As funny as the Amazon Drone Twitter account is, the best response to Sunday’s big revelation that the online retail giant is developing delivery by unmanned aerial vehicles has to be from Waterstones.
On Monday, the U.K. bookseller announced O.W.L.S., the Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service, which will utilize owls to bring books to customers’ doors. As Waterstones Press Manager Jon Owls (ahem) explains in the video below, “O.W.L.S. consists of a fleet of specially trained owls that, either working individually or as an adorable team, will be able to deliver your package within 30 minutes of you placing your order.”
Owner Russ Battaglia and his wife Christie were introduced by a customer to The Point, which at the time was sharing space with another church. The Battaglias really connected with the congregation, and when they moved the store to a new, larger location, Pastor Tony Cecil proposed a radical idea: that A+ and The Point share the new space.
And so the display racks were placed on rollers or slides so they can be moved easily, and the empty space at the back divided to serve has childcare during services. Each Sunday, curtains go up to hide the merchandise, a window shade comes down to advertise the church, and … voila! The whole process takes about a half-hour.
“It’s like a comic book store that becomes a Transformer, too,” Battaglia tells the newspaper.
It won’t need to transform for much longer, however: The Point Community Church will soon move down the street.
There’s a bit of irony to this story of a comics dealer and a collector going to great lengths to acquire an intact comics collection … which they apparently intend to break up by selling off the comics individually.
Matthew Lane, the reporter who got the story for the Kingsport, Tennessee, Times-News, puts the allure of the collection right in his lead:
Imagine coming across a rare comic book collection, complete runs of Marvel and DC dating back to the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics. The first appearances of Spider-man, Iron Man, Wolverine, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
Indeed, that’s what makes this collection so interesting — its completeness. Seeing an entire run of issues, watching iconic characters pop up in the context of their times, is a special experience (albeit one that can now be duplicated fairly easily with digital comics). The collection of more than 46,000 comics seems to have attracted some attention among dealers, and it was ultimately purchased by retailer Brian Marcus and collector Charles Bond.
Owner Dish Network, which bought the already-struggling company in a 2011 bankruptcy auction announced this morning it will also end the Blockbuster By Mail service in mid-December and shutter its distribution centers. According to Reuters, 2,800 employees will lose their jobs.
As with the decline of music stores that preceded it, the death of Blockbuster is being attributed to the rise of digital (in particular, Netflix), which curiously enough — and despite fears to the contrary — hasn’t appeared to harm another specialty channel: direct-market comic stores. In fact, all indications appear to point to digital helping print sales. Could it be that comic shops, long the subjects of apocalyptic predictions, end up as the last ones standing?
A retailer who last week ripped a copy of Pretty Deadly #1 in half in front of customers, triggering heated online reaction as well as responses from Image Comics and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, has apologized for his actions.
“A small group of long time customers who know me well asked me what I really thought of the book,” Steven LeClaire, owner Comics Ink in Culver City, California, explained in a post on the Bleeding Cool forum (it was deleted and made into a standalone article). “For dramatic effect, I ripped a copy of the book after giving my review. I personally found the book lacking a coherent storyline and the art too muddy to follow. That was my opinion. The book was still on the shelves for sale for all those who wanted it. I made a mistake of thinking I was having a private talk with a small group of friends. I apologize for my actions.”
The incident was first mentioned Thursday by CBR columnist Hannibal Tabu in “The Buy Pile,” where he wrote that he agreed with the retailer’s assessment of the issue — by DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles — although he didn’t mention LeClaire by name. Word of the comic’s destruction quickly spread online, with Zero writer Ales Kot questioning whether the act was prompted merely by “anger about the product, or also by misogyny,” and leading Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson to offer to take back the remaining copies of Pretty Deadly #1 from Comics Ink and have Diamond Comic Distributors cancel orders for subsequent issues.
It’s an idea so logical, you wonder why more shops don’t do this: Gotham City Comics and Coffee, in Mesa, Arizona, is just what the name says, a comic shop that also has some pretty good coffee. This is a place where you can linger, as local reporter Amy Young found when she paid the shop a visit recently:
Beyond the door lies a long row of comfy looking recliners, complete with built-in cup holders, each across from an individual screen for video game playing. Drinks like the aptly named Thor’s Hammer offer caffeine potency that surely will sustain hours of thumb driven gaming. This tall, icy bad boy is four, yes, four, espresso shots mixed with a milk of choice, caramel syrup and some irresistible whipped cream.
(Emphasis in the original.) Manager Jaime Ruiz brews coffee from a local roaster and has a lineup of superhero-themed coffees, including a Spider-Man (white mocha with raspberry) and Dark Knight (dark chocolate); a regular coffee is a Superman. Some people visit the store just for the coffee, and Ruiz is proud of his barista skills.
