One topic that you’ll undoubtedly hear, if you hang around the shop long enough, is literacy.
We’ve written blogs on it. We’ve spoken at cons about it. We push it often. Why?
Literacy is a foundational skill. Like any other skill, it has to be developed, grown, and challenged in order to improve and provide use. My wife is currently teaching our 4 year old daughter how to tie her shoes. It requires dexterity, coordination, and TONS of patience. But, the intent is that, with continued practice and time, it will become second nature to our Little Middle.
Unlike tying shoes, however, literacy is a skill that is vital for functioning as a fully-formed human, and sadly, it is a skill that is evading a large number of kids in our area.
The definition of literacy includes the ability to read, write, comprehend, and gain useful knowledge. This means that we have to be able to not only read well, but take that information and synthesize it into something beneficial. Medication labels, microwave dinners, power tools, you name it, all require you to be able to read and put the information to use.
Take a look at this infographic.
And this one.
So how do we get kids to love reading? How do we get kids to want to read?? Give them books of ALL sorts. We need to put books in kids’ hands that speak to them and get them excited. If they show an interest in something, get them books about that subject. If your kid loves history, get them books about history. If your kid loves weather, get them books about how weather works. If they love the super hero movies that come out on a quarterly basis, get them comic books!
When a kid finds something that excites them and makes them want to read, even if it’s “above” their reading level, they’ll find a way to read it.
Read with your KIDS! This is vital. Spend time reading with them and having them read to you. Let them see YOU reading. When kids see mom and dad bringing home new books and stocking the home with stuff to read, it promotes the importance of reading in their eyes. Get down in the floor with your little and crack open some of your favorite comics and show them how the panels work. Show them your excitement for the characters and it’ll become contagious.
Our shop keeps lots of the most popular young reader titles in stock: everything from Dog Man to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Smile. We also have tons of older comics that they can stock up on for a buck a piece.
What is the main take-away? Make books a priority for your littles. Make time to read with them, and for them to have solo reading time.
In short, read often and read a variety of material and make sure that it is fun and exciting. Your kids will thank you for it later on and you’ll help improve the future for them and our community.
So, maybe you just went and saw the new VENOM movie staring everyone’s favorite alien costume. Or, perhaps, you’ve been watching The Big Bang Theory and you have thought to yourself, “You know, I wanna jump into this whole comics thing, but I just don’t know where to start.”
Comic books have reached a really interesting point where they are influencing blockbuster movies, top-rated TV shows, and best selling video games, but, for someone jumping into the medium, it can be a rather daunting task and it can really lead to many people giving up trying.
I want to take some time and help you get a feel for some GREAT stories and see if we can’t turn you into a raving fan of a truly American medium.
When taking polls and doing research, it seems that there are a few main reasons that people have a hard time jumping into comic books:
Comic shops seem like an impenetrable and intimidating point of entry.
There are TOO many stories and characters to keep up with.
There is so much history and way TOO many issues to try and catch up.
I want to try comics, but I really don’t care much for superheroes.
I just don’t know where to start.
Do any of these sound like you? Let’s talk and see if we can’t ease some of the anxiety of jumping into comic books.
There are a couple of ways that people tend to enjoy comics, single issues and trade paper-backs / graphic novels.
For those that are new to this world of comic books, I’m going to let you in on the best bit of information in retail; every Wednesday is NEW COMIC BOOK DAY! That’s right, every week we receive a new shipment of comics that are fresh from the publishers. We get boxes full of new stories every week!! Most single issue comics are released from publishers on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, much like a magazine. So every week we get a new rotation of books to enjoy.
Trade paper-backs consist of individual issues that have been collected into volumes based on story arcs. They allow you to get an entire story or, at least, a chapter of a larger story in one book.
Graphic novels are basically books that are written and published in comic form. The material has never been released as a single issue format and then collected, but only as a stand alone work. Raina Telgemier’s “Smile” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” are both great examples of “original” graphic novels.
