I was going to write a post about the place where I buy comics, and I’m still going to, but I decided to expand it as well. Read on!
I have mentioned before that I purchase my weekly books at Greg’s Comics. It’s not actually because the name of the store is my name, in case you’re wondering. I live basically at the same intersection as Greg’s Comics, which is on the northwest corner of Alma School Road and Guadalupe Road in Mesa, Arizona. I live in the housing development on the southeastern corner of the intersection, so I can easily ride my bike to the shop. Even if I didn’t live that close, I’d still go to Greg’s. It’s a cool place.
When I moved to Arizona in 2001, I started buying comics at Atomic, mainly because they were the store I found first. I like Atomic (and I’m planning to write about them in the future), but I eventually discovered Greg’s and decided to shop there. I had a few reasons for it. I prefer, if I can, to patronize small businesses, and although Atomic is just a local store as well, it’s still a chain and the owner is chums with Joey Q, so it feels a bit more corporate. If Atomic was a phenomenally better store than Greg’s, I’d definitely go there, but it’s not. Howard, the owner of Greg’s (the namesake of the store apparently helped him get it started but then bailed), pretty much gives everyone who shops there a 20% discount. So it’s cheaper to buy there than at Atomic. And, as I’ve mentioned in my monthly “Flippin’ Through Previews” posts, Howard gives Previews out for free, which is very handy. Howard often doesn’t order the really odd stuff, because it doesn’t sell, so if I didn’t order it, I wouldn’t read it. As I’ve grown out of superhero stuff, it’s helpful to be able to read Previews to see what else is out there. I know it’s not a perfect system, but it works for me, and I appreciate that I can read Previews for free. As usual, I urge you to ask your retailer if you can read Previews for free, or at least at cost ($3). If you order enough out of it, they’re making their money back easily.
I like the atmosphere at Greg’s as well. It’s a stereotypical comics shoppe in many ways (unlike Atomic, which is much sleeker), in that it’s packed with comics and toys, there’s little room to maneuver, the long boxes look like something out of a garage, and it feels like there ought to be a “Geeks Only” sign in the window. It’s a false stereotype, to a large degree – Howard and Robert, the other guy who works at the store, are extremely helpful when non-regulars come in the store – but it does often feel that way. There are the regulars, who stand around arguing about minutiae of comic-bookdom, and it’s somewhat cave-like, in that it’s dark and the windows are papered up with comics posters. This is, however, quite functional – if you’ve ever been to the AZ, where the sun is only two miles above the surface of the planet, you know that you need to block any large space that allows light in. But it adds to the somewhat dark atmosphere in the store. I happen to like it, but then I may be one of those geeks you hear about who never get to see women naked.
(That’s Howard in the top picture, counting in his order. Robert is in the bottom picture.)
Greg’s has a ton of back issues, in an age where back issues seem to be going the way of the dodo. Howard prices them well, too – you can always find cheap comics there, plus you get the discount on top of it. He does a cool thing, too – he bundles up issues that “go” together and sells them at a discount – you can find mini-series and long runs of ongoing titles that would be difficult to get if you were buying the issues individually, and they’re not that expensive. It’s a fairly handy way to find something without buying the trades, especially if the stuff hasn’t been collected (which is true for quite a bit of what he puts out). He has plenty of trades around the store, and he always has a “half-price” box or two where you can find some good bargains. One thing he doesn’t stock is manga. The customer base at Greg’s is pretty standard DC-and-Marvel superhero fans (his biggest sellers these days are New Avengers and JLA), and they have no interest in manga. He orders it for me when I write it down on my form (the one I make myself, as Previews no longer includes one in the catalog), but it’s not a place you’re going to find them lined up. He’d have them if his customers wanted them, but they don’t.
(This is new comics day. They’re all laid out on the tables, which is ridiculously lo-tech but somewhat charming.)
So that’s my comic book store. It’s been there for 16 years, and Howard does all right for himself. He goes to toy fairs and the San Diego con, because he has a lot of pre-1970s stuff that he doesn’t display at the store (he has a few on the walls, but it’s a tiny percentage of his stock), so he makes extra money that way. He has only one employee, after all (Robert has been there almost as long as he has), so he doesn’t have a ton of expenditures in that area. It’s a cool place to shop, and I often go there on the weekend to bullshit with Robert, because it’s fun to vent about comics, isn’t it?
As I mentioned at the top, I decided to expand this idea a bit. So I’m asking you, the readers, to write about your comic book stores as well. I’d like to make this a regular feature, depending on the response I get. If you buy your comics at a store instead of cheating and getting them on-line (yeah, I’m looking at you, Bill Reed), tell us about the store. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me an account of your store, and if you want to send me some photographs, that’s cool too. You can write as much or as little as you like, and if the store has a web site, you can send that along too (Greg’s does not have one, because Howard doesn’t want one). If nobody responds, I’ll just write about comic book stores I happen to go to, and as I can foresee only a few places I’m going to travel in the next few months, the stores I visit will be few and far between. But it would be more fun if you participate!
To finish, I always feel weird about linking to my other blog, but it’s time for my annual round-up of how my daughter is doing, so if you’re interested in reading about her progress, head on over! It’s worth it just to see how cute the kids are! Just ignore the fat man at the bottom of the post!