Hey, you know what is a cool comic book store you should check out? Comic Riot, in Camp Hill, PA. Specifically, 2202A Gettysburg Road, Camp Hill, PA 17011. The phone number there is 1-717-730-2887. It is opened every day of the week, Monday through Saturday, 11am to 7pm and Sunday 12pm to 5pm.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, why, let’s listen to everyone’s pal, Greg Burgas, as he tells of a visit he made to Comic Riot last fall!
Now, I have been in a lot of comic books shoppes in my life. My favorite continues to be Excalibur Books and Comics in Portland, but Jason’s is right up there. First of all, he understands that comics shoppes are businesses, not hobbies. I like my current comic book store (which doesn’t have a web site or even e-mail, as the owner is stuck in the 1960s, I think), but it feels like a place that would be run out of someone’s basement. I’m not kidding when I say that they argue endlessly about how many costumes Cyclops has worn over 40 years (that’s my “go-to” nerd story when I talk about my store, as I have gone to it before). Jason doesn’t think that way. He wants his store to be well lit, clean, modern-looking, and, well, like a business. And he does it well. Here’s a couple of pictures of his store:
The second picture is the lounge area, where he encourages people to hang out and watch television, which at the time was showing cartoons. Jason hasn’t left the geekiness completely behind, people! In the first picture, the center bookshelf is completely taken up with independent comics trades. It’s a joy to see so many indy books, arranged nicely (some by series, obviously, but some by creative talent, which is a good way to do it) and featured prominently. It’s not only new stuff, either, but a lot of older work. He has plenty of superhero Marvel and DC stuff, but it’s not front and center. Let’s face it – if you want the superhero stuff from the Big Two, you will find it. The indy stuff needs to be featured more at stores, and it’s nice to see.
You also notice the wide open spaces and the good lighting. Never underestimate the power of appearances. Again, I have to compare Jason’s store to others I have been to. At Excalibur, it’s more cramped than Jason’s, because they sell back issues and a lot of space is taken up by long boxes. Jason doesn’t have that inventory yet. However, Excalibur still has good lines in which to walk, and it is bright and welcoming. It’s still a comic book store, though, and it feels like one. Here in Arizona I often go to Atomic Comics, which is also run like a business and not a hobby. It’s a chain, so I am a little disposed against it, but I still go there and spend money. Both Atomic Comics I go to (the one in Mesa and the one in Chandler, for ArizonaTeach) are nicely laid out and the staff is friendly and willing to help. There’s still a whiff of comic book geekiness, but that’s okay – it’s comics! Atomic has plenty of independent comics featured, which is nice. The one problem I have with Atomic is that their salespeople sometimes try too hard – I’ve been collecting comics longer than some of their employees have been alive (okay, maybe not, but close), and I know what I’m looking for. I don’t mind them asking me if I need anything, but if I say I’m fine, I’m fine!
I hung out at Comic RIOT! for a while and checked out Jason’s inventory. I picked up the first trade of Gotham Central (not bad); Essential Amazing Spider-Man Volume 7 (I LOVE the Essential Spider-Mans); Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards by Jim Ottaviani, which I had been looking for ever since David Carter sent me the free preview, and which I missed ordering from Previews and could not find anywhere (which is why Jason’s store is good); the Come In Alone collection by Warren Ellis, most of which I read online years ago but still dig; and Comic Wars: Marvel’s Battle for Survival by Dan Raviv, about which I’ve heard good thing. Jason has plenty of books about comics, too, which is a good thing. Because I am a comics geek, I like reading books about comics, and often can’t find them in bookstores, because they’re in weird places, instead of, you know, with the comics.
Here’s Jason ringing me up. Note again the bold design of the store, with the star painted on the wall.
I can’t stress enough how different Comic RIOT! is from most stores – perhaps it’s the newness of it, and eventually it will turn into a nerd hangout, but right now, it’s the kind of place non-comics readers would be comfortable in. And because this is a business, you can still appeal to your core demographic while trying to attract new customers, right?
Here Jason says hello and asks people to come to his store! As he explained to me, the problem with his kind of store is that superheroes still dominate the industry, and the two stores in his area sell almost exclusively superheroes. The buzz indy stuff gets on the web is great, but in the real world, the people who buy a lot of indy stuff are spread all over the place, and can’t make trips to Camp Hill every week. So the issue is how to get people to take chances with their comics purchases, because people like the familiarity of Batman and Spider-Man. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing inherently wrong with superheroes, but there is a lot of good stuff out there that has nothing to do with superheroes too.
I had a great time at Comic RIOT! Jason is a personable guy (even though he’s a Miami Hurricane fan – boo!) and he understands the business. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you stop by. And even if you’re not, you can still buy a T-shirt from him. He’ll mail it to you!
Okay, everybody else, go to Comic Riot! Or e-mail Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
Cool comic stores are important – we should do all we can to keep ’em around!
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