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Midtown Comics is a New York City comic book retailer with three shops in Manhattan and an e-commerce website. The company opened its first store in the Times Square area in 1997. Its second was opened on Lexington Avenue in 2004, and is known as the Grand Central store for its proximity to Grand Central Terminal. Its Downtown store was opened on Fulton Street in the Financial District in November 2010. The store, which is noted for appearances by celebrities known outside the comic book industry, has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as "the industry’s leading retailer of comic books, graphic novels and manga."
Midtown was founded by partners Gerry Gladston, Angelo Chantly, Thomas Galitos and Robert Mileta, who met as teenagers in Astoria, Queens, and later sold comics in their in Brooklyn andQueens before opening Midtown Comics in Manhattan, which houses approximately 500,000 books in its collection. According to the New York Times:
The stereotypical view of comics stores is that they , cramped and dusty places with a no-girls-allowed clubhouse atmosphere. In reality, they run the gamut. For instance, the West Side Midtown store is bright, airy and welcoming to all, with two floors and 5,000 square feet (460 m) of space. The main floor, which is one story above street level, has a long wall with countless racks of new and recently released comics. The rest of the space DVDs, manga, trading cards, back issues and trade paperbacks. Toys and other collectibles are upstairs. The second Midtown store, on Lexington Avenue and 45th Street, though smaller than the first one, is just as inviting.
Midtown Comics is the official retail sponsor of New York Comic Con, and has performed this role since the NYCC's inception in 2006. Each year, Midtown creates a "show-within-a-show", featuring round-the-clock appearances by comics creators and variant comic books by publishers like Marvel Comics and Top Cow.
On November 10, 2010, Midtown Comics opened a third Manhattan store. Known as their Downtown store, it is located in the Financial District, at 64 Fulton Street, in the southernmost section of the borough. Inaugural book signings were held for that branch featuring Jim Lee and Jonathan Layman, creator of Chew.
Midtown's website was at first purely informational, but has developed into a full-scale web retail site. The stores and website are supported by a warehouse in Queens, and a staff of thirty who are described by New York Magazine as "a rare mix of nerd knowledge and chummy confidence – [and] who foster an atmosphere where browsing is more than just a means to a badly needed social end."
As Manhattan is the location of the Big Two of the American comic book publishing industry, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, and the setting for much of the former's stories, Midtown Comics Times Square and its staff have been utilized for local news reporting relating to comic books andpopular culture. The New York Daily News interviewed Midtown Comics co-owner Gerry Gladston for a 2006 story on vintage comics selling for large amounts of money at auction, Gladston was later interviewed by the Daily News and CBS News for a 2009 story on the return of Captain America after Marvel Comics had killed him off two years previously. Midtown's staff were also consulted by major media outlets in 2009 regarding the appearance of President Barack Obama in an issue of Spider-Man, and again later that year regarding the anticipation of the release of the film Avatar. Midtown Comics is also relied on by the media as a source for reaction to industry news and events. Publishers Weekly relies on them for their annual survey about the state of the comics and graphic novel marketplace and for their coverage of Free Comic Book Day, while Comic Book Resources quoted Gladston for reaction to Axel Alonso's 2011 promotion to editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics.Gladston was consulted by multiple publications on the effects on new readership of DC Comics' 2011 relaunch, The New 52, for which Midtown Comics held a midnight signing on August 31, 2011.
Midtown Comics Times Square was the location of the December 21, 2010 press conference in which Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesadaand Executive Editors Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso announced the 2011 company-wide crossover storyline "Fear Itself".
The store has also been mentioned in comic book stories themselves. In Ex Machina #12 (August 2005) by Brian K. Vaughn and Wildstorm Productions, the main character, Mitchell Hundred, laments the closing of a beloved comic book store in Lower Manhattan following the September 11 attacks, and a friend mentions some real-life comics shops that are still open, including St. Mark's Comics, Jim Hanley's Universe, and Midtown Comics. Comic book writer Mark Millar explicitly references the store in Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 #2 (October 2010), in which Nerd Hulk requests permission from Captain America to attend a book signing there.
Signings and appearances
Midtown Comics has hosted signings by comic book creators such as Rob Liefeld, Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar and Simone Bianchi, as well as celebrities known outside the comic book industry,such as Amber Benson, Tim Gunn, Fallout Boy, Olivia Munn, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, filmmaker Kevin Smith and actor Zachary Quinto.
Although the store normally closes in the evening, it will sometimes hold special midnight releases in order to begin selling certain high-profile books during the first minutes of the Wednesday shipping day, before other stores are able to. These events usually feature store appearances by creators, such as a September 2008 appearance by Peter David and Mike Perkins to promote The Dark Tower: Treachery and The Stand: Captain Trips, and an August 2011 appearance by Jim Lee and Geoff Johns to promote titles related to DC Comics' "Flashpoint" and The New 52 events.