Should You Collect Comics?? 3 Ways to Rethink our Favorite Hobby.

This might seem like a really odd choice of topic, especially since I own a shop that  SELLS comic books, but bear with me as I try and explore 3 different approaches to collecting that can help you get much more enjoyment out of our favorite hobby.

Before you get too up in arms about the collectability of comics, I am not here to bash collectors or those that look to turn a profit on the books they purchased.  It is a part of our market and as a comic retailer, I sell some books for more than cover price as well.  I simply want to offer a different view point and mindset that can help the new-comer or the fan that is getting fatigued from the relaunches, crossovers, and fighting to find issues to stories.

Stay with me and I hope you will see that I have both the fan’s and the industry’s best interests in mind.

Did you know that at one point comic books weren’t considered collectible items?  Way back in the “golden age” of comics (1930-1958), they were considered throw-away entertainment.  You could purchase them for 10 cents from the drug store, roll ’em up and stuff ‘ em in your back pocket as you hopped on your bike and rode to your friend’s house.  Your mom would then inevitably be cleaning out your messy room, come across your stack of funny books and then throw them in the trash.  Many comics were recycled during WWII to use the paper for bonds.action comics

Comics didn’t actually start to become seen as collectible until the early infancy of the specialty comic shop in the mid-late 60’s and early 70’s.  It was at this time that a few store owners realized that since customers were missing books in their collection, that they could RAISE the cost of the book due to demand.  This is the advent of the back-issue market.

  • Back issues are essentially issues that have already released and been available on the market for a given period of time.  Maybe 1 week, maybe 10 years.

Fast forward to the 90’s.  The nineties were a time of boom and bust in the comic industry.  The idea of “collectability” was at it’s most insane peak.  People were lining up around the block to buy the newest Image release or the new X-MEN #1 in hopes that they could soon retire on their purchase, because hey, that Amazing Fantasy #15 is worth a pretty penny so every comic must be worth something, right?? People were buying new books (especially #1’s) in the hundreds and the publishers were taking full advantage of the market by releasing different covers and generating as much hype as they could.

x-men 1
X-Men #1 (1 of 5 different covers available)

Unfortunately, the industry forgot a very basic law of business: supply and demand.  Yes,  that Action Comics #1 is valuable because most were destroyed, recycled, and used for baby wipes (true story…it hurts my heart).  Therefore, the demand is high, but the supply is limited which automatically creates the opportunity for an increased value.  X-MEN #1 from the 90’s sold 7 MILLION copies.  Anytime there is that number of something floating around, it greatly affects the supply and demand relationship.

Now days, most comics are not printed in near the quantity of the 90’s, but that still doesn’t mean that it will automatically become a valuable issue.  Some publishers still like to play the collectability game by manufacturing perceived value with variant covers (limited edition or different covers, same story inside) or constantly putting out #1 issues.  All this can lead to short term increases in value, but for the most part, it can leave many fans and people wanting to get into comics feeling run ragged and burnt out.

Did you know that Diamond Comics Distributors, the sole distributor for pretty much all comic books, makes it clear to retailers that they do not sell “collectibles.”  They sell periodical magazines, essentially.  Entertainment.

Now, let that sink in.  Entertainment.

I would argue that comic books are one of the only types of entertainment in which you can purchase a product, take it home, read it, and in a few years decide to resell.  You can’t do that with a movie ticket.  I can’t go to the theatre, pay for a ticket, watch the movie, and then come back in a few years and ask for a percentage of my ticket back.  Or, better yet, ask for more than what I originally paid.  Comics offer that, and it can be a great benefit of the hobby, but I would like to challenge you to stop thinking of comics solely in terms of collectability and I would like to offer 3 ways to maybe let you enjoy comic books with a breath of fresh air and less fatigue.

  1. Start collecting stories.

Comic books are just that: stories.  They have characters, plot lines, twists and turns.  Stories.

Find a story you like then ask yourself “what do I like about this story?”  Is it the character development, the emotional pulls, the little, hidden treasures that you find through out?

Once you can narrow down what it is about the story that pulls you in, then you can start to branch out and find NEW stories that are similar.  Get recommendations from a trusted source (we at The HIVE love to point out things that you can try)  and this can open you up to entire worlds of awesome stories that you might not have ever thought of.

