This weekend I did something I hadn’t done in a really long time. I went to a comic book store I had never been to before. In fact, I went to one I hadn’t been to before and one I hadn’t been to in a really long time. I ended up finding five more issues for my never ending quest to get the complete run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (30 down, 40ish to go.) Accompanying me on this journey was my beautiful and frighteningly patient girlfriend. While we browsed we discussed what makes a good comic book store. What follows is a list of indeterminate length of what we discovered.
1.) Firstly, we should all be aware of the fact that comic books are a dwindling market. In the past, the top selling books sold in the millions. Now, the best of the best hit about one hundred thousand. In a good week. It makes me sad. Comic shops, though, haven’t done much (in general) to help attract new readers.
2.) Store windows and doors are usually covered up by posters so you can’t get a good look inside. This, I’m told, is a deterrent for girls/women in particular. That gender seems to want to be able to know what’s going on on the other side of a door before they open it. Crazy, right?
3.) Women are a fairly large insufficiently tapped market when it comes to comics, and superhero comics in general. Who am I kidding? With sales at 100,000 per comic or less, EVERYONE is an untapped market. Making stores more inviting for women is the bare minimum that should be done.
4.) If you’ve managed to convince some poor schmo into your store, try to make it easy to navigate. I know comic shops have a ton of stock, but if it’s so cramped that you have to rub up against people if you want to get past them there’s a problem. Spread stuff out. If you need to go to your backroom to get something, so be it. It’s better to have a limited stock on display than to have your stock so tightly packed that your customers can’t actually look through it.
4 B.) That was a distinct problem at one of the stores we went to. The single issue comics they had were so crammed together that it was impossible to look through them. I don’t care if you’re selling it for 10 dollars or 50 cents, I’m not going to buy it if I have to damage it just to get it out.
5.) In the other store we went to, they had tons of trade paperbacks (collections of single issues.) These are great starting points for new readers, but if all you can see is the spine it’s hard to grab anyone’s attention. In fact, it can be pretty overwhelming. Why not have a special rack of starting point comics. For instance, if someone just saw the Spider-Man movie and wants more of that put Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1 on display. Or if the new Avengers movie comes out, put Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon (the writer/director of said Avengers) out. Things like that, I think, would help newbies get hooked.
Anyhoo, that’s about all I can think of at the moment. I mean, I guess you could hire some female staff or encourage the big two to put out more diverse books too. Or you could just follow the Silver Snail’s lead who already do almost all of the above mentioned things. Or you could just wait until all of the stores close and everything is sold digitally. That’s just my two cents. Or however much 600 words cost… 2 cents? Less? Oh.
Graham Becksted walked a lot this weekend. He even developed a bit of a wheeze. He has since gotten over it. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 51st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.