Comic shops are great(ly exclusive).

So comic shops are great and all, but they really aren't very welcoming to anyone who lives further than 10 miles away from them. You see if you want to follow comics in single issue format, you kind of have to be there every week. However, I can't do this because I'm not close to a local comic shop, (the closest one being 14 miles north of where I live) so I can't go there every week or even every month. Every time I do end up at a comic shop I feel overwhelmed by how much stuff I've been missing out on because the trade isn't out yet, (for instance, Flash, JMS's Superman, and the Batman Beyond mini) and I just end up feeling down when the guy with a pull list comes in and picks up his weekly books. It all ends up feeling very exclusionary whenever I go to a comic shop. Now, I'm not saying that the people have been unwelcoming to me or have acted like elitists in their socialite club, (heh, that's not really any comic book fan) but their kindness and enthusiasm when I ask them for help only deepens the sense of how far away from home this place really is.
 
So why do I feel excluded when I could just learn to drive, and pony up the gas money? Because, I feel that locking up all the cool comic books, action figures, T-shirts, Trades etc. in a comic shop really doesn't help comics as an industry to move forward. I'm not stupid, though, I'm not expecting Publix or Borders to start selling back issues or Macy's or Toys 'R' Us to start dedicating entire sections of their store to Iron Man or Green Lantern. I realize that the closing of comic shops would negatively impact (or even send out of business) the writers, artists, colorists, letterers, publishers, etc. Still, I think there are better ways to bring the product of comics to the people who want them on a weekly or monthly basis.
 
Internet stores like Things From Another World and Midtown Comics have done a great job (they're great comic shop pull list alternatives, don't ask me if they're profitable) with their "subscription" services. In fact, once I can support a hobby, I plan on using this alternative of having an internet pull-list where your comics come in the mail. Sure, you don't get the interaction or game nights of a brick-and-mortar, but wasn't that what the internet was invented for? So why don't more shops do this? Why aren't there more shops that simply forgo maintaining a retail space, and simply have a warehouse space full of comics? Now I know Midtown Comics and Things From Another World are big, multi-store chains of comic stores, but why bother with the retail stores if you can provide an ever better buying experience online. I want to know what you all think. I want to know, how can comic shops reach more people? I want to know, how can more people reach comic shops? Finally, I want to know, what can the comic industry do to stay afloat?

14 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by haydenclaireheroes

I love midtown I get my subscription from there

Posted by N7_Normandy
@haydenclaireheroes said:
" I love midtown I get my subscription from there "
I second this.  Luckily, I'm from NYC, so this is my main shop.  It's such a great shop; they get every variant, have tons of back issues, and the entire store is clean as a whistle.  I order stuff from midtown-online occasionally, and they do a great job of packaging and sending books.  My only gripe is the poor shipping times.   
  
A comic shop like midtown comics appeals not only to the hardcore fan, but also turists and other passers by.  They have dvds, tons of apparel, actions figures, books, and pretty much every type of media you can think of.  So, by emulating this model, other shops could be less exclusionary.  I also use dcb service.  Everything is 40% off and my shipments come on the friday of  each release week.    
Posted by Mainline
@c0l0nelp0pc0rn1 said:

"So why do I feel excluded when I could just learn to drive, and pony up the gas money? 
Sure, you don't get the interaction or game nights of a brick-and-mortar, but wasn't that what the internet was invented for?

So why don't more shops do this? Why aren't there more shops that simply forgo maintaining a retail space, and simply have a warehouse space full of comics?

Now I know Midtown Comics and Things From Another World are big, multi-store chains of comic stores, but why bother with the retail stores if you can provide an ever better buying experience online. 
I want to know, how can comic shops reach more people? I want to know, how can more people reach comic shops? Finally, I want to know, what can the comic industry do to stay afloat? "
Borrowing a term from a NYCC panel... regular comic book purchasing is a fetish.  For the fans and the retailers.  You must have a certain attachment to the fetish to justify paying for or selling comics rather than engaging in another hobby or business.  Given that attachment, it explains why most retailers are mom-n-pop type operations and don't pursue purely economically oriented online sales.  That said, to sustain their fetish they need to cater to regular clientele in a sustainable fashion which, of course, means favoring regulars and limiting risk (buying for known demand rather than speculating on walk-ins).  Obviously, the degree to which they handle that differs but your "exclusion" is just business. 
 
"Interaction and game nights"?... no, the internet was created by the DoD to facilitate weapons research and scientific exchange... but seriously, this is a deeper question, but no... the internet isn't replacement for human interaction.
 
