We here at NerdSpan are aware that sometimes the internet’s reporting of comics news tends to be very “big picture”. Sales figures and press releases are worth noting but what about the down and dirty? The nitty gritty? The foot soldiers in the war for your entertainment dollars? The staff at your LCS. What’s the word from the frontline?
NerdSpan sat down with Jason Dasenbrock, owner and operator of Omaha’s Legend Comics and Coffee, for a chat. We also spent some time with store manager Joe Patrick, who happens to pull double duty as co-host of the Two Headed Nerd Comicast. Here’s some of what these gentlemen had to say about the current state of affairs in comics.
NerdSpan: What are some books on the shelves right now that just aren’t finding the audience they deserve?
Jason Dasenbrock: Invincible. Probably the best superhero book on the market right now. Sells maybe twenty percent of what “Walking Dead” does on average. ‘Sixth Gun’ is another one. Maybe twenty copies a month of “Mind MGMT” are being sold here.
Joe Patrick: Locke and Key. We really work to hand sell that book because I think it’s a title you can show people and say, “See? This is what comics can be.”
NS: Digital is an ever increasing presence in the industry. Does the rise of digital comics concern you?
Jason: I think I could speak for my peers when I say,”I think we’re all nervous.” In the short-term, yeah, we’re fine but the future? Who knows? Today’s kids are growing up with tablets and smartphones in their hands constantly. Maybe digital will just seem natural to them. Right now though, people still like holding a physical artifact. Print generates buzz. Plus, we don’t make a huge deal of it in our shop, but collectibility is still a factor. We need to be prepared to adapt, though. We’re a niche market compared to movies or games. Record stores are dead, bookstores are on life support, but more comic shops are opening every day. There’s growth. We just need to be able to adapt, is all.
NS: There’s sometimes a stigma attached to comic shops. Does the comics layperson see ‘The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy character and think that that’s someone to be avoided at all costs? How do you remedy that?
Jason: A bad comic book shop hurts us all. There’s no reason for a shop to look like some guy’s basement anymore. Some marketing and simple presentation go a long way. Don’t know what to do? Go to a successful shop, look at their layout, copy it! It shouldn’t be a secret. Above all that though, is customer service. Any other answer would be disingenuous. I know of shops where an owner would get on his staff if they were spending too much time talking to a customer! I’m the total opposite of that! Go! Be helpful! It’s what you’re supposed to do! Good, personable customer service is key. Offer something different. We hedged our bets with the coffee shop. I mean, Magic and Pokemon saved so many shops in the 90’s. 95 to 99, those were dark times. And if you didn’t offer something else, you were in trouble. But things are looking up now. It’s a good time for comics.
We appreciate Jason and Joe for giving us a brief look into the comic book shop business. Got any questions for shop owners? Let us know in the comments!