Where do you buy comics? This week, I am running under the assumption that you, my dear readers, actually buy comics and that you are not one of those commies who steals via the Internet. There has been quite a evolution over the last few years with comic books with the "where" question. It seems that comic books are both readily available and far out of reach all at once. Today, I'll be looking at some of the more popular ways and places to buy comics today.
God I hope this doesn't turn out to be one of those "I remember the good ol' days" articles, but I have a feeling it will shortly. I remember the good ol' days when I could walk into the local yokel Circle K convenience store and buy comic books. One of the most memorable issues was of the first issue of the Nomad miniseries. That's right. Don't laugh. He had a gun , dude. On the cover. And Captain America was in it. He was on the cover too. It was kind of like my patriotic duty to buy the comic. I flipped through the issue and had the classic moment of the clerk saying it wasn't a library. I paid for my Thirst Buster and comic, walking out the door to go read it in quiet solidarity. Ah, those were the good ol' days.
It seemed like comics were sold everywhere back then, but now the market is fairly limited. I can't even recall the last time I saw a comic on the shelf outside of a bookstore, comic shop, convention, or online venue. It makes me sad. Well, not really. I have a pretty healthy dose of apathy, but today's comic book market is very different than it was twenty years ago.
So... Where do we buy comics?
Local Comic Shops
I talked about comic shops in an early edition of Panelology, and probably in not such a rosy manner. I won't go into that amount of gruesome detail, but comic shops are the norm for most individuals. Comic shops are a mixed bag in terms of quantity and quality of the merchandise, but the weekly pilgrimage to the shop is a time-honored tradition for fans everywhere. Most shops offer a pull or save system for reader where shop owners will hold the most recent issue for you of your favorite titles. Some places have limits, some don't. Some require you to fill out a previews sheet monthly, so don't. Some shops even have pretty anal policies about pull lists like having only seven days to come get your books before they are thrown on the shelf. Many shops today offer some type of discount, which is good for el cheapo's like myself. The big advantage to comic shops is the social networking aspect to it. I'm not really talking about the gamers (pictured to the right) here either. I loathe those demons. Comic shops can be like Cheers for fans. We may look more like Norm Peterson than Sam Malone, but Norm always had much more fun anyway.
Bookstores have move more into the graphic novel segment of comic books recently, but even then they have taken a backseat to Manga. The local Borders and Books-a-Million had rather large graphic novel sections about five years ago, but now they have puttered down to two shelves, where as Manga may take up an aisle at least. Many of the larger bookstore chains have websites where you can buy graphic novels. Amazon has a great used section where I buy 99.9% of my trades because I am a cheap bastard. many of the larger chains do offer discounts for joining their discount rewards program, but that's generally only about a 10%-15% discount. It's better than nothing.
It's time for my hourly eBay rant. eBay's slogan of late should be "It's not rape when you buy something from a seller, it's consensual buggery!" I can't find solid deals on eBay to save my life. A few years ago, eBay was the place for deal, but that has sort of dwindled away. There are deals to be had out there on eBay. Maybe I don't have the patience to bid and re-bid. Some collectors really love shopping here. I have found shipping prices to be outrageously inflated on eBay. For collectors, buying single issues on here is like taking a digital crap shoot. The seller can say mint, but that could really mean that it has melted mints all over the book. It can be a good place for a deal, but it is only for the patient, mentally ill, or Guardians of the Galaxy fans.
Comic book conventions are like the United Nations, there is a lot of hustle and bustle going on, but you ultimately feel like nothing much meaningful is getting accomplished. That may or may not be an accurate statement for some, but comic book conventions can be huge. Sometimes too huge! I despise looking through long box after long box that is not alphabetical order and is filled with more shitty issues of Submariner or Green Lantern than you could shake a black-bagged Superman's Death at. However, for those who persevere and overcome the hardships of endless sifting, you too can find that issue of Spider-Man 2099 #14 you have sought for all of your life. Now that your life is complete, you may leave the convention floor, champion of the long box! ... But seriously, there can be good deals to be found here, but for my dollar it probably isn't worth going through thousands of boxes where someone's 1990's backstock has thrown up in.
Online Comic Stores
The growth of monthly online comic book stores and backstock stores has been a great boon for the industry. Being an online shopper myself, I have to admit a certain degree of bias. I love my monthly online store, Mail Order Comics. The discount is right, they have good shipping options, and they have never messed up an order of mine. It sucks that I am perpetually a month behind on comics, but I'm cool with that. Being behind is the cool thing for many comic companies, so why not their fans? I do sort of miss going to a store weekly, but I think I buy less now, which is a good thing. My wallet thanks me. Most online stores that sell back issues run regular sales. That is typically when I get comics from these venues. Often times, if they aren't on sale, I feel the prices are bit inflated. They are a nifty place to find comics and are generally easy to navigate. I see these as being "online conventions" because their prices are sometimes comparable to what you might pay at the convention without having to see forty copies of the first issue of Mutant Agenda. Many of these sites offer e-mail subscriptions where you can receive store updates, coupons, secret promotions, and porn. Well, maybe you won't receive any porn. There are websites devoted to that too. There are some very cool sites out there. Both for porn and comics. In terms of comic shops, My Comic Shop, Comic Book Supermarket, and Mile High Comics are three that I have had good transactions with.
Sadly, I can't add Circle K here, but the above list gives you an idea of where comics can be bought today. Who knows? Maybe in ten years the list will look completely different. Collectors should really try lots of places out to find where they can get the best deals and quality product for their taste. If you can think of some great places to buy comics, be sure to respond to this article.
Panelology will take a one-week hiatus, but I will be back at that appointed time to deliver my final article on the essentials of comic books. It will deal with the Trades vs. Single-issues debate. Until then, you can catch my two X-Files articles next week. I'll start the week off with a look at the series and end it with a look at the new movie. See you then.