Pop Culture Pulpit was on hiatus. It wasn’t planned or intentional. I just lost my way for a bit. I had my regular job, I accepted the role as editor for Comicbuzz and I started coming to terms with my own dreams and ambitions (more on that later). Writing just wasn’t something I made time for – then I stopped editing. Then I stopped with Comicbuzz. I’m fortunate though, since for whatever reason the good folks here at Comicbuzz reached out to me. I’m no longer editing, but rather I’ve committed to two articles a month that are large enough to be serialized, something I prefer to be doing and to which I am likely better-suited. There’s a lot to cover after all this time, so let’s get into it.
As mentioned above, I’ve come to terms now and accepted that comics and I are meant to be. Not just the comic books themselves, but the entirety of the culture itself. Both the retail and creative sides, the commercially-known and the independents – everything appeals to me and I appreciate it all. I respect and appreciate the past while having some concerns for the future. My point being, these aren’t just 22 pages of cartoons to me. When my favorite LCS (Local Comic Shop) closed, I had already become close friends with the manager. That friendship became a partnership when his personal collection of comics came to my home and an arrangement was struck wherein I would organize and sell the collection while we’d split the proceeds. Such was the success that soon we were doing small comic shows at a local arena. A month ago, I realized that those moments were when I was happiest. Sorting, pricing, engaging with like-minded people. Hunting for collections to buy (doing so is very much like picking strawberries. Some go into the bucket, some are for me) has proven to be a nerve-wracking pleasure. Embracing the idea that this is what makes me happy, I decided it was time to commit to it: commit to comics. A company name was created, a Facebook page made, business cards printed and a vision of a bricks and mortar was formed with timelines in place. So I’m pleased to announce that with fellow Comicbuzz writer Kin Jee, “https://www.facebook.com/JeeRizComics/” was birthed (please check us out on Facebook and “like” us). We’d like to have a store open for November of 2018 and will continue to grow our business at local comic shows. I have no idea what the future will hold, but that’s fine since there are no certainties. I will say this: I’m scared. It’s a risk, a gamble. What if I fail? What if my passion becoming my business turns my feelings towards this love into something cynical and jaded? But. BUT. What if I don’t try? What if I don’t try and Ia spend the rest of my time wondering and regretting? I wouldn’t be able to go backwards to make the adjustment, but I can plan as well as I can and move forward slowly, giving myself the best possible odds of success that I can. If I fail, then let it be because of circumstances beyond my comprehension. Forgive the cliché, but in this, it really is better to have tried and failed, rather than pissing and moaning about what could have been. That’s the bit about me. Which I can only imagine might make for boring reading for the rest of you but I think it allows those who’ve continued reading to get a better sense of who I am and what I’m “about”.
‘Buzzin ‘Bout Subscriptions:
Do you have a subscription at your LCS? Most serious collectors do. A sub makes sure you get your desired books each week, has them ready for pick up and typically will warrant a discount of some sort. But a sub can be tricky, for both the retailer AND consumer. From a retailer’s perspective, you’re ordering books months in advance based on nothing more than an email from a customer (some stores will require a deposit from clients or worse, have them pay entirely up front) who’s expressed a desire to have said books. As these are typically serious collectors I’d venture we’re talking about no less than half a dozen books a week; extrapolate this over dozens of customers. We’re now talking about hundreds of books a week, all paid for in advance by the retailer. With the certainty that our books have been pulled for us, customers no longer feel pressure or obligation to get to the store weekly (I tend to go once a month now – but geography and public transit play a role in that). This impacts retailers in multiple ways. First, as mentioned, the retailer is already out of pocket for the product – uncertain when they may see a return on their investment. Secondly, and perhaps as important but rarely considered, is that retailers must store all this product for an uncertain period. These stores are often less than a 1000 square feet so space is at a premium (not to mention stores pay per square foot so space used to store product is costing money – these books are now double dipping into the retailer’s bottom line).