The freeing part is that when you start to “collect” stories instead of comics, the worry about potential future monetary value is replaced with personal value as you dive head first into tales that move you.  Getting into this mindset also opens up the possibility of collecting the Trade Paper-Back editions (comics collected into volumes for one story) which allows you to get entire chunks of story in one setting for less cost than tracking down single issues.  For more on graphic novels and trade paper backs, check out our blog here :

Getting Graphic

All comic stories have something in common.  They have a writer and an artist, which leads me to the next idea.

2. Don’t just collect titles or characters, collect creators.

What I mean is, those good stories you like, they were created by someone or a team of “someones”.  Find out who those people are!  Chances are that if you liked this particular story from them, then you will probably like their other work as well.

This is my particular method of collecting.  I have my stable of creators that I follow and gradually add new ones to the mix.  I don’t necessarily collect Spidey comics, but if a writer or artist that I like is working on a run of Amazing Spider-Man, then I will read those issues.

For example, I’m not a huge fan of the character of Thanos.  But, when I found out that one of my favorite writers, Donny Cates, was doing several stories with the character, I had to get them.  Cates brought a new and fresh take on the Mad Titan and I’m super glad that he is currently killing it over at Marvel.  thanos wins

Some of my favorite creators are Brian K. Vaugh, Donny Cates, Scott Snyder, Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, Gail Simone, Cecil Castelluci, Fiona Staples, Raina Telgemier, and Geoff Shaw.

I collect creators and the stories they tell.  If they bounce around from publisher to publisher, I follow.  If they start writing a certain character, I will most likely pick it up.

Just remember, the characters are only as good as the people behind the story and art.

3. Let kids read YOUR comics.

This is possibly the most terrifying bit of advice that I can give, but, I feel that it will drastically change your feelings towards the “collectability” of comics.

Kids have such unabashed joy with comics and when a child gets one, they have no concern about if it will be worth anything in the future.  They simply love the pictures and stories.

Wouldn’t it be great to share your passion and hobby with your kids: to see your favorite characters and stories through their fresh and unjaded eyes?  Kids aren’t snobbish, biased, and have little concern for market trends.

Obviously, keep the books you share with the kids in your life “age-appropriate.” Please don’t go sharing Saga or anything written by Garth Ennis with your 6 year old!

Out of the 3 ideas I’ve proposed here, this one might be the most important one you can do.

Our culture needs kids getting into comics and reading.  The industry needs more kids getting into stories and developing a love for the sequential storytelling medium.  It is VITAL for the continuation of our hobby and the creators that are out there.

Try it today.

Go home, bust open your long box, take that copy of X-Men #1 out of the plastic sleeve and lay down in the floor with your child and let them enjoy it.  Better yet, grab a stack of YOUR faves and leave them in your kids’ room next to their bed.

You’ll feel liberated and I can almost guarantee that we’ll see a new generation of readers and fans emerging.

So, in conclusion.

Do I think that all comics are worthless and not meant to be collected?  Absolutely not.  But, maybe we can try and implement some new thought processes when it comes to seeking out comics and the stories they offer.  Maybe we can breathe a little bit and find ourselves actually enjoying what we are buying rather than banking on a return.  Maybe, instead of seeing comics solely as collectibles, but rather as stories worth reading and sharing, we can have a much healthier and more robust comic industry.

-matt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is an Indie Comic??

Many times in comic shops and online you might here terms thrown around like “indie”, or “small press” comics.

What do these mean??

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1First
TMNT #1

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.

Lumberjanes_Cover
Lumberjanes Vol 1 BOOM!

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.

east of west
East of West Vol 1 IMAGE

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.

adam wreck
Adam Wreck from ALTERNA Comics

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.

 

-matt

 

Comic Retail: Behind the Scenes Edition Part II

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!)

  1. Ordering 2 months BEFORE this issue comes out is a challenge.
    1. We order 2 months in advance and can adjust most of our orders 3 weeks prior to the issue releasing.
  2. Seeing a customer take your suggestion on a book and then fall in love with it, is super satisfying and exciting.
  3. Over ordering can kill your shop, be O.K. with the sell-out.
  4. Pull-lists are vital
    1. It tells you what people are reading and WANT to read
  5. BUT, customers need to pick up their books
    1. Having a pull list and not picking them up can kill a store faster than anything else
    2. The shop has already paid for the books
    3. 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.
  6. Don’t try and compete with the online big boys at their game, beat them with customer service and knowing your market and customers.
  7. Adapt and change with the market
  8. Always try and improve in some way
  9. Keep product moving and fresh
  10. Cut losses on product that has sat and become stagnant
  11. 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.
  12. 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”.
    1. i’m getting old and so are you, kids are the future
  13. Having customers feel that they can take “ownership” of the shop is priority.
    1. When they refer to the HIVE as “my shop”
    2. We have great customers that are always spreading info via word of mouth in our area.grand opening
  14. 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!

