After seeing those sweet TV ads for a comic book store about 25 years ago, I was ready for my first time at a comic shop. Even in the early ’90s, I think it was a fairly new thing, and odd thing, for there to be stores that sold only (or mostly) comic books. It wasn’t like now, with superhero and comic book movies everywhere, and the rise of geek culture. All we had was JD Salinger’s son as Captain America and Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher. That wasn’t getting anyone into comic shops! You kids today don’t know how well you’ve got it! HA! Also, get off my lawn, and you’re not getting this ball back.
So I’ll tell you some about my first time experience at a comic shop, and how that got me completely hooked on comics. Not just superhero comics but the MEDIUM of comics.
Honestly, I don’t remember it that much. I’m going to talk a bit about the comics that I got there and what I remember of that store, but I can’t swear I thought any of this stuff my first time there. Also, like my piece about my comic book anniversary, I’m incorporating some stuff that I’d written five years ago.
In late 1991/early 1992, I don’t think there were too many comic book shops in my area. There was the shop I’ll be discussing further, but the shop I still frequent most hadn’t opened yet (look for a column on that later this year!). I think we may have had a store or two that had specialized in trading cards that moved into comics once the mega-success of Spider-Man 1 and X-Force 1 became apparent, but I didn’t ever stop at one of those places.
So you remember last time, I showed you this X-Men “Pryde of the X-Men” opening:
Well, that’s going to be significant later, actually. “X-Men! X-Men! X-Men!”
And of course there was the guy telling us about DC stuff (while mainly bragging that he’d managed to get a lady as attractive as Tina to let him film her holding a comic book…):
Using my best Robert Stack voice: UPDATE!
Thanks to commenters Corto and Tim Dennie in particular (although Le Messor… helped?) we’ve determined that the comics I hadn’t figured out were New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract,
Why I Hate Saturn (no wonder I couldn’t find it under SA*, and the GCD doesn’t list it as a Piranha Press book!),
and the second issue of the Books of Magic miniseries.
All came out 1990 and before, so I don’t see where the creation of this ad can be pushed much later than that (and obviously before the end of 1991, since that’s when I saw them).
Anyway, once you’ve been bitten by the comics bug, like I had been thanks to Waldenbooks, and you see these commercials and realize there are stores that SELL JUST COMIC BOOKS!, you of course want to go. But when you’re 12, you gotta have your mom take you there.
Fortunately, right around this time, the local shop was having a sale (as they currently are, the mid-January pre-inventory sale is a tradition there! I just got yet another big damn box of cheap comics there. It’s a disease!). So I believe I got my sister to join me in bugging mom to take us there at some point during the sale, and since we were usually pretty good kids, and had just started a Pennysaver route in the months before that and had some money to spend, mom took us. Thanks, Mom!
First time in a comic store: the store was at an odd corner, where two smaller streets came up a hill to meet with the main street at a point about where the store’s doorway was, causing the building to be somewhat triangular, with the one tip being the entrance, and the base of the triangle as the back of the store, if you can picture that. The outside had a glassed in display area, so they featured various comics and related products in the window.
Entering, the new comics wall was at the right, while spinner racks of sci-fi paperbacks were to the left. The store is no longer in that location, so I don’t remember exactly the layout, and I know there were changes over the years, but the register area was probably to the left against the wall. No. I think it was always an island in the middle of the sales floor. Which was a pain in the ass as they packed comics in. I think back issue boxes were towards the back of the store, behind the register island.
In the back, there was an area to the left side where role players could game at a table. There was also a basement, but I never entered that area, as I never was a gamer. The notion of the smells permeating that basement….
I remember the store was always cramped, and poorly lit. The current location is a bit more open and allows for more than one person to be looking at something at a time, but look out on Free Comic Book Day!
So I looked around a bit that first time. Some of the comics I remember picking out include the following:
There was a Batman crossover across his 3 titles (Batman, Detective, and Legends of the Dark Knight) called Destroyer, where the Anton Furst designs for Gotham City for the movies were incorporated into the comics.
I picked up an issue or 2 of the Ghost Rider series that was coming out then (due to having discovered him in the Spider-Man 18 that I discussed last time).
I also looked at some other stuff, and was about ready to pay when my mom looked at what I got, and said, annoyed, “we came here for X-Men comics, so you BETTER get some X-Men comics!” Okay, okay. I picked up a Classic reprint of the first Binary appearance, which confused me plenty. Hmm.
What I found that really got me into the medium of comics were packs wrapped in brown paper (not THAT kind of comics) that turned out to be 15 comics for a buck. Yeah, 15!
My sister and I each got a pack, and we had some crossover things. I know there was Iron Man 276, and GI Joe 114, and while they’re cool, I’m not sure most people are going to fall in love with the medium due to those books.
Without that bizarre grab bag of comics that I got during my first time at a comic store, I doubt my preteen brain would have glommed onto the wonder of the medium of comics, and I probably wouldn’t be interested in the form still today. It’s an amazing medium, and I still love it, even if I don’t read comics as much as I ought to!
So what’s your first time story?
Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for the covers.