With this information in mind, we have a few different options when it comes to jumping into comics.
1. Start with the all-time greats.
At our shop we have a wall section that features some of the all-time best sellers. These are books that have influenced the industry even decades after their initial release. For anyone looking to jump in, this is a great starting point.
Titles you’ll find include:
The Dark Knight Returns
Marvel Superheroes: Secret Wars
DC Crisis on Infinite Earths
Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes
Daredevil Born Again
X-Men God Loves, Man Kills
X-Men Dark Phoenix Saga
These are all titles that we keep on hand and most are award-winning stories. The sales numbers and accolades don’t lie; if you want to start, but aren’t sure where to begin, this is your best bet because these storylines will help you start a relationship with many great authors and characters that you can then begin to explore and collect.
2. Try out our “Dollar Value Menu”
First, let me say that this idea is not my original creation, but I got it from Ron Killingsworth from Collected Comics and Games out of the DFW area.
We stock a slew of $1 reprints of the first issue of a series. This allows you to get a taste of the series for very little initial investment. If you hate it, it was only a buck and, most likely, you spent more on coffee earlier that day.
But, it you like it, bring us the reprint wave it in our face and we give you $1 OFF of volume 1! How cool is that? The comic becomes a coupon, and you get to keep it. This is a great way to start and catch up on titles that you’ve been reluctant to try.
3. Start with new series launches and reboots.
This way is a little more of a trick, but we have new stories starting every week! Every Wednesday is NEW COMIC BOOK DAY!! It is the best day of the week because we get a whole slew of new books and many of them are series that are just starting or, possibly, a reboot of a current character.
Come by on a Wednesday and we can point out great jumping in points on first issues!
4. Grab some $1 back-issue comics.
What’s a “back-issue”? Basically, it is an issue that was released previously and has been out for anywhere from a month to years. This is a great and affordable way to stock up on a variety of different stories that might interest you.
Once you find something that piques your interest, then you can start your own journey of collecting other issues to complete the story or track down the corresponding trade paper back editions.
5. Visit a local shop and talk to the staff and owners.
We get it. You probably think of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons when you think of interacting with the people at a comic shop.
While this may be true in some shops, it is our mission at The HIVE to NOT be that guy. We at The HIVE really try to make all people feel welcome when they come in to our shop. I, personally, love to see families come in to see what comics are all about. We will not make you feel inadequate because you are a “noob” and we won’t look down on you because you aren’t familiar with some particular character or creator. We will not yell at you because you referenced a scene in a movie that was not really part of the comic book cannon.
Just saw Venom and want to read some stories that feature Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote? We can point them out for you!
My job is to help people find stories that they will love for years and years. That’s it. Who better to ask about comics than people who loved the medium so much, they opened a shop to promote it.
When you are ready to jump into the amazing, fun, emotional, moving, beautiful, and engaging world of comic bookdom, The HIVE is here for you.
Reading is a vital component of being a productive member of society, but seems to be oft overlooked in favor of other pursuits. I will spare you from the enormous amount of research available, but I will hit on some of the main points that must be addressed if we want to see our local and national communities thrive.
3rd Grade is vital
Stop forcing kids to read “the classics”
85% of children in juvenile detention are functionally low literate.
Hopes of college can be squashed by 3rd grade.
So why is 3rd grade so important? It’s important because it has shown to be a crossroad of sorts. Curriculum tends to switch by the time fourth grade rolls around. Fourth grade can tend to focus more heavily on math. This means that students that were struggling with developing their reading skills, if they are not confident in them, will really be left behind as math is now the main focus for the next few years. It is kind of assumed that the child can now read, so let’s leave that subject and move on. The implication is that a child who is not currently at a 3rd grade reading level by the time 3rd grade rolls around, the child will have a significant disadvantage in growing in the ability.
