A Facebook friend posted today that he had recovered from a leg injury, and needed to get back in training for softball.
I suggested he hike to a few comics shops as a warm-up.
I had done that myself when I was younger. When I started collecting comics in 1984, I would walk a mile to the Westroads Shopping Center to purchase my weekly fix of four-color comics. That Winter, I managed to catch my left pinky toe on an open door while chasing after the family dog. While I didn’t need a cast, I did have to wear a Frankenstein shoe to keep the taped toe immobilized while it healed.
Once I got a mostly clean bill of health (I couldn’t wear tight shoes due to the way the toe healed), I decided to test the foot by hiking east to The Dragon’s Lair, a comics shop which was mostly known among my gaming friends for selling clear plastic dice. It was still winter, February I believe, and there was a lot of snow on the ground. (Yes, back then, it snowed during Winter.) I took some shortcuts across fields, walking the 1.5 miles uphill both ways (90th and Blondo is on a hill; my house and the shop were situated on lower elevations), and discovered that comics shops got comics three weeks before newsstands! So I left with three weeks of comics and trudged back home, like Scott of the Antarctic. I would continue to do this each week, usually right after “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” ended on Saturdays. If the weather was especially fierce, I would stop at the gas station at 90th and Blondo to warm up and peruse the magazine-stand there, or cool off by refilling my Kwik Shop drink cup. (And if the local comics shop was sold out of a title, I’d buy a copy off the spinner rack.)
Later, I would drive or take a bus on the way home from work downtown. When I moved to the District of Columbia, I would take the Metro up to Bethesda, and get my comics at Big Planet. Usually, I could read two comics on the ride back. (And with those long escalators, I could probably read another issue on the way down to the station!)
On the second Free Comic Book Day in 2003, I noticed that Diamond had a list of all the local comics shops participating. Since this event was meant to encourage people to visit comics shops, I charted out a path to hit all of the stores in Manhattan, starting on the Upper East Side and ending up downtown. Half of the stores I haven’t returned to, as they were either uninteresting, or went out of business. (One was nothing more than a room full of long boxes and a card table with a smattering of the FCBD titles.)
Then, last Thanksgiving, I got a crazy idea: Omaha has lots of great comics shops. Why not make a grand tour on Black(est) Friday, spending the entire day driving around the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, visiting shops I haven’t been to in years? There were a few shops I couldn’t get to, there were some I would never visit again (what kind of comics shop doesn’t have a prominent fixture for new comics?), and some that were just amazing!
So here’s the crazy idea:
Organize a comics shop crawl! Get a group of people together, pick a day, and wander from comics shop to comics shop!
Shops too far apart? Rent a trolley or tour bus and make a grand tour! Pretend you’re tourists from out of town! Take group photos in front of each store! Try out that fake accent or high school Spanish with the employees! Stage a scavenger hunt where participants have to find and buy comics with specific themes on the cover! (“No! Not you!” mystery villain, “In This Issue Someone Dies!”, primates, insects, foreign language, “headlights”, talking animals….) Of course, have food and drink available, or stop at the local McDonald’s to get the latest Happy Meal toys!
Got a weekend free? Or a federal holiday off? Or on your way to a convention? ROAD TRIP! On Memorial Day in 1992, I drove from Omaha to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, where my former classmates were graduating from Cornell College. So I stopped in Des Moines to check out a shop, then later I drove up to Minneapolis to visit another friend, stopping in Cedar Falls to check out a shop. I hit DreamHaven and bought some naughty books I couldn’t find in Omaha. I spent a good sum to buy a year’s worth of Sandman back issues (the gap between Dream Country and A Game of You). All in about four days.
I haven’t done that since, although I do check out comics shops in whatever city I’m in.
It doesn’t just have to be comics shops. You can stop at universities with comics collections! Visit a comics museum! Or find a comic book sculpture to photograph! Plan ahead, and maybe take a comics pro out to lunch!
Anyone in New York want to do this? Let us know below, and we’ll pick a random weekend to test it out!
Or make it a fundraiser for the CBLDF, similar to the AIDS Walk. Each shop gives a free comic to each participant.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!