Manhattan retailer Midtown Comics. which last year opened a boutique inside the Fifth Avenue flagship location of FAO Schwarz, has now expanded into the Times Square Toys”R”Us. Located frighteningly close to the T-rex in the Jurassic Park display (above), the boutique sells graphic novels, hardcover books and apparel.
“We are thrilled to bring our brand to Toys“R”Us, and to share the excitement of comics, graphic novelsl, and related collectibles with the mainstream public,” Midtown co-owner Gerry Gladston said in a statement.
Midtown Comics opened its first store in 1997, and now boasts three locations in Manhattan (in addition to the two boutiques).
(Photo courtesy of the Midtown Comics Tumblr)
Longtime retailers Buddy and Judy Saunders have sold the remaining two locations in their Dallas-Fort Worth area Lone Star Comics chain, leaving them with the online store MyComicShop.com.
They announced in July that the locations in Mesquite, Hurst and Plano had been sold, and on Monday added the Fort Worth and flagship Arlington stores to the list. According to ICv2.com, the two locations are being purchased by longtime Lone Star employee Elaine Powell, her husband Les and their son Matthew at the end of the month. They’ll be renamed Wild West Comics & Games.
Elaine Powell has served as store manager and general manager during her time with the company; Les and Matthew helped to design and construct Lone Star locations over the past 25 years.
Buddy Saunders, who opened the Arlington store in 1977, said he, Judy and their son Conan will concentrate on the growing online business. Lone Star Comics previously also had locations in Dallas, South Arlington, Irving and Wichita Falls.
If you happen to be in Muncie, Indiana, some weekend, stop off at Alter Ego Comics — the person who rings up your issue of Daredevil might just be the guy who wrote it.
Writer Mark Waid, who sold his print comics collection to fund his digital-comics site Thrillbent, is now a comics retailer: He and his partner Christy Blanch, who taught the MOOC on “Gender Through Comic Books” earlier this year, have each bought shares in Alter Ego Comics from original owner Jason Pierce. Waid, who lives in the Muncie area, refers to Alter Ego as “my store of choice for some time.”
“This isn’t a vanity purchase, a symbolic gesture, or a silent partnership,” Waid explains at Thrillbent. “Christy, Jason and I are each equal shareholders in Alter Ego Comics. I have skin in the game, and I’m eager to see what there is to learn about the only side of the industry I’ve never involved myself with.”
As a champion of digital comics for the past few years, Waid has often joked about incurring the wrath of retailers, so this is quite a twist. But it makes sense: He believes digital and print should work together, and some of that has to happen at the retail level. As he does with his digital comics, he plans to write about his experiences, and since Waid doesn’t mind discussing his mistakes as well as his successes, that should make for interesting reading.
And if nothing else, Waid’s comic shop just has to be cool. As he himself says, “Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s probably worth stopping by just to see all the props and memorabilia I’ve brought from home. Who else do you know who has both a full-size Phantom Zone projector and a scale-model replica of the Batcave?”
Look for an interview with Waid this afternoon at Comic Book Resources.
The first two Walking Dead Compendium volumes have sold a combined 100,000 copies this year in bookstores, towering above the other titles on Nielsen BookScan’s list of the Top 10 bestselling adult graphic novels for the first half of 2013. With a suggested price of $59.99, Image Comics’ 1,088-page Compendium One is “by far” the most expensive book on BookScan’s Top 200 chart for adult fiction.
Graphic novel sales have increased 10 percent year over year, which the company seems to attribute in no small part to the performance of the collections of the long-running comic by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, and the popularity of the AMC television series.
Volumes of The Walking Dead accounted for four of the top five spots on the BookScan chart, a streak only interrupted by Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, Vol. 60, at No. 4. In fact, six of the Top 10 graphic novels were held by Image books, with another volume of The Walking Dead claiming the No. 7 spot, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, Vol. 1, slipping into the final slot with 15,000 copies; the remaining books are manga.
According to BookScan, The Walking Dead books have sold more than 1 million unites in the past 18 months, with Compendium One seeing “a 47 percent week-to-week sales lift” that coincided with the Season 3 finale of the AMC series in March.
The longtime owners of Texas retail chain Lone Star Comics and online store MyComicShop.com have announced the sale of three of their five locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“The time is right for us to focus our attention on our online business, which grew out the mail order business I began in 1961, a time when there were virtually no comic book stores and no internet,” Buddy Saunders, who opened the Arlington store in 1977, said in a statement. “To that end, Judy and I found two talented businessmen who want to carry the stores forward in a way that we’ll continue to be proud of.”