Check out what the Reading Foundation has to say about the importance of 3rd grade literacy:
Reading is the most crucial academic skill because it is the foundation for learning. Through third grade children are learning to read; after third grade students read to learn. … In fact, one of the most important predictors of graduating from high school is reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
So, if a student is unable to read well by the third grade, imagine how hard it will be to continue to learn new topics as the child gets into upper grades. The child will be at a perpetual disadvantage with a very strong possibility of dropping out. Highschool dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested and 47-63% probability of incarceration.
There is some compelling data that states that most people that are incarcerated have a low 6th grade reading level: some studies site it as possibly even a 3rd grade level. One could conclude that a child’s life course is set by grade 3. This is both frightening and sobering.
What does all this mean?
It means that we need to meet kids where they are and to pursue them with urgency. It means that maybe we should open up to different types of literary works and stop forcing kids to read as punishment and out of obligations to the classic approach to engaging literature. Maybe we should ease up on making kids read “classic” novels that have no bearing on their current lives and interests.
There is a ton of research out there that shows the benefits of getting comics into the classroom. Kids love and need comics. If you think that kids today are too fast paced and too engaged in there games and phones to care about comics, I challenge you to put a comic in their hands, or better yet sit down and enjoy it with them.
It starts at home.
Find stories that your kids love and then READ to them from an early age. It helps to develop a love of hearing stories which can then translate in to the love of reading stories. Fill your home with book and let your kids see you reading. Share you love of comics and graphic novels with them. Lay down in the floor and read the newest issue of Batman with them. As I’ve mentioned before, get a stack of your comics and leave them in your kid’s room.
Don’t force reading and don’t make it an obligation. We want kids to see reading as fun and something that they want to do! Reward reading! Get creative with the rewards.
As part of our shop’s mission, we hope to improve the lives of kids in our area by helping them develop this vital ability. Our loyal friends that support us also support our mission because every purchase made at The HIVE helps to put comics in the hands of the kids in our school district as we donate books to schools.
Let’s work with our teachers, schools, and librarians to make some much needed changes and continue to invest in the future of our children.
Many times in comic shops and online you might here terms thrown around like “indie”, or “small press” comics.
What do these mean??
I think to understand what these terms mean, we first need to understand what it means to not be an “indie” comic. This requires us to define what a “mainstream” comic might consist of.
When most people think of comic books, they tend to automatically conjure up visions of Superman, Spider-Man, Hulk, etc. Most of the heroes and characters that we are now seeing come to life on our silver screens and TVs come from 2 companies; Marvel and DC.
Many people refer to these companies as “the BIG Two;” and for good reason. When one looks at sales in the comic book industry across the country, Marvel and DC take up way over HALF of the market in terms of sales.
Part of this is due to the enormous amount of titles that they put out each month, but also, they each have their own cohesive universes with really well known characters. Ask a young kid in Europe or Japan about Spider-man and there’s a good chance they know the character.
They have also been around since before pretty much any of you (myself included) were born and they have survived SEVERAL near collapses of the industry (albeit some of which were brought about by their own bad choices). But, to have survived this long in a game in which consumer tastes change month to month, and even, week to week is no small feat and should be respected in terms of staying power.
That being said, each of these two companies is owned by even larger corporations. Marvel is owned by Disney and DC (along with parent company Warner Bros.) were just bought by AT&T.
So, when an artist or creator is working for either of these companies, all of their IP (intellectual property) and creative work now belongs to the corporations in charge. Not only that, but, every decision that an artist or creator wants to make (because you know…they’re creative…) has to be approved by the company and fit within the mold and model of the company.
So, many moons ago, people started realizing that maybe they don’t want to work for a corporate juggernaut like the big two. Maybe they were even turned down. Maybe they simply want to create and do their own story without having to fit into a mold and have to answer to tons of shareholders. They wanted to be pirates.
Witness the birth of the “indie” comic movement.
An “Indie comic” is a comic whose creators are not bound by appealing to a larger corporation. The creators have complete control over their material and are not subject to rules and standards set by higher ups. The creators are “independent” of the company for the most part. They might be published by a company, but that company does not step into the creative process and control the end product. That means that when a creator develops a new story with new characters, all of the ownership usually remains with the creator and not the publisher.
