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In this Toronto comic store, even the coffee cups wear masks

silver snail-drink sleeves

Toronto’s Silver Snail is celebrating its partnership with The Black Canary Espresso Bar (located inside the comic store) by giving away limited-edition “cup masks” to the first 200 people who stop by today for a comic book and coffee.

As you can see from the photo above, the cup sleeves feature close-ups of such characters as Wolverine, Captain America, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. And they’re not all Marvel characters, either: You can get a look at Catwoman and Harley Quinn below.

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Ontario store gives free comics to A students

big b comicsBig B Comics in Hamilton, Ontario, has a terrific-sounding initiative to help foster literacy, and comics reading, among students.

As the CBC reports, between now and spring break in March, students in grades kindergarten to 12 can bring their report cards to the flagship store and get a free comic from the Big B back-issue bins for each A. It’s an annual program called, fittingly enough, “Free Comics For A’s,” which also rewards those students at the end of the school year June who have shown an improvement in their grades.

“We’ll find some reason to give them a free comic book,” Nicole Cartwright, the store’s assistant manager, told the CBC.

The Big B website also emphasizes the dedication of the Ontario retail chain — there are also locations in Barrie and Niagara Falls — to education: There’s a “Library Resources” section that highlights reasons for using comics as educational tools, provides a glossary of terms and recommends age-appropriate titles.

Omaha comics store suffers water, smoke damage in building fire

dragons lairA fire on Sunday caused about $300,000 in damage to a building in Omaha, Nebraska, that houses one of the two locations of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games. According to the retailer, the store suffered “lots of water and smoke damage.”

The Omaha World-Herald reports the blaze at 8316 Blondo St. began about 10 a.m. in Treasure Mart Collectibles, operated by the building’s owner, and followed a pipe into the attic. No one in either of the stores or in the five apartments on the second floor was injured. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.

The Dragon’s Lair Facebook page directs customers to the store’s location in the nearby Millard neighborhood while the Blondo Street shop is closed.

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Wow Cool and Alternative Comics open California store

wow cool-alternative

Wow Cool‘s Marc Arsenault, who in 2012 purchased Alternative Comics, has opened an indie comics store in Cupertino, California.

Called the Wow Cool | Alternative Comics Bookstore and Newsstand, the shop specializes in small-press and self-published comics, graphic novels, ‘zines and art books. It also carries vinyl and CDs from local music labels, as well magazines like Juxtapoz, Wax Poetics and Lucky Peach.

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Bergen Street Comics to stop racking most Marvel and DC titles

bergen_logo_color_smallWell-regarded Brooklyn retailer Bergen Street Comics has announced it will stop shelving most monthly titles from DC and Marvel. However, customers will still be able to subscribe to or preorder those books through the Park Slope store.

Writing on Twitter, co-owner Tom Adams explained the decision “Will enable us to better serve our customers. Strength of self contained, creator controlled comics will let us move away from double shipping, editorially driven, artist-swapping, inconsistent, tied into events/gimmicks comics. Trying to keep this a going concern/think long term.”

Since its opening in March 2009, Bergen Street has developed a reputation as a supporter of independent and self-published comics, and has played host to numerous creator signings and art shows.

Elaborating on the announcement, Adams said the continued shelving of DC and Marvel’s output “just doesn’t make financial sense” to the store. “Specific to our shop and my personal interests/passions,” he tweeted. “Nothing to do with other shops/state of comics in general. [We] represent such an insignificant amount of Big 2 sales this should mean nothing to anyone other than our regulars.”

Mail Order Comics files for bankruptcy, owing Diamond $325,000

mail order comicsFollowing reports late last month of fulfillment problems, Mail Order Comics has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, seeking to liquidate the nearly decade-old business.

In documents filed last week in federal bankruptcy court in Omaha, Nebraska, the retailer lists $45,000 in assets and $919,000 in debt, of which $325,000 is owed to Diamond Comic Distributors.

Signs of trouble with Mail Order Comics became apparent last month when customers began complaining on the store’s now-deleted Facebook page about unfulfilled orders and website troubles. Discount Comic Book Service quickly stepped in to fulfill all orders.

