Sunday, July 29, 2012

4 Shops in 4 Days

Quite a bit to read this week!
This past week, I had the rare (for me anyway) opportunity to shop in four different (relatively) local comic shops (lcs) over the span of roughly four days. The first was my go-to, hometown joint, Comics Etc. in the Village Gate Mall. I have been shopping there on-and-off for the past 20+ years. The other two shops were part of larger regional chains of shops in the New England area: Newbury Comics (we actually stopped in two separate locations in the greater Boston area) and New England Comics. As a run-of-the-mill fanboy, the best way for me to quickly share thoughts about each is to start with what I purchased there. So as to remain (only slightly) unbiased, I brought a willing accomplice with me (my stepson) as a gauge.
Without a doubt, the shop(s) my stepson was most interested in sharing with me was Newbury Comics. We visited both the shop in Harvard Square, as well as the larger (3 stories) location in the Quincey Market. My stepson was very excited to bring me there, and while I could definitely see why he liked it (and were I his age, I suspect I might too) for the middle-age collector who specializes (ie. can only afford) comic books and not the other chachki, it was a letdown.

There were indeed comic book themed merchandise, mixed in with much more video game and movie/television stuff, but remarkably few actual comic books for a place with the descriptors in its name. It was as if I'd entered hipster paradise with Notorious B.I.G. memorabilia mixed with Adventure Time tees, with a splash of OBEY goodies. What was primarily for sale was anime, action figures, posters, t-shirts, CDs, DVDs, and clothing for the wannabe fanboy or cool hipster. I was however excited to see my stepson excited about the Dr. Who collectibles and Walking Dead stuff (of which he bought a couple things), but he is also aware of these things being available at our lcs; a place he is always glad the time to come visit with me when his busy schedule allows.

Recent releases (books that came out this and last Wednesday) were displayed on racks, as well as trade paperback volumes for popular series', but there was not a longbox or back issue to be seen. We spent cumulatively about two hours in both places combined and I made a grand total purchase of nothing.

The second place we checked out, and this one was completely on a lark, was the Harvard Square location of New England Comics. It was located across the street from the hotel we were staying in and I had noticed the unassuming sign hanging in the window on our way into the Square. After the first day in Boston and being disappointed by Newbury, we decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was an actual comic shop with books (new and old), a smattering of collectibles, and a healthy rack of recent back issues at cover price (or less if you're willing to dig).

Maybe it was because it had much more of that lcs character that collectors know when they enter: new and old promo posters, stacks of books seemingly in disarray (but not really), and friendly folks working the counter (but not hounding you to buy-buy-buy). I had not been previously aware until later looking online, but NE Comics, like Newbury, is something of a megalo-mart for comic books, which is neither a good or bad thing but what is interesting is that NE Comics does a much better job either 1) masking its corporate nature or 2) staying true to its comic book collector roots. I'm going to suggest it's #2, as I did purchase the first three issues of the New 52 Action Comics (DC) to peruse on the ride home.

Comics Etc., despite the other shops being in and around the huge metropolitan area of Boston, Massachusetts, had the largest available collection, better accessibility to back issues and friendly customer service. I guess I had been wrongly seduced by the idea that larger cities would have better more complete stock available, but that was far from the case. I have a "pull list" at Comics Etc which means that each week the store pulls, or sets aside certain issues for my purchase. Most shops do this, and this past Wednesday was a particularly "heavy" one for me as many titles that I currently follow were released:

All Star Western #11 (DC)
American Vampire #29 (Vertigo)
Dark Avengers #178 (Marvel)
Debris #1 (Image)
ERB John Carter The Gods of Mars #5
Exile on the Planet of the Apes #4 (Boom Studios)
The Goon #40 (Dark Horse)
Hawken #5 (IDW)
I, Vampire (DC) #11
Justice League Dark #11 (DC)
Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #5 (Big Dog Ink)
New Edwardians #5 (Vertigo)
Planet of the Apes #16 (Boom Studios)
Prophet #27 (Image)
Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #7 (IDW)
Ultimates #13 (Marvel)
Uncanny X-Force #28 (Marvel)
As evidenced by the HUGE list above, the overwhelming majority of my weekly comic book expenditures were used at the hometown shop--clearly the best of the four I visited in the past four days! Like Norm on Cheers, it is good to have a place to go where everyone (or at least the guys working the counter) know your name...

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