Lone Star Comics Regional Manager Aaron Settle, who has worked for the chain for 17 years, will purchase the Mesquite store, while the Saunders’ friend Brent Erwin, a longtime fan and publisher, will buy the Hurst and Plano locations, which will operate under the name Collected: Hurst and Collect: Plano. Erwin already owns a store in Fort Worth called Collected.
New Yorkers no longer have to make a pilgrimage to the nearest Midtown Comics location each Wednesday, because now each week’s releases can come to them.
Midtown announced this morning that it has partnered with Zipments to hand-deliver comics to customers’ homes or workplaces, from Battery Park to 125th Street in Manhattan, as soon as they’re available. Customers may place orders Wednesday evening through the following Tuesday morning on Midtown’s website. The retailer is offering an introductory delivery fee of $4.99 for first orders; the regular fee is $9.999.
“We’re thrilled to partner-up with Zipments to pioneer Wednesday comic book delivery service in NYC,” Midtown co-owner Gerry Gladstone said in a statement. “It’s long overdue, and we’re getting tremendous feedback from fans who are sometimes unable to leave their home or workplace to get their new titles on Wednesday.”
The arrival today of the second collection of Saga, the hit space opera by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, will be met with glee not only by readers following the Image Comics series in trade paperback but also by a good number of retailers — and Brian Hibbs in particular.
The owner of Comix Experience in San Francisco (and Comic Book Resources columnist) commented last week on our post about the first volume’s strong performance in the direct market eight months after its debut, saying, that “Saga is, by far, our best-selling title.” Hibbs expanded upon that last night on his own blog, revealing that Saga, Vol. 1, “is now my second-best selling title in the store’s history of point-of-sale. Nearly seven years.”
“It just passed into that spot a few days ago, where it passed the previous #2, The Walking Dead v1,” he continued. “Understand, that is for sales of TWD v1 OVER THE LAST SEVEN YEARS. Uh, yeah. What’s the most remarkable about Saga is that it steadily sells even at this point. When it crossed into #2 position, it was something like 243 copies sold in 248 days — even at this point, months and months after it first came out, we’re still selling 5+ copies a week.”
The February announcement that Orson Scott Card would write a chapter of DC Comics’ new digital-first Adventures of Superman anthology sparked controversy in some circles, as readers and retailers objected to the sci-fi author’s anti-gay activism. Card isn’t just an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, he is a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that lobbies against marriage equality.
At the time, several retailers announced they would not carry the comic, while others felt that refusing to carry the title would be tantamount to censorship.
The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, California, figured out a graceful way around the controversy: It would sell Card’s comic and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the group Freedom to Marry, which supports legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. The owners of Illusive Comics and Games, in Santa Clara, decided to do the same. And then DC got a reprieve of sorts, when artist Chris Sprouse dropped out of the project and Card’s story was postponed indefinitely.
The first issue of Adventures of Superman was released this week with some fanfare but no controversy. Nonetheless, the co-owners of The Comic Bug, Jun Goeku and Mike Wellman, will donate 20 percent of this week’s profits to Freedom to Marry, and Illusive will do the same.
“The customers who shop at The Comic Bug are from all walks of life and with this week’s fundraiser, we want to let them know that we embrace them all,” Goeku told The Beach Reporter. Both shops will also have a jar for customers who want to make a further donation to the cause.
Comics shops are like any other retail establishments, I guess, in that there are good ones and bad ones. The difference between comics shops and coffee shops, though, is that people seldom accuse coffee shops of being unwelcoming to women. The food may be bad, but everyone’s money is the same color to them.
Comics shops, on the other hand, have developed a reputation for being uncomfortable places for anyone who isn’t a straight white male. I used to live down the street from a place like that, and I quit shopping there because of it—but that was in 1986.
That’s why I have mixed feelings about the Tumblr Safe Spaces for Comics Fans. On the one hand, I think it’s great to have a place for people to recommend (or warn against) particular shops. On the other hand, just by its very existence, it perpetuates the notion of comics shops as unfriendly to women, gay people, and people of color, and I’m not so sure that stereotype is true any more. Are there bad stores? Yes there are, but if you look at the blog, most of the comments are positive, with people giving shout-outs to local comics shops that treat them well. I think—I want to think—that this reflects reality. I want to think that the default is a friendly comics shop with good customer service for all its customers, and that places like this are the exception. The problem is that the bad places are more visible—that photo in the link has been reTweeted and reblogged all over the place—while the good places get taken for granted. So I guess in the end I am glad that the Safe Spaces Tumblr exists, if only as a place to recognize the retailers who get it right.