Shop talk

June 22, 2007

I was talking to one of the clerks at the comic shop the other day, and he mentioned that his ultimate career goal is to open and run a comic shop himself. I’m not especially parental, but I have to admit that the temptation to shake him was strong. But my parents were masterfully restrained when I would lay out various career options to them, no matter how absurd they were or how ill-suited I was for them in temperament or ability, so I kept it in check. (I’m the youngest of seven, so maybe they were just tired by that point.)

And as training grounds go, the local comic shop could be much worse. It’s clean, uncluttered, and there’s nothing on prominent display that might make people who aren’t white, straight, male and 25 to 40 years old want to turn around and vow never return. The owner is a conscientious guy, and he hires accordingly. Everyone’s friendly and helpful.

That said, the owner is a realist as well. He initially made a conscientious effort to stock stuff that you wouldn’t find at the average comic shop, including manga. But realities of competition with the chain bookstores that have opened in the area seem to have taken their toll, and the selection has progressively narrowed in ways that will probably be familiar to people who track retailer lore on the web. The manga shelves have given way to a full wall of individual 52 issues and Civil War trades, and if you’re dying for the new issue of Mome or New Tales of Old Palomar, you’d better request it.

Happily, the shop encourages that. They may not stock everything, but they’ll certainly order it for you, and the shelf of reserves suggests a clientele dedicated to independent comics (and not just independent comics in the sense of superheroes created by someone other than Marvel or DC), shôjo and yaoi, and lots of other niche stuff. It seems like a perfectly reasonable, economically sustainable compromise: stock the stuff that sells to your base, but make sure people who don’t care about super-hero comics know that the store is a resource for them as well. And while I might wish that I had an Alternate Reality or Laughing Ogre or Beguiling nearby, I don’t begrudge the owner his decision to stay in business according to the demands of the local market.