I visited a new (to me) comic shop the other. I happened to be in the neighborhood and saw the sign as I drove past. Naturally, I had to take some time to check it out.
In a lot of respects, it was typical of any comic shop you've been in. It had a line of new comics along one wall, a line of bookshelves with TPBs and hardcovers on another, and a section in the back with some long boxes full of back issues. The walls were a combination of poster/prints, plus certain sections set aside for action figures and character statues and the like. It was clean and well-lit, and surprisingly spacious, even with the couple of tables set up for gaming.
There were several piles of cardboard shipping boxes lying around, though. It looked a bit much for a single Diamond shipment that hadn't been inventoried or shelved yet, and neither the owner nor the guy sitting behind the counter made any effort to unpack or move the boxes while I was there. The boxes weren't really in the way -- as I said, it was a surprisingly spacious location -- but it certainly didn't help the ambiance. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that was a temporary situation, but they didn't seem in any hurry to make it more decidedly temporary.
I was there on a Tuesday, typically the most dead day of the week for a comic shop given that new shipments are brought out on Wednesdays. But there were two guys leaving as I came in, another two patrons still in the store, and a woman stopped in while I was there. Most shops I've been to on a non-Wednesday weekday are completely vacant, so I was surprised at the traffic.
I wasn't on a big hunt for any books in particular, but I was also surprised at the material they had in stock. Not just your standard Marvel and DC fare, but full TPB runs of things like Strangers in Paradise and Love and Rockets. A good chunk of Cerebus books as well. Not to mention biographies of Dick Ayers, Marie Severin, and Irwin Hansen; and extended collections of Flash Gordon and Steve Canyon strips.
All in all, it seemed like a good shop. It had a lot of the type of material I enjoy/appreciate, and seemed to be generally well-run (judging by the number of customers and overall cleanliness) but something about didn't really sit right with me. Nothing in particular, it just didn't strike me as a place I would want to frequent.
So the question I find myself asking is: is it me? Have I been out of the comic shop loop so long that I don't care for them in general any more? I don't think that's the case; I certainly don't visit comic shops as much as I used to but I still went to several last year and enjoyed them (broadly speaking).
The next question then: was it the atmospere? Was the fact that it wasn't a bustling Wednesday dampening the general attitude and excitement that I used to experience on New Comic Day? Again, I think no. When I visit different shops, I usually make it a point to NOT visit on Wednesday precisely because I want to see what the shop has to offer without having to fight whatever crowds happen.
Do these questions really even matter? I mean, it's not like I'm looking for MY shop; I just stopped in. If the customers who already go there are happy with it, what does it matter if I'm not? Maybe it's just not for me.
Personally, I like to be self-reflective with these types of questions because, by figuring out what I don't like about THIS shop, I can make a point of avoiding OTHER shops that have the same/similar things. Certainly a lot of people don't have much choice in the matter when it comes to which comic shops they go to; they might only have one within an hour's drive anyway. And while location is obviously a key factor, in a city like Chicago (and its suburbs) there are a number of choices open to folks. I haven't sat down and driven them all out, but I think I can get to six or eight different shops within a half hour from where I'm sitting right now.
If you had options like that, wouldn't you spend some time considering what you're looking for beyond "well, they have comics"?
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