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Meltdown becomes first comic store to take Bitcoin

meltdown logoMeltdown Comics & Collectibles on Thursday became the first brick-and-mortar comic store to accept Bitcoin, the much-discussed digital currency transferred from person to person over the Internet.

The news arrives courtesy of the cryptocurrency website Spelunk.in, which participated in the Los Angeles store’s first transaction (for the record, it was for The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes).

“We at Meltdown like technology and like to move with it when possible,” general manager Francisco Dominguez told the site. “The thought of some magical money that’s not being spent and that I can accept to sell product was mindblowing. So it was a no-brainer that i had to jump on this new currency. [...] Brick-and-mortar/mom-and-pop shops are closing as digital takes over paper print. Hopefully this new way of bringing revenue in to a business will help keep them/us alive.”

He said he hopes to offer Bitcoin users incentives, including discounts, swag and special events.

Commercial use of Bitcoin is still small — as of late November, only about 1,000 physical locations worldwide accepted  it — but there’s a sizable speculator market, leading to a volatile exchange rate.

Retailer at center of ‘Powerpuff Girls’ dust-up issues open letter

powerpuff girls6

Dennis L. Barger Jr., the retailer who last week publicly criticized the “sexualized” nature of Mimi Yoon’s Powerpuff Girls #6 variant, leading Cartoon Network to withdraw the cover, has released an open letter in which he calls upon the comics industry to police itself, and to keep film studios and television networks out of the decision-making process.

The remarks from Barger, co-owner of  Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Michigan, follow a sharp response by Yoon in which the artist criticized him, in part, because “he brought up kids and used protecting kids and kids’ perspective in his reasoning/excuse.”

In his open letter, in which he touches upon a dwindling readership and the need to reach a younger audience, Barger writes, “I will not discuss why this cover upset me and this is the last time I care to talk about it, aside from this. I did not feel that it was appropriate for the cover of a book aimed at young children, especially young girls, and many people agreed with me. A Hollywood corporate machine like Warner Bros and Cartoon Network would not have pulled it unless enough people saw that this was inappropriate in some way.”

Read Barger’s full letter below:

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Stolen Flintstones car returned to Sacramento comics store

Store owner Dave Downey, now with TWO Flintmobiles

Store owner Dave Downey, now with TWO Flintmobiles

The replica of the Flintstones’ car stolen last month from in front of World’s Best Comics and Toys has been recovered by police and returned to the Sacramento, California, store.

According to the Merced Sun-Star, surveillance video from a nearby bowling alley captured footage of three high school-age suspects loading the 200-pound vehicle — it’s actually a wooden raft with two metal 55-gallon drums instead of wheels — into the back of a truck. That enabled Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies to track the Flintmobile to a ranch in El Dorado County.

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Comic store offers reward for return of stolen Flintstones car

flintstones mobile

Dave Downey in the Flintmobile

Sacramento retailer Dave Downey is offering a reward for the return of the latest addition to his store, World’s Best Comics and Toysa replica of the Flintstones’ car.

He tells Fox 40 the Flintmobile — a gift from a customer, who made it for a water parade — had been on display outside his Watt Avenue shop for just two weeks before it went missing over the weekend. Stealing the vehicle wouldn’t have been an easy task, either: It’s actually a 200-pound wooden raft with two metal 55-gallon drums instead of wheels; it’s meant to float, not roll.

“The perpetrators did not just get in and pedal away,” Downey says. “It is pretty terrible. How can you steal a Flintstones car?”

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Waterstones tweaks Amazon’s drone plans, unveils O.W.L.S.

waterstones-owls

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.”

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Kentucky comic store transforms into church each Sunday

a-plus

I really like this Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader profile of local retailer A+ Comics & Collectibles, which each Sunday turns into The Point Community Church.

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.

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What do you do with 46,000 comics?

Hulk 181There’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.

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Blockbuster to close remaining 300 U.S. stores

blockbusterBlockbuster, a video-rental chain that at its peak in 2004 had more than 9,000 stores and as many as 60,000 employees, will close its remaining 300 U.S. locations by the first of the year.

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?

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Retailer apologizes for ripping up copy of ‘Pretty Deadly’ #1

Photo provided by Hannibal Tabu.

Photo provided by Hannibal Tabu.

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.

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