THREE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
"Where is the Comic Pimp?"
If you had my email in-box, you would have been reading that very same question several times a week recently. The Comic Pimp is a column I scratched and clawed into existance back in October 2003. For fourteen months I shared my knowledge of arcane industry know-how, my approach to the marketing of comics, my philosophy of nurturing the unique culture that can only be found in a comic book store, and my unbridled passion for the books that make this industry go.
In it's lifetime, the column generated some small amount of controversy. Some based on the non-traditional approach I've taken with my comic book shop, others with the unconventional methods I've utilized to drag new readers into my store, and still others seemed to take particular objection with the unashamed manner in which I've used this column to promote that which I enjoy. But more than anything else The Comic Pimp has come under fire in the past for the style in which this column is written. It seems some folks just wish I didn't use so many swear words.
Well, fuck it... I came into this industry from the world of adult beverages and swank nightlife, where frank opinions and bawdy language between co-workers inside the beer cooler is how things get done. Where everyone is perfectly willing to put up with your massive ego and delusions of grander as long as it doesn't get in the way of anybody else's massive egos and delusions of grander. Where the F-word is sometimes the best punctuation mark you can use. Where the phrase "don't mess with the bitch with the sauce" isn't just a motto, it's a way of life. And where a passive-aggressive and petty assed staff means bad service and shitty tips for everyone.
If you're reading this column I consider you something of a co-worker of mine, just as sure as I considered the bartender shaking martinis on the other end of my bar my co-worker. Let's face it, anyone who might be on a website like CBR reading a column about the comic industry written by a comic retailer (who probably doesn't even live in the same state they do) is something of an industry insider. Sure, many of you don't have the thousands-of-dollars-on-the-line-each-week perspective that a publisher or retailer like myself might have, but that doesn't make you an "outsider" in my eyes, just someone who probably could benefit from seeing things from a perspective they might not already have. Which is, after all, why I write this column in the first place.
The comic industry isn't just the retailers, or the creators, or the distributors, or the publishers, or the consumers, it's all of us. It's a collaborative industry, and without the benefit of each part the whole will surely die. Those who seek out websites like CBR to delve deeper into their hobby, those that make time to read columns like this very one, are those who care the most passionately about the artform and the industry. And to me that makes us all on the same side... co-workers. We might not always agree with each others methods or styles or visions for the future, but you'd better believe that I think anyone who ventures into this column are those who are aligned and working together behind three universal truths when it comes to comics. We'd like our comics to be as entertaining, respected, and profitable as they can be.
You know; Kick ass service and big tips all around!
Some of you out there are huge names in this business who are shaping the future of our industry, I know because I've met many of you. And some of you have never made, distributed, or sold a comic book in your goddamn life. No matter what each individual case might be, if you're reading The Comic Pimp you sure as hell have devoted enough of your personal time to be considered an insider in my book. And when I write to you, an audience of insiders, I refuse to sugar-coat the message I have or my language. Because if you're going to listen to what I say in the beer cooler you're going to hear it as unfiltered as I think it.
So for those of you who are new to this industry backroom that is The Comic Pimp you can expect that I'm going to treat you like the co-workers that I think you are. And that means you can expect some "Get your crap out of my fucking locker" and "Hey, asshole, you left the bar a mess again. Do it again and I'll leave a shit in the sink for you next week" along with plenty of "Check out the redhead in the boots at table fourteen" and a whole lot of "My night kicked ass... first round is on me!"
As anyone who has spent anytime digging through the archives will tell you, I'm an easy going fun loving type of co-worker who likes to get shit done and have a great time doing it. I like people who can put aside passive aggressive bullshit and work together for the mutual benefit of all. I respect those people who aren't afraid to put their money where their mouth is for what they believe in. And most of all, I dig comic books and I like talking to others who share my enthusiasm. As a comic retailer in the year twenty-oh-five I've got a whole lot to be thankful for and a hell of a lot to be happy about. So I'm definitely more of a "first round's on me" kind of guy.
And not just because I'm an optimist by nature, either... to be honest, my night kicks ass a lot.
"You haven't run out of things to put in your column, have you?"
Oh no, my friends, most definitely not!
Working here on CBR alongside industry pundits like Rich Johnston, Steven Grant, Augie De Blieck, Joe Casey, Matt Fraction, Arune Singh, and the mighty boss-man Jonah Weiland carries with it no small amount of column content responsibility and The Comic Pimp will remain no exception. Love it or hate it, 2005 promises many months worth of Comic Pimpin' newness on tap served up in over-sided fat frosty mugs in rapid (and perhaps even rabid) succession. Chug it or choke it, if you sit your ass at the bar you're getting served, so don't even bother coming around if you aren't ready for another ice-cold mug of that good stuff.
We're going to be talking new books, new promotions, new creators, new organizations, new shops, new exclusives, new ideas, and new names that are going to make waves in the industry in the coming years. And as in the past I'm offering up the usual high-proof mix of knowledge, usefulness, and big dumb entertainment long time readers have come to expect from this column. From the mindful to the mindless, The Comic Pimp has something from all extremes and something from everywhere in-between for you indulge yourself in.
Belly up, my amigos, The Comic Pimp says 2005 is happy hour all year long.
"It's been ages since the last Comic Pimp. What the hell have you been doing with yourself, you tall-haired fucker?"
