Comic Shops: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Comic Shops: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

There are hundreds of comic book stores across the country - and each one is run by people who love the genre as much as the customers who come in.
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By the time you read this, we will have already had Free Comic Book Day. On the first Saturday in May, comic book stores across the country give out issues released by the publishers as a way to both introduce returning customers to new stories and let new customers pick up something different without any real risk. It also works as a day for people to go out and support their local comic book stores, and usually there's a decent crowd that turns out for these events. Some have writers or artists do a signing, others have drawing classes or costume contests. This has become a bigger event as time has gone on, with ads all over the internet and outside stores. Of course I can't get into the history of comic book stores, that's a story for another day. But instead, I want to talk about them as a whole, and why they keep bringing us back for more.

We've all heard of the big ones, like New York City's famous Midtown Comics or the largest comic book store in the world, Mile High Comics (located in Denver, Colorado). Those are renowned for their huge selections of current and past issues, even down to the iconic Golden and Silver Age ones that can be worth a couple of houses. Despite Midtown Comics being the go-to comic book shop in the city, there's several others, ran by people with a passion for comics. Even Jay and Bob's Secret Stash in New Jersey, owned by filmmaker and writer Kevin Smith, is still based around the love of the medium that the people working there have. You always hear stories of actors walking into a store to pick up some comics to study for a role – from Winston Duke being given a stack of Black Panther issues involving M'Baku, to Josh Brolin being told by an employee to “not mess this up,” and even Benedict Cumberbatch wandering into a store while filming Doctor Strange – in full costume. Without the stores and the employees and the customers going there, the comic industry wouldn't be in the position it's in right now where movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Wonder Woman could be made and be as popular as they are. There's such a passionate group of people working there that they're willing to help out celebrities playing these iconic characters as if they're just someone who came in looking for classic X-Men comics.

And from the passion and care the shopkeepers have, that trickles down to the customer experience. People find their store and keep going, and soon enough, they know each other's name and interests – especially when a pull list is set up. A pull list is just that: the comics that a customer wants to read when new issues come out, and the employees will “pull” the issue for them, saving it for when they come in. No two stores are exactly alike, even in the same city. Some carry more than others, some are small hole-in-the-wall shops. But that doesn't matter to the customer, if they like the store they'll keep going. A cramped store with a great owner is always better than a large one with someone in charge who's just in it for the money. One could take a road trip across America and stop at comic book stores along the way and find every single one is unique (check out Comic Trips on YouTube). Conversations about the medium are normal, obviously, but you can end up talking with the staff for hours about life and the world around you. Being able to go into a store where it's usually the same people every day and they recognize you is a rarity these days, but comic book shops usually end up this way. It becomes a more relaxing and laid back environment, compared to the bigger chain stores that maybe sell some trade paperbacks. Customers keep coming back, not just for the product, but because of the welcoming nature of the store itself and those who work there.

That's what makes these stores continue to be a profitable business. They're a shop where everybody knows each other and comes together for a shared interest. People from all walks of life stop in, especially on Free Comic Book Day – again, it's risk free and something to do. Kids getting into superheroes, adults going in to read the story the new movie is based on, longtime collectors and customers to pick up new releases and chat with the people there. That makes the comic book store stand out from others, regulars are on a first-name basis, new customers are helped out as best they can be. And usually, people leave with a few issues or a trade paperback, and are planning to come back in when they've read those. It's such a niche item, but a store can practically exclusively sell comics and still turn out a major profit. People want to have more of these characters in between movies or seasons, and there's up to eighty years of comics to cover the gap for the customer.

Comics have gone mainstream, thanks to the post-Iron Man success of superhero television and movies. And with that, comic book stores are getting more and more customers. Some are coming back to the world after a while, others are just interested in reading the stories being adapted to screen. And it's not just the typical superhero comics that are catching on with the public either – Saga, The Walking Dead, Sex Criminals, and Lumberjanes have a growing fanbase, bringing people back to the shop to check out the new issue. Fundraisers and charity drives are commonplace at these places, and many become staples of their community – for example, Mile High Comics hosts drag shows. With annual events like Free Comic Book Day, it gives the public a time to go in, find some new stories to read and follow, oftentimes support a small business, and advertise the store itself. And even though that day has passed, it's not like that's your only opportunity. You'll be welcomed in with open arms and helped with finding the comic you're interested in. The industry is picking up more and more, and it's because of a new portion of the population who wants to read the series that they have been seeing in film and television.

