The comic shop I work at tries and succeeds at being like other retail stores in many aspects. The customer service. Friendly knowledgeable staff. Open and inviting atmosphere. It challenges the common notion that all shops are dirty, seedy hole-in-the-wall dungeons staffed by disaffected, overweight owners and frequented by customers who have never seen a girl or taken a bath.
We let in natural light. We keep the store tidy and work hard to merchandise products in an easy to find and pleasing manner. We sweep and mop, organize, dust, inventory and work our little butts off to make sure that all our customers (be they hardcore comic guys or confused grandmothers) have a pleasant experience in store.
So, no, we don’t have time to read comics. However, we love the products in our store and will happily share our knowledge with you should you ask. What do I do? I’m a manager but my area of expertise is anime, manga and related products. I also enjoy a hefty knowledge of comics (thanks to years of training by our resident expert) and basic knowledge in Dungeons and Dragons and various boardgames.
Right now the staff at my store are experiencing something new – a pregnant co-worker. Most staff are fairly young – at least the female staff. I’ve worked there for about 10 years now and built up a good relationship with my fellow managers and the owner of the stores. I’m lucky in that I have a caring network at my place of employment, a group of “brother” types who are taking such good care of me to ensure the birth of babybean. The owner is a dad himself and has been personally seeing to my comfort and helping me along the way to maternity leave. It’s quite sweet.
Working at the shop I’ve met all kinds of wonderful people. Sure, we get the stereotypical customers (rude, self-important comic nerds, D&D guys who need to take baths and wear deodorant, hyper-active anime girls with grating personalities) but for the most part the customer base is geeky but fairly normal (with blessedly awesome hygiene).
Comic shops on the whole seem to be going through a metamorphosis. As they welcome new readership that includes women, mainstream fans, and young girls stores across the country are cleaning up their act, so to speak. They are open and clean and inviting but still retain a bit of that old-school nerdiness.
I really love my job and the people there. I love comics (by comics I also include Japanese manga) and believe it to be one of the last truly unedited forms of expression. You can find a comic on almost anything and some of the stories found within will change your perception or make you see things in a different light. They reflect what is happening in the world around us – from Avengers VS X-Men reflecting the current political climate in the US to Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis writing mind-boggling stories about the future of the human race as a whole and the danger of super humans as “Gods”. Comics are a true “graphic” experience mixing art and words to create a story that would not be whole if it were only art or only words. Schools and public libraries are adding more and more comics to their shelves, at first to get young teens to read but now as a matter of course.
I really believe that there is something in my store for almost everyone. I’m proud of what I do and nothing makes me happier than a customer coming back and saying “Hey, you know what you recommended me the other day? I LOVED it! Got anything else?”
May 05 is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY and I urge you to gather your crew and head to the local shop. The link will help you find stores in your area participating. I’m sure you’ll find something you like and most stores will have multiple titles to choose from – including small press and kid friendly titles! Shops across North America will open their doors on May 05 and celebrate what it is we do, what it is we love, with the rest of you. Please, come join the celebration!