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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12 Unhealthy College Habits That Never Should Have Become Normalized

No, you shouldn't have to pull an all-nighter to pass every exam.

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College is a weird time in our lives, but it doesn't have to be bad for our health. Here are some trends I've seen on social media and watched my friends practice that really never should have become a "thing" for college students in the first place.

1. The "freshman 15."

Everyone has heard of the dreaded "freshman 15," where college freshmen gain 15 pounds because of access to all-you-can-eat dining halls. Rather than eating healthier options at the dining halls or, you know, only eating until you're full and not stuffing yourself, we've just accepted our fate to gain what's really a large amount of weight. Not a very healthy mindset.

2. Eating only junk food because we're "too poor" to buy real food.

For off-campus students, the theme is ramen and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. This is really not how it needs to be. You can buy a bunch of romaine lettuce for around $1 at the grocery store I go to in my college town, and other produce like broccoli, potatoes, and apples are always cheap. Shop sales and keep your pantry stocked on staples like dry pasta, rice, beans, and other canned vegetables. It's not that expensive to eat decently.

3. Gorging on food at the dining hall just because you can.

This is what leads to the freshman 15. Just because you can eat whatever you want doesn't mean you should.

4. Procrastinating EVERYTHING.

I'm always ahead of my schoolwork, but all of the people in my classes push things right down to the wire. It creates unnecessary stress. Just get things done in advance so you don't have to worry.

5. Being generally unorganized and struggling to keep your life together. 

Actually using my planner is one of the best things I've done for myself in college so far. I don't know why it became popular for college students to be a hot mess all the time, but again, do what you can to avoid putting unnecessary stress on yourself.

6. Pulling all nighters, ever.

If you don't understand it by midnight, you won't understand it any better by five in the morning. You'll do so much better with less studying and more sleep than the other way around. Take the L and go to bed.

7. Waiting until the very last minute to start studying for your finals.

This is what typically leads to the aforementioned all-nighters. If you have an exam in two weeks, start studying NOW. Give yourself time to figure out what you need to focus on and get in contact with your professor or a tutor if necessary. Do yourself the favor.

8. Getting blackout drunk Friday and Saturday night...every weekend.

A lot of college students like to drink. That's fine, I get it, college is stressful and you just want to have a good time. But you don't have to go out every night of every weekend and drink so much you don't remember anything that didn't occur between Monday-Friday every week. Give yourself a break from drinking every so often.

9. Getting iced coffee before class and being late because of it.

I always make sure I get to campus early if I plan to get Starbucks, which I often do. It's rude to come in late, and it's detrimental to your education to consistently miss class. Your coffee can wait if you're running late. Plan better next time.

10.  Committing to 10 different extracurriculars because "it'll boost your resume if you have more on it!"

If you only participate in one club where you're the head of marketing and the treasurer, that will look SO much better than if you participated in five clubs but were just...there for all of them. Excel in one thing rather than being mediocre in many.

11.  Skipping class whenever you feel like it.

You can take the occasional mental health day, but if you're just being lazy, you're only hurting yourself. Go to class. You're paying a lot of money for it, after all.

12.  Spending every last penny you have to go somewhere for spring break (Daytona Beach, anyone?).

"Broke" college kids always end up taking the most extravagant spring break vacations. I'm sure it's fun and you'll cherish the memories, but wouldn't you cherish that $500 more if you saved it for things you actually need rather than living off of ramen for a month when you get home?

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Social Media Can Bridge The Gap Of Communication Between The Two Genders

We have small devices hidden in the back pockets of our jeans that give us access to billions of users across the Internet, and all it takes is one post to spark a revolution.

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You spend time at least once a week going through your social feed. You even spend time once a day going through your social feed.

There is a power in the words you speak and post online, and these very words can impact others' lives, negatively or positively. As an example, according to the Huffington Post, women are met with being "…ignored, trivialized, or criticized by men…" online mainly because the rift between the two genders prevents proper communication.

Gender equality can be achieved by online engagement, or posting. In some cases, though, the opposite can be true. I personally love Instagram and will occasionally find myself scrolling through posts recommended by the platform itself simply so I can waste time and complain about that later. A few weeks ago, I happened to be relapsing into my Instagram addiction and found myself particularly drawn to a certain post by Rowan Blanchard, which had a caption reading that "Cis men are violent and dangerous and until numbers prove [her] wrong [she] won't be able to not make statements that can't be read as vague."

Now, MSNBC identifies activism today as "…easier than ever…" thanks to social media, with "…[facilitated] public dialogues and… a platform for awareness…," but the caption of Blanchard's post shown is not activism at its finest. In a brief synopsis, activist Rowan Blanchard, who you may know from the show "Girl Meets World," addresses her distaste for men, going so far as to generalizing them as dangerous. In my opinion, this is one step backward in the fight for equality rather than a step forward.

Men and women alike have our differences that we consistently brush over in angry online comments but never truly sit down and discuss. The presence of a civil conversation between members of opposing sides of the gender argument is astonishing, and I myself have never seen one online. These conversations act like haunting illusions of a future we can only dream of, as if such a situation is purely unattainable otherwise.

We fawn over the thought, calling ourselves servants at the hands of a society where men and women can join each other and claim that there is no reason to feel unequal. The idea is breathtaking, and the friendships between men and women would be endless. Unfortunately, modern-day social media displays misogyny, misandry, animosity and all forms of verbal destruction against both genders that I feel sorry to merely acknowledge.

Before I took a break from being active on social media, I used Instagram to showcase my thoughts on these issues. I found it compelling to have an audience of my close friends and acquaintances listening as I explained and rationalized about online sexism repeatedly.

Occasionally, the topic sparked up friendly conversation about disagreements, and being honest, I felt threatened by how unthreatening the discussion was. It was as if I was asking for a reason to feel angry, to feel offended, but I instead was met with the harsh reality that social media can allow engagement in normal conversation.

The culture that revolves around online discussion is brash and led by emotion rather than by statistics, and while Blanchard may claim that she wants precise statistics before she alters her position against men, many online still fail to recognize the validity of such numbers. Her use of a hasty generalization clearly shows the lack of structure within her argument; I may be solely pointing her out, but her rationale stands as an example of the obstacles we face in the path to gender equality.

MSNBC used Twitter demographics to explain the impact of current events revolving around gender debates on the amount of discussion about sexism, and the results show that social media holds power. It holds hope and determination and serves as a pathway to a society where we may be able to hold hands and know we have no fear of being inferior to one another. Our generation is accustomed to seeing this magnitude of a response online, but when imagining every person who tweeted about this, there is potential change that we can visualize.

We have small devices hidden in the back pockets of our jeans that give us access to billions of users across the Internet, and all it takes is one post online to go viral. Within minutes, we can reach out to hundreds or thousands of people, updating them about our lives. With the ability to contact an enormous number of people, the only question you are left to ask yourself is, "How will you bring about a positive change to social equality?"

Your response to this question is being awaited every moment of your life.

Disclaimer: Please note that this has been a speech previously submitted as an assignment in a class.

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