Cover Image Credit: On The Grid

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'Mom, I Am A Rich Man'

Cher owned it, and you can, too.
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Most likely if you’re on any social media platform, you’ve seen the iconic video of Cher in an interview with Jane Pauley telling the story of her mother telling Cher that one day she should settle down and marry a rich man, to which Cher replies, “Mom, I am a rich man.”

*Disclaimer: Don’t worry boys, this article will still pertain to you, too.

In the days of “Mad Men” and Andy Griffith, the family unit was very much structured and known: a mother, who made the home and raised several kids, and a father, who earned the money for the household. There was never any confusion as to how one was to live one’s life, because every individual knew that this was the structure to follow. Be born. Make friends. Play. Grow up. Go to school. Meet someone. Possibly attend college. Marry. Have multiple children. Follow gender-assigned role. Repeat for next generation.

Then one day, the world began to change.

Women began attending college for more than an MRS degree. Divorce rates began to increase. Individuals began staying single for longer. Couples began having fewer kids and also having kids later in life. Homosexuals and other members of the LGBTQ community started coming out and sharing their voices. Schools were finally being desegregated. Technology was beginning its exponential growth, and the world woke up.

Cher’s mother was raised to believe these were the next steps Cher should take in life, just as probably similarly your parents have made comments to you that you do not believe line up with your generation’s viewpoint in today’s society. You’ve probably come to already realize that this is a generational gap between you and your parents; however, this is not the topic I want to focus on today. I want to talk about the concept of the individual unit.

Earlier on, I spoke about the '60s family unit. Back then, that was the unit. Even while there were several different roles within a family unit, every family made decisions and moved together. Today, we move into the individual unit. We have gone from making decisions on how we think they would impact the family onto how they will impact the individual. Often, people think negatively on this way of decision making, because isn’t it selfish to makes decision based off oneself?

The answer is… no.

Now before I get some serious hate for that statement, let me back it up. For all my business majors out there (yes, I am one myself), you’ve likely taken or will likely have to take an economics course. One of the basic goals of economics is maximizing profit, which is sometimes depicted as not focusing on how large your slice of the pie is but determining how to make the pie as large as possible. Let’s take this back to the family and individual units.

When decisions were made based on how they would affect the family unit, sometimes the decisions of one individual would hold back the others within the family from “maximizing their profit” or maximizing their potential. Perhaps this was staying home to raise the kids rather than following a career path that interested the parent. This may have been staying in an unhappy marriage to follow society’s standards rather than leaving the marriage and benefiting one’s family more by being happy alone. Although at first glance, these sacrifices may have seemed heroic and for the best for the family unit, looking back the alternatives may have actually put the individuals of the family in a happier place which would have reflected in the long run positively on the rest of the family.

Maximizing your potential is maximizing your happiness, and vice versa. We often think that to be successful and have an abundance of money must make us an evil person to be so selfish. We think that the phrase “money doesn’t buy happiness” means that money equals success and therefore if we’re successful we’re not actually happy even if we think we are. That idea is often what holds so many back from their greatest potential.

To be successful doesn’t mean that one can’t look back and help the people from their past and their family up the ladder once they’ve reached the top. To be successful doesn’t mean that one can never marry or multiply their happiness in others surrounding them, friends, family, spouse, children and all. To be successful means that one takes a step back, looks around, and asks, “Am I the happiest I can be at this present moment? And if not, what can I do to take myself there?”

It’s with those answers that we maximize our potential and growth. It is in our growth that we find gratitude for our efforts. It is in our gratitude that we find happiness in all that we have become.

XOXO, Isa

Cover Image Credit: David Carroll

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This One’s For Africa

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Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.

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It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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