The comic shop profile is a staple of newspaper coverage of the comics industry and two recent store stories point to the past and the present of comics retailing pretty sharply.
From Miami, we have A&M Comics, voted the Best Comics Shop locally, and one of the oldest comics stores in the country — in the top three, says the piece. (We’re a little dubious about that — what say you, group mind?)
When you walk into A&M Comics on Bird Road, you might think that you’ve walked into a taping of A&E’s Hoarders. It’s stocked from ceiling to floor with comic books, collectible figures, T-shirts, and posters. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the array of comic book paraphernalia, and even the owner admits that there is no kind of inventory taken, per se.
A&M Comics carries collectibles that are hard to find anywhere else, such as an original Cuban cavalry uniform from 1943, a Superman #10 signed by its creators Siegel and Schuster, and original Peanuts animation cells. Good grief. The shop even carries antique dolls, although Jorge’s biggest clients are still comic book fans.
As you can see from the photos, the Hoarders comparison fits a little too snugly — complete with a pizza box from God knows how long ago. Coming from the ’70s, A&M truly represents the proto comics shop as it sprang from the Cambrian ooze — an antique store for printed comics.
And from Albuquerque, NM, we have Astro-Zombies and owner Mike D’Elia, which represents a more modern variation of the comics shop as neighborhood social club/bookstore:
D’Elia wanted to re-create the social atmosphere in comic shops that he said has dissipated over the years, combining amiability with expansive product knowledge to nurture friendly employee-to-customer relationships. “Most people start out as customers and become friends with everyone that works here,” he said. “We’ve done things like go to the movies to see a new comic book movie come out with like 40-50 people. It becomes more of a social atmosphere. Other than the fact that we have a large enough store that we can allow people to come in and interact, we’ve got people who come in here who have never met, and they can talk for hours.”
The story didn’t have any good pictures of this store, so we plucked one form the Astro-Zombies website.
As you can see, a different style, or even evolution, one reflective of the change in comics from a collectible to a readable.
That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be some fun in poking around A&M Comics, looking for buried treasure. There are a few stores even in Manhattan that resemble the A&M model. But we prefer the Astro-Zombies look: it’s not only sociable, it’s socialized.
What’s your local comics shop like? Is it an A&M or an Astro-Zombie?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.