As a consumer, having a sub can be wonderful. The work is done for you, you save a couple dollars and you never miss a book. It can quickly get out of hand though if left unchecked. When I first got a sub, I had to compile a list of every book I read each month. This is a FASCINATING exercise if you’ve never done it – you’d be surprised how many total books there are and how the books are separated by publisher (I read more Image than any other publisher, I genuinely hadn’t known that). Once the retailer has your list, he orders the books and the client just goes in and picks up the books. That sounds simple, but once you eliminate the process of going to the shelves, touching each item as you select it, you lose the checks and balance aspect of buying. The retailer has ordered books for you and paid for them. You are obligated to purchase them. There is no changing of mind and putting a book back on the shelf (SOME retailers may begrudgingly allow this, but remember the part where they’ve already paid for it?). It’s not unusual for there to be some sticker shock, especially if you aren’t picking up weekly. The books add up quickly and at three to five dollars a piece the end cost can be hundreds. The second aspect for a consumer to consider is, do I really need all these books? Because once you’ve realized that you’re committed to hundreds of dollars and dozens of books a month, you’d better be sure you want to read everything you’re committing to. In my case, I realized books kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the “To Read” pile, even after another month had gone by. I clearly was not overly interested in reading this book, so why was I committing to it? I quickly streamlined my sub – which was a win for both the retailer and for myself as we both spend less money while also storing less. Most retailers will work with you. Just be honest and respect the commitment you’ve made. I’m always adjusting my sub… I’ll try books and decide they just aren’t worth my time or money so I cancel it, buy the few remaining books that have been ordered on my behalf, and then move on.
A couple final points:
-Be careful when using your sub to collect characters, especially with the Big Two. There is less creativity with DC and Marvel now than at any time that I can think of. The publishers tend to saturate the market with whatever characters are popular, so if you tell your LCS you love Deadpool, be careful because you may end up with Avengers books that Deadpool is suddenly a part of. That may not be an issue for you, but it’s important to at least be aware this sort of situation may occur.
-When you have a sub, you’re often pre-ordering out of Previews months in advance. Something may have a fantastic synopsis, but once it’s in your hands you realize it was drawn by a kindergarten class. Unfortunately, it was ordered for you and you’re on the hook for the book. Take the time to find a preview of the book online if it you aren’t part of a system that lets you return books (to the rack) that you don’t want.
-Finally, always review your stack. Retailers get to know their regulars; it’s a part of the joy of this industry – that genuine bonds can be established between consumer and retailer. That can be double-edged however. Knowing what you like means a retailer may slip a book or two into your stack, assuming you’d want or enjoy it. He’s not doing this solely out of the goodness of his heart. He’s adding on to the sale, more-so than just adding on bags and boards. So, before you pay, review. Make sure you’re buying what you wanted.
‘Buzzin ‘Bout Books:
On the topic of monthly pull lists, what AM I reading and why? I’m not going to get into long validating reviews, just some bullet point thoughts.
-I’m often caught off guard by how few Marvel titles I read. Old Man Logan, Thanos, Moon Knight (all three written by Jeff Lemire – who as of this writing just “quit” Marvel) and now I’ve added Jessica Jones
-I read almost a dozen New 52 titles but Rebirth has not been a hit for me the way its predecessor was (there’s more on that later). I’m down now to Trinity, Detective Comics (the surprise hit for me), and Batman. The new Batwoman title seems encouraging.
-I said in this column over a year ago, people should keep an eye on BOOM! Nothing has changed my mind, if anything I’m more convinced they are the number four publisher. “Joyride”, “Skyborne” and “Warlords of Appalachia” are among my first reads when they come out. I think this company is still just defining itself and may rival Image as a home for creator-owned content.
-I’ve already stated I feel Black Mask is more hype than substance, but credit where credit is due. “4 Kids Walk Into a Bank” is a genuine pleasure to read. Very well-scripted with excellent dialogue. Unfortunately, the title has suffered due to delays and that can be the kiss of death for indie books.
Join us for part 2, next week!