We live in an age of digital comics, national chain stores that carry comics, auction based web sites for comics, and what seems to be a growing number of online comic shops. This is great from the standpoint of a collector, and it’s nice to see that comics are becoming more accessible to people of all walks of life. It does worry me a bit though, because one of my favorite things about collecting comics is going to my favorite local comic shop. I worry that this ease of access for so many of us, will eventually lead to the end of local comic book shops altogether. I hope that I am wrong about this, because a good comic shop can really be one of the best parts of being a collector.
When I was a kid, I would sometimes to get dropped off, by my parents, at my favorite local comic book shop ( Tall Tales. Sadly, it is no longer with us.), and left there for hours. I think after a few times of impatiently waiting for me to sift through endless boxes of back issues, while they tapped their feet and looked at their watches the whole time, this was an easy decision for them. The owner of the shop had no problem with it, and thankfully it was the 80’s when parents could still do things like that without having to worry about being charged with neglect. I have so many great memories of those times. Talking comics, helping stock shelves when new comics came in, and, my most cherished memory, the time he let me flip through an Action Comics #1 and an X-Men #1 that he was selling on consignment for someone (One of the fringe benefits of showing him I could help out without mucking up the comics.), to name a few. I think what I loved the most about those times was that, as an awkward and nerdy kid, it was one of the few places that I felt totally comfortable and accepted.
I drifted away from comics in my twenties, to chase booze, drugs and women (Booze and drugs being the ones I caught, in that chase, more often. I would say don’t do drugs kids, but I actually had a great time, and have no regrets about my past, other than selling all my comics for way less than they were worth.) and only began collecting again, a little over a year ago. Seeing an episode of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men, that had someone come into his store to buy a Hulk#180 & #181 (My holy grail of comics), was the moment that sealed my decision, to come back to collecting. My only regret is that I didn’t come back sooner. Comics have really brought back a sense of joy to my life that I thought was gone, a long time ago. I am about to turn 44 in a few weeks, and I must admit I had been going through a bit of what some might call a midlife crisis, before I started collecting again. Some guys buy sports cars and date a 20 year old to deal with their midlife crisis, all I needed was some Hulk, Green Lantern, Wolverine & Rocket Raccoon (My four favorite characters.). It was cheaper, and my wife is still going to keep me around, so I think I made the right decision.
I went and checked out every local comic book shop in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, when I made the decision to start collecting again. It was a fun endeavor, but it also had some huge disappointments along the way. There were some shops that were poorly kept and even one that was so pretentious & uptight, that I felt uncomfortable and even almost under dressed, just walking in to it. I don’t want to name any names of the shops that disappointed me, because I understand they do have a place in the market, and even though they did not suit my tastes, I understand that they do appeal to some people. I also appreciate ANY small shop, just for making a go of it in this economy of ours, that is so unfairly geared towards large corporations, these days.
I, of course, had to check out my old favorite childhood shop, Tall Tales, and I can safely talk about the disappointments with it, because it’s no longer in business. It was still in the same strip mall, and had even expanded to two suites from the former tiny one it used to be in. At first, I was sad to see it had been bought up by a small chain store, that had two locations in town. Not a good start, but it quickly got even worse. Unfortunately, the clerks seemed disinterested in their jobs, and their room of back issues was poorly organized and had comics strewn all over gaming tables, that they had set up next to them. When they went out of business this past November, I was not surprised, but it still felt like a piece of my childhood was now gone forever. RIP Tall Tales (Sheds a small tear).
After I had been to every shop in town, there was really only one that stood out to me, Lobo Comics. The staff was great, and their huge collection was meticulously kept, and in perfect order. It was quite obvious that the owner, Henry, and all of his staff as well, really cared about comics and their customers. They have one of the largest collections of new comics in town, and even have a huge dollar bin section, which was something a lot of the other stores really weren’t even doing anymore. They also carry toys (new and used), manga books, and a really good selection of graphic novels and trade paperbacks.
The staff is very knowledgeable, and friendly. The owner, Henry, is a very nice soft spoken guy, who seems like he’s great to work for, by how the staff is always smiling and very helpful. They do a great job of taking care of their customers, and I often see them talking amongst themselves about things they have found that they know certain customers will be thrilled to find out about, the next time they come in. It’s that kind of attitude that makes me happy to keep coming in each week, and makes me want to do all I can to support them. Mikee, the resident extrovert of the staff, is always bugging me to get a pull box because they will give me a small discount if I do, but I still refuse for two reasons. One, I am happy paying full price for new books for such a great store, because I see it as doing my small part to help keep such a great shop open. And two, I like making my own pull list each week, it kind of satisfies my anal retentive side in some weird way.
The other thing that sets this shop apart, is that they are fully embracing the digital age. They have a website, a Facebook page, and they even offer a pull list service through Comixology that allows you to monitor and update your pull list online.
So, if you happen to live in Albuquerque, or are just passing through and need your comic book fix, make sure you check out my friends at Lobo Comics. You’ll be glad you did, and you can tell them Evan sent you.