Ah yes, now this is probably the single most frequent sentiment to appear in my mailbox recently, from a wide variety of sources from readers from across the globe. And most particularly from Jason McNamara who takes a special delight in giving me shit whenever he gets the chance, and finds a new way to do it each week if my column doesn't show up at it's pre-determined hour. So this one is for Jason, and the rest of you out there who have gone out of your way to show the love to this column. You guys rock.
Yes it has been ages since the last Comic Pimp! What the hell have I been doing?
I've been reading comics.
"2000AD" comics to be exact.
Back in the summer of 1985 I stumbled upon the strongest, most addictive substance I have ever encountered in my life... "2000AD." I remember my first encounter with these funny looking comic magazines that looked distinctly like the old newspapers that were perpetually rotting in my parent's attic. Obviously I was hungering for something new and different in my entertainment dollar, because I had strayed far, far away from the typical Marvel and DC racks that had always held so much interest to me as a young man. And, like most comic discoveries, I found exactly what I was looking for even though I didn't have a clue that it even existed in the first place. Crammed in a dark corner of my favorite comic haunt I discovered the fateful stack that would change my comic reading life. What were these over-sized comics with the funny prices doing in my comic shop, I wondered, and who the hell was buying them? In only a few short weeks the answers to both those questions would be abundantly clear to me.
My first issue of the weekly British anthology comic magazine was a tattered copy of prog 322 featuring a glorious Steve Dillon cover with interior strips
I quickly stopped caring if these comics were primarily printed in black and white and on the shittiest paper known to man... these were some great comics! They were violent, funny, smart, clever, and sometimes downright sick, perfect for my sensibilities at an age which definitely skewed towards bands like the CRUCIFUCKS, TOY DOLLS, and FLIPPER. Instinctually I knew these were the kind of comics that gave comics a bad reputation with my old man and these were the kind of comics that scared the wits out of people back in the 50's. Only they weren't comics from a by-gone era, these were the comics of today, born into a surreal modern age where Ronald Reagan was trying to designate ketchup as the vegetable portion in my school hot lunch and where the space shuttle was burning up with our teachers inside. To my adolescent mind science was smelling distinctly of fiction, and the shocking futures foretold in the pages of my "2000ADs" were only funny because they seemed so... true.
And I can't deny the appeal of another aspect of "2000AD." Like the music I was increasingly listening to, the comic didn't give a shit what you thought of it and could care less if you didn't approve of the strange and horrific noise it made. It was the height of gloriousness to my hormone-addled teenage mind how effortlessly "2000AD" flipped the bird to every other comic at my local shop; it didn't give a damn what Batman and the Avengers thought of it being a dirty and mis-shapen space anthology comic that refused to fit in some acid-free box. And frankly, "2000AD" was too busy kicking ass, being ironic, and generally blowing shit up to be bothered to get color on every page.
My kind of comic!
At the time I first cracked out on this life-long addiction, all my comic reading friends were scrambling to find out what amazing changes the jheri-curl enhanced Beyonder would make to the mighty Marvel Universe in "Secret Wars II." This was the big talk amongst comic circles in my school, the follow-up to the series that gave us Spider-Man's black costume and the Thing leaving the Fantastic Four for what looked like forever! When issue two of "Secret Wars II" came out and the omnipotent Beyonder floated around the New York City skyline buck naked and pondered the meaning of life for an entire issue I knew that I had made the right choice in the weird pulp paper anthology comic from across the seas.
I was hooked for life.
For years afterwards getting copies of my favorite comic was always a challenge at best and more often than not an impossibility. Distribution came in erratic bursts and even at it's best was fairly lousy. I scoured the city ready to dig through any bin of ratty old newspapers at used book stores, I scooped up what I could at conventions and did whatever possible to get as many as I could before the distribution stream dried up like the Sahara once again. Given that this comic came out on a weekly basis from 1977 on holes dominated the collection, but I didn't mind, each issue scored was a gift from the comic gods above and was to be treasured like the mana from heaven that it most assuredly was. Throughout the years that followed since I first discovered "2000AD" my enjoyment of each prog would ebb and flow depending on the quality of the comic any given week but my love for the comic itself was ever-lasting.
Flash forward to the Isotope... One of the major benefits of owning my own comic book store is that my weekly fix of "2000AD" is a hell of a lot more regular. Not to mention that I started making the kind of contacts that I couldn't even dream of as a young man, the kind of contacts that allowed me to start buying up pages of "2000AD" original art from the artists whose work I love the most. And I was even fortunate enough to have superstar artist Ian Gibson grace my comic shop establishment for a weekend in which he painted hundreds of beautiful Gibson girls for my customers and even drew a picture of Halo Jones on a toilet seat for me.
Which brings us up to date to last November when I picked up almost three hundred and fifty issues of "2000AD" I didn't already own from a customer of mine who happened to be burdened with a similar addiction and a shitload of doubles. I was in heaven!
Just opening the door of my plush Oakland apartment for the past two months has like a shot in the arm, with the distinctive smell of the cheap pulp paper and undiluted thrill power that only "2000AD" can provide permeating my entire sanctum sanctorum. I spent night after night delving into page upon page of classic strips, working my way methodically through some of the best years the comic had to offer. I stayed inside, forsaking my usual late-night carousing for extended reading sessions that would leave my brain over-stimulated until I burned through the huge stack of comics I had just purchased.
Damn. That was two great months to be alive!
So now you know what I've been doing instead of diligently writing new editions of The Comic Pimp for you to all enjoy. I've been reading comics. Lots and lots and lots of them.
If you'd like to find out what's to love about "2000AD" so much, check out some of the recently re-released graphic novels from DC. I particularly like the