Indie comics are no new thing. People have been hand stapling and selling their black and white comics that were drawn by hand and copied at Kinko’s basically since the silverage and early bronze age (late 60’s and 70’s).
California (specifically the Bay Area) used to be (and still is) famous for indie comic ‘zines and material that was too edgy for the Big Two.
The advent of the comic retail shop in the early 70’s really helped lead to the birth and growth of the indie scene because now there were dedicated shops that could push these daring and wacky stories to a niche market.
If I had to place the boom of the indie scene on anyone’s shoulders it would be 2 creative teams. Wendy and Richard Pini and Eastman and Laird (Elf Quest and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles respectively.)
Wendy and Richard Pini believed so much in their story that, despite several rejections, began self printing and distributing their books to dedicated comic shops around the country and people began to eat them up.
Eastman and Laird printed their black and white Ninja Turtles for almost nothing and hand sold the early books to shops in the 80’s.
Both of these titles helped to bring indie comics to the forefront of the comic scene. To think that people who believed in their art so much that they self printed, sold, and pushed their books into the spotlight is an inspiration. Copies of TMNT #1 can easily fetch a small fortune now, btw.
When we look at the indie comic scene in our current environment we still see this same attitude of people that refuse to let their creative work be controlled by others. Companies like BOOM! Studios, Alterna Comics, Image, and many others continue to put out really quality material that offers a breath of fresh air to those that are looking for something different.
Let’s highlight what a few of these companies offer.
BOOM! Studios offers not only licensed material such as Jim Hensen’s work like Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal, but original and creator owned stories as well. Many of their titles, such as the award-winning LUMBERJANES and GIANT DAYS offer great stories that are really non-genre. This means that they tend to be stories more about life and all of the awkwardness that accompanies it.
Image Comics is probably the largest indie company around and is the next in line when it comes to market share after the Big Two. Image offers a large variety of stories and characters that can vary from the very dark and disturbing to lighthearted and family friendly. Since indie companies don’t necessarily have their own cohesive universe, you can simply pick one title that you enjoy and read ONLY that one title without fear of missing out on cross-overs and massive events that the Big Two like to through together. Titles such as East of West, Paper Girls, Seven to Eternity, and Invincible all offer great story telling and have the awards to back up the content.
Alterna Comics is a small-press company out of California. This means that while being indie, they also print in smaller companies than say, Image. What Alterna brings to the table is great story telling with an equally exciting price point. You know how some comics (they will remain unamed) have been putting out $3.99, $4.99, up to $9.99 single-issues, well most of Alterna’s single issues are priced anywhere from $1 to $1.99. Alterna prints on newsprint instead of the glossy paper that other publishers use which gives their comics a great old-school quality while also giving an old-school price point. You can literally grab a copy of every Alterna comic we sell for less than 3 comics from other publishers. The stories are self contained and easy to pick up on AND they have a great selection of stuff for young readers. I know that, as a parent, I would much rather spend $1.50 on a comic that my kid might tear up as opposed to $4.99.
Obviously these are just a sampling of the many different publishers out there. If you are a comic fan and find yourself getting a little bored and frustrated with some of the tactics, prices, and storylines from some of the bigger publishers, I would suggest that you give an indie company a try.
One of the things our shop offers is the Dollar Value Menu. Basically, we have a dedicated section (that is growing) featuring $1 reprints of various indie titles. It’s a dollar investment (and we all know that we spend 4x that much for a coffee). If you like the issue, bring it back and we will give you a DOLLAR OFF of volume 1. It’s a great way of finding new stories and expanding your reading.
We here at HIVE know the importance of supporting our indie creators and their work. NO, we don’t hate the Big Two, we love them and need them for a strong comic community. But, I would argue that supporting our smaller publishers is one of the best ways of keeping our favorite hobby strong. It is definitely one of the BEST ways to have a sustainable and healthy industry for decades to come, even if that issue you just bought might not let you retire in a few years (more on collectibility next time.)
