‘I Hate Comics’

Not that it’ll be news to any of you but during the first week of the year there’s a bit of a lull; sure, some of your customers will still be bringing in their Christmas money, but the busy days of the holiday season are a thing of the past. This week is probably best spent on recovering (and thinking how nice it’ll be to actually get the comics on a Wednesday again).

It’s been a fairly quiet week. Like every time this year, we’ve had to reorder more volumes of Tintin and Asterix (European comics that while not exactly big sellers, sell so steadily without noticing we manage to go through a complete set of both every year). Though I did get to show off to a customer by knowing about the British comic series The Trigan Empire and was able to correctly identify a page of original art from Giant-Size Fantastic Four #3.

So when the college girl came into Dark Star looking for “paranormal romances,” kind of like the Laurel K. Hamilton books without the vampires (turns out she was a Wiccan and Wiccans are fundamentally opposed to vampires; who knew?), she got my full attention. Okay, so that immediately eliminated Slave Labor’s Charm School (about a female vampire in love with a witch), but there were still plenty of others I could recommend. Just off the top of my head there was Fruits Basket, My Faith in Frankie, Ranma 1/2…

And then she said it: “Oh, I hate comics.”

Well, she had me stumped there. In the past I’ve yammered on (and on) that one of the prime tenets of my retailer philosophy is “there’s always something you can do.” But it does have a lesser known codicil: “you can’t make ‘em.” Sure, I could have asked her why she didn’t like comics, but that seemed (a) both intrusive and defensive and (b) unlikely to change her opinion. I’ve also talked about listening to your customers, and sometimes, unfortunately, the answer is no, full stop, period.

So if there’s a point to his little sad story it’s while it’s of course part of your job to be an ambassador/cheerleader for this medium we all love so much, you can’t convert everyone. Now the story has a happy ending, sort of; I think we may have turned her into a regular customer — after she was guided to the fantasy/horror fiction section and we were able to find something that appealed to her.

But she’ll always remain one of those that got away.

To deal with a little old business, as Kevin Melrose over at the Newsarama blogs so rightly pointed out, last week’s column about tweens really should have mentioned both the Johnny DC and Marvel Adventures lines. I agree completely, but I generally try to keep these things around a “pithy” eight hundred words – and last week’s was crowding a grand.

Both are definitely worth noting, but I tend to think the Johnny DCs with their very simple art and fairly few words skew younger than the intended tween sweet spot I was writing about. There’s probably more crossover appeal in the Marvel Adventures line which does an outstanding job of producing done-in-one super-hero comics (one of my favorite comics last year, for kids or adults, was Marvel Adventures The Avengers #1).

But the thing is, first you have to actually like super-heroes to like super-hero comics. I’d still like to see Marvel dust off its library of girl comics from the 40s and 50s (though I’m not sure just how one would go around updating Tillie the Typist, Nellie the Nurse, or Sherry the Showgirl). The success of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane should give The Marvel at least enough confidence to produce stories to fill at least a couple of digests.

Paradoxically the Johnny DCs read like rather limp versions of their cartoon source material and the Marvel Adventures read like smart, sharp animated series — they’re certainly much, much better than the Fantastic Four cartoon that quickly crashed and burned after only a few weeks on the Cartoon Network.