-matt

 

 

 

Comic Retail: Behind the Scenes Edition Part 1

I love the extras that come on my blu rays and DVDs (sometimes more than the actual movie.)  I love seeing and learning about how the movie came together and the thought processes and paths that brought about the finished project.

As we approach our 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY from opening our doors, I want to let you guys in on how I got into selling comics and a bit of info on how the retail side of the comic industry works.

the hive smart cosplay
Opening Day at the original location June 2017

In late 2011 / 2012, i started to have this desire to open a comic shop in my home town.  I was currently living in Austin, TX and was a frequent visitor of Austin Books and Comics and I wanted to offer MY home town that same, quality experience.

Odessa has been without a true comic shop in approximately 20 years.  When I was a kid, we had at least 4 shops in Odessa.  My favorite was Cody’s Comics and Cards on Grandview, just down from Daylight Donuts. It was a true “mom and pop” shop and it was owned by a sweet older couple.

My mom would drop me off and run errands while i dug through every back issue bin, usually looking for X-Men or Spider-Man books.  The couple that owned the shop knew me and were kind enough to let me spend HOURS in there pouring over everything.

Sadly, Cody’s closed in the late 90’s or early 2000’s and Odessa was left to pass time in the comic void of our own Negative Zone.

Sure, we had Hastings at one point, and a card shop tried taking on selling our favorite periodicals, but a “true” comic shop experience was no where to be seen.

In late spring of 2016, I had a conversation about my desire to open my own shop and that i had toyed with the idea for years.  I was convicted in that conversation that I needed to start taking steps to see what would happen.

The HIVE officially started June 1, 2016 out of my house. I had, maybe, 500 comics in my collection and I was determined to do something with them.  I spent the summer organizing, pricing, and also buying more comics.

I did nothing but read ab

out the industry and the “do’s and don’t’s” of selling comics and opening your own shop.  I think I read everything available on google.  I was a sponge.  One of the most valuable resources came from the Mile High Comics database where their founder gives his advice for jumping into the business.  It is a little outdated, but still tons of great info.

mile high database

I learned so much from my research and it drove me to push and grow and work to make this dream a reality.

In August of 2016 I had my first comic con.  It was the Permian Basin Anime Expo at the Ector County Coliseum’s Barn G.

I was scared.

What if I didn’t have enough to show? What if people in the area weren’t in to comics anymore?  Does anyone really want a comic shop in Odessa? So many thoughts in my little noggin.

early hive booh
First Show!

From my modest collection, with nothing new mind you, I made $567 dollars that weekend. Boy howdy, I was on my way.

I used that money to buy more collections and grow.  I had a hiatus for about six months as my family got into foster care, but i never let the dream die.

Fast forward to March of 2017 and I had a booth at the Permian Basin Comic Con X in Midland.  I had a bigger booth and more inventory. That was a great show. People really seemed excited for a shop in our area and I was determined to do my best to make it happen.

I started doing little online sales via Facebook, just to keep interest going and keep revenue flowing. I had people coming to my house, which was kinda weird having someone look through comics in your bedroom.  My wife was not amused, especially since my collection had overtake our master.

I needed an actual store front.

It was in early May of 2017 that I was put in contact with a guy named Melvin Herron. Melvin wanted to open a gaming store and thought we could partner up since he already had a lease. We started moving in around Memorial Day and geared up for a soft opening on June 10th.

Melvin brought lots of experience and energy and was almost giddy.  I remember him saying to me “This is your dream, let’s make it happen.”stormy and jo

An actual comic shop had returned to Odessa.

Many of you that came on that first Saturday are still coming by every week to get your fix.  We have grown and changed quiet a bit since that opening and we’ve seen our customers grow with us. It seems like every week we have new faces coming in and becoming friends. We’ve come to know your families as you let us into your lives as you come in and let us share our passions with you. I can’t even express how much the support that my community has shown my shop has meant to me.

From the outset, my mission for the shop was to be more than just a place to come buy comics and games.  I want the shop to reflect and support the community that supports us.  That is why we are working with school in our area.  That’s why we host family workshops.  That is why we do toy drives for High Sky Children’s Ranch.  That’s why we host fundraisers for families in need.  That’s why we love having events, because it pulls people together!

In Part II, I’ll share with you what I have learned about the retail aspect comic industry.

Stay tuned

-matt