Good morning, gentle readers.
As many of you know, I work in a comic shop. Actually, I work in one of the largest comic shops in the United States. It’s an interesting place to work. You’d be surprised at the cross-section of humanity that wanders through our doors: policemen, artisans, soldiers, university professors, professional fighters, ministers, people with families, people without families, young lovers, old couples, business professionals of every stripe, rock-n-rollers and retirees.
My favorites, though, are the virgins. The one’s who have never been inside a comic shop.
They’re easy to spot; they walk in and their eyes widen and they get this look on their face, that just says, "Wow!"
Most wander around, a bit timidly at first. They gawp at the dragon hung over our work area, then look around and spot the life-sized Batman figure, lurking above the Dollar Room. They usually comment on those two and I wind up pointing out the other figures; the life-sized Spider-Man attached to the wall behind and above them, the young Anakin Skywalker figure in his pod-racer outfit above the paperback books.
These are good conversational hooks for newbies, and, at this point, they usually reveal their virgin status. And then, ladies and gentlemen, they ask the question that makes my little heart go al aflutter: "What comics would you recommend for me?"
I love making recommendations, introducing people to whole new worlds that they might never encounter on their own.
"What do you like to read?" I’ll ask. "Or see at the movies?"
These are sounding questions and let me get an idea of the virgin’s tastes.
"I really liked that Avengers movie," some will say.
"Oh? Who was your favorite character?"
"Hawkeye," I’ll say, and point them toward the Hawkeye comic or, better yet, the trade paperback.
The Avengers, Dark Knight, Man of Steel. People who like those movies are easy to make recommendations for, because the characters in them are in several popular, mainstream comics.
It’s a little more challenging, however, when someone says, "The last movie I really liked was Twilight."
I loathe Twilight, the books and the movies. Nevertheless, I try my best to point the innocent at something they might like. Although, to be honest, comics featuring romantic supernatural adventures aren’t exactly thick on the ground.
So, I fall back on my default book, Fables by Bill Willingham. We usually have a ton of trades available and it’s a quality book. Nine times out of ten, the person will give it a try.
I had a lady come in a while back looking for a gift for her grandson. She asked if we had any comic books that featured African-American characters that weren’t violent. There are several books that feature African-American characters but none of them are particularly non-violent. Comics are, essentially, action/adventure stories so violence is pretty prevalent in the medium. I mentioned this to the lady, then showed her some trades of Static Shock and Icon & Rocket. She wound up buying Static Shock that day and came back the next to buy a trade of Black Panther for herself.
"I’m looking for a good horror comic."
"Rachel Rising by Terry Moore. It’s creepy as hell and was nominated for a 2013 Bram Stoker Award."
"I’d like a comic for my 10-year old daughter."
"Try My Little Pony or, better yet, Princeless. And if you can find it, Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting is wonderful."
"What about Wonder Woman? Would you recommend Wonder Woman for my little girl?"
"Um. No, not the current run. But try this Wolfman/Perez Wonder Woman trade from a while back. The art and story are both pretty great!"
Which brings us to the fact that the comics industry these days isn’t geared for children. Most comic readers are eighteen and older. As I said above, I’ve got retirees coming into the store and buying books.
Thankfully, when someone comes in looking for kids books, I can take ‘em back to our Kid’s Section. A lot of the titles are cartoon tie-ins: Adventure Time, Scooby Doo, Spongebob Squarepants, Teen Titans Go. Occasionally, something will get stuck back in the Kid’s Section that doesn’t belong there, like Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If it’s the cartoon Turtles book, that’s fine, but the actual mainstream comic isn’t really appropriate for kids, in my opinion.
Then, of course, there are the people asking for stuff that we can’t help them with.
"My kid is crazy for those Japanese cartoons. Do you guys have anything like that in comics?"
"You mean manga, and, sorry, we don’t carry it."
"It just doesn’t sell for us. Try Barnes & Nobles or Books-A-Million. They usually have a ton of it."
"You guys got any comics based on video games?"
Sure. We’ve got some Sonic the Hedgehog in the Kid’s Comics."
"No, I mean, more like, Grand Theft Auto."
Then there’s the guy who sidles up to the counter and asks, in a real low voice, "Um. Do y’all carry any, like, adult stuff?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh. You mean like adult-adult."
"Sorry. We don’t carry adult comics normally but we can do special orders if you have something in mind. Like, if you want to order a copy of Sex or Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss."
And, then, at least once a week, someone who has never read a comic in their life, will come into the store and say, "I heard y’all had comics based off The Walking Dead t.v. show. Is that true?"
"Actually, the comics came first."
"Really? I didn’t know that. Y’all got any?"
"Sure. We’ve got all nineteen trade paperbacks in stock. They’re right behind you."
They turn around and see our Walking Dead display. And, I swear, every single one of ‘em goes, "Wow."