So, my final thoughts.
Go out and support the little guys. The guys that bleed their work and have passion behind what they do. Give that crazy sounding title a try, it just might be what you’ve been looking for.
Previously, I gave you guys a VERY brief summary of how the HIVE came to be. Today I would like to share with you guys a bit of what I have learned in my 2 years of selling comics. Let’s take a peak at what’s behind the curtain, shall we?
Fair warning: I might come off as rant-y and gripe-y at some points (mostly because I love what I do and want you, our customer to have a better understanding of how our business works!)
Ordering 2 months BEFORE this issue comes out is a challenge.
We order 2 months in advance and can adjust most of our orders 3 weeks prior to the issue releasing.
Seeing a customer take your suggestion on a book and then fall in love with it, is super satisfying and exciting.
Over ordering can kill your shop, be O.K. with the sell-out.
Pull-lists are vital
It tells you what people are reading and WANT to read
BUT, customers need to pick up their books
Having a pull list and not picking them up can kill a store faster than anything else
The shop has already paid for the books
When I reach out to you about your pulls, it’s not to be mean, its to keep a comic shop open in our area.
Don’t try and compete with the online big boys at their game, beat them with customer service and knowing your market and customers.
Adapt and change with the market
Always try and improve in some way
Keep product moving and fresh
Cut losses on product that has sat and become stagnant
Promoting indie and small print books are a challenge compared to the “Big Two” but is necessary for the growth and health of the comic industry.
Children and young readers and the vital to the continuation of the industry and it is great to see more and more product offered for our “littles”.
i’m getting old and so are you, kids are the future
Having customers feel that they can take “ownership” of the shop is priority.
When they refer to the HIVE as “my shop”
We have great customers that are always spreading info via word of mouth in our area.
Support those that support you and keep your doors open.
We love you guys that come in and support our shop and we hope to continually grow and change and improve to serve y’all.
Thank you all for a great first year and here’s to many more!
Graphic novels, or trade paper-backs, have been around for a LONG time, but still seem to be a bit mysterious to a lot of fans of periodical comic books. We tend to think of them as hard to get into or somewhat abstract, like a tome of irrelevant incantations, and to be totally honest, most of us like to collect the periodical floppies that come out every month…or week.
But, as partakers of the sequential story telling medium, I feel that we can be missing out on LOTS of great stories by neglecting the graphic novel.
The graphic novel is a great way to catch up on characters and series that we have been wanting to read but, maybe now, are in the higher numbers of issues and the thought of trying to catch up and figure out what the heck is going on and why is Thor a female seem a bit daunting.
Well, grab a couple of volumes of Jason Aaron’s Mighty Thor run and maybe even throw in The Unworthy Thor Collection and Original Sin and by Odin’s Beard, your caught up!!! (and usually for less that what you’d pay to scrounge up all the individual issues.)
One of the best things about graphic novels is that it’s like a binge on Netflix. You basically can get an entire season, or 25, at once. you can blaze through Robert Kirkman’s award-winning “Invincible” and get all 144 issues and not have to wait for the next one to come out!! How awesome is that??
Not only are graphic novels great for catching up, but some stories are self-contained pieces of art and literature that stand on their own.
This, is a graphic novel in the truest since. It’s like taking a stand alone story like, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, but now it has pictures!!
There are numerous examples of this type of graphic novel. Cecil Castellucci’s, “Soupy Leaves Home,” and Art Spiegelman’s “MAUS”, and Alan Moore’s “Batman: the Killing Joke” are just a few examples of myriad of choices available.
So, I challenge you, the comic reader, to step out of your comfort zone of monthly floppies and give the world of graphic novels a chance. You’ll be seeing more and more classics making their way into the shop and if you are ever unsure of what to jump into, we’ll be here to help!