios), in an Incredible Hulk hat, noted that they used a lot of the trades as influences on the movie, citing Hulk: Gray and Bruce Jones' first run.
And yet... I don't really feel my question was answered. Why did Marvel not put out a comic that fit the theme of a very popular and well made movie? Why do I have to recommend stories from years ago in order to keep customer interest? Why can't the Bruce-Banner-man-vs.-inner-monster story be told in the modern age?
And what in God's good name is going on in Loeb's book!??
Ah, wel. At least joe Quesada didn't tell me to sit down and enjoy the stories this time.
These two words have sold me more $3.99 issues than any other since I started this job. Since I started selling.
Just... just bask in it for a moment, will you? Take in the wonder and the glory that is a Blood Colossus. The name excites the imagination and lays the groundwork for what is to come. BLOOD COLOSSUS. Blood, viceral, personal, horrific in some cases. COLOSSUS, epic, monumental and ancient. Together, they sell comics.
You see, every time we get copies in of Thor: Reign of Blood in our store, I make them leave and all I have to do is find the right customer at that right moment and say the magic words. Ears perk, interest piqued, I show them what a blood colossus looks like. And awe is shared.
I tell them how the Blood Colossus works. I tell them Thor drives it and 3 out of 7 people will give me a sound of fond familiarity. THOR! We know him! He's a big norse guy/god of thunder/doesn't he have a hammer/etc. I show them the Man himself, laying waste to the dead. Seeing the Blood Colossus and Thor together makes people want to hold the book. To take it into their hands and flip on through. They crave more.
I tell them this is a story. A 'single, self contained issue' full of Norse valor and epic adventure and lore. I tell them that there are no other comics like it, that it will cause you to sponaniously rock out and wail on a guitar. It will make you long for the land of the ice and snow. It will make you feel good.
And that's the beauty of comics; some can actually elicit an emotional reaction from the reader. That sometimes, the story can pull you in and leave you different than before you turned that first page.
I kept copies of Thor: Reign of Blood at the front counter and I would wait for just the right moment. Right when I knew someone wanted to hear a tale. To see something awesome. The Blood Colossus.
I have personally sold over 17 copies of this issue alone. If you haven't seen the Blood Colossus, go to your local comic shop and pick it up. Hold it in your hand. Don't wait for the trade or borrow a friend's copy. Make it your own. Read the legend and take it home to flip through on a rainy day or a long download online. Relish the artwork and the crafting of the two tales woven together. Take that time to really read it, sink it into your bones like the blood of a Blood Colossus.
And when you want more, come back and find me.