How can comic shops reach more people?  Again, as a fetish retailer they're not- necessarily- about reaching more people... more about being able to sustain a fetish.  That said, my quick measure of newbie friendliness is SLAPS... Smell, Lighting, Action-figures, Porn, Service.  If the place smells off... end of story.  A dark hole in the wall is less inviting.  Action figures, toys, merchandising means the invitation of younger fans and impulse buyers, conversely placing porn up front and center is telling parents to never bring their kids.  And service... self-explanatory. 
 
The future of comic retailing, though, (and indeed even its past) is not mom-n-pop specialty shops but internet sales, digital direct, and economy-of-scale chain stores such as Hastings:
 
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/06/21/hastings-the-first-national-comic-store-chain-in-us/ 
 
Comics used to be as ubiquitous as newsprint and just as cheap... seeing how they've adapted (or failed to in some cases) is a glimpse into how comics will have to adjust.
Edited by c0l0nelp0pc0rn1
@Mainline: Thing is, I don't have a Hastings anywhere near me. However, I found Superman 701&702 + The Flash #3 at Toys R Us so maybe I'll just go there more often.
 
Edit: Also, I know human interaction can't be replaced by internet interaction, but you can speculate about the next issue and talk about the current one.
Posted by Jake Fury
@c0l0nelp0pc0rn1:
does your comic shop not do hold slots?
Edited by c0l0nelp0pc0rn1
@Jake Fury: They do, but I only make it out to a comic shop like twice a year. At that point, I'd be better off buying trades, which is what I do. Even though I would love to "collect" single issues.
Posted by Mainline
@c0l0nelp0pc0rn1 said:
" @Mainline: Thing is, I don't have a Hastings anywhere near me. However, I found Superman 701&702 + The Flash #3 at Toys R Us so maybe I'll just go there more often.  Edit: Also, I know human interaction can't be replaced by internet interaction, but you can speculate about the next issue and talk about the current one. "
I'm not saying Hastings specifically, I'm saying that volume sales to non-comic focused retailers is going to be one future for comics.  It's where they came from and if magazines and newsprint are any indication it's one of the places they're going. 
 
I suppose you can speculate and talk, but the anonymity of the internet tends to lower the accountability and quality of discourse.  If I'm in the shop, I have to be civil, respect other people's opinions, and clearly state mine... I think it's a different experience. 
 
If you only make it out to a shop twice a year the adjustment is definitely yours to make not theirs like you're suggesting in the OP.  I don't think there's any retailer of any fungible commercial product under $20 that could survive if catered to the outer limits of its customer base who visit only every 175 days or so.  If you're popping in once a month at least, then there's a better argument to be made but no mom-n-pop could survive gambling on a guy who may or may not show up twice a year (unless you take all the gamble out of it, make a paid-for reservation, and act like a whale dropping fat wads of cash when you show). 
 
I guess I'm saying, "What are your expectations of a mom-n-pop store if you only show up twice a year... and are they realistic expectations?" 
 
So, assuming the adjustment is yours to make, then going online, buying trades, or relying on mainstream retailers like Toys / Barnes / Borders / etc. makes sense for you... but why would / should all the mom-n-pops follow suit?
Posted by c0l0nelp0pc0rn1
@Mainline: The only reason I can think of is to draw in more customers like me, but since we only show up twice every year that's not a very good reason. However, I would show up more often if comic shops weren't on such bad parts of town/so far away. I know that comic shops can only be so many places as rent pricing, property value complaints, and client base can be prohibitive. Still I wish that comic book shops weren't in warehouses past an empty half-built building with all its windows busted out. Although, that's more of an entire United States kind of thing.
Posted by Spiders_Man

My problem is, living in Australia, its much cheaper to get stuff off the internet, but its also incredibly inconvenient. Although that is in part due to some stupid members of Parliament, with there censorship of any foreign media.

Edited by AMS
@Spiders_Man: 
 
You guys do seem to get a rough deal with books and video games!
 
I remember reading about the whole GTA 4 thing in Australia, I felt sorry for you all.
Posted by dirtmound

I live in a town of 100,000 people and we have 3 comic shops. Since I work in one, I'll tell you right now that if you agreed to pay a deposit up front and ask for the books to be mailed to you one a month, most shops will do that. If not, hit me up. We ship worldwide.

Posted by joshmightbe

Let's be honest as a group we as comic fans aren't known for being inclusive I think its from many years being defensive about our hobby/obsessions 

Posted by _Courage_

It's hard for me to travel to my local comic shop frequently as well. I try to go like once a month and do some heavy purchasing to try to catch up. I still fall behind though.
Posted by AgentOfAnarchy


Can you not put them by or did I miss the point?

My comic store is approx 25 miles away & the guy offered to put mine by for me but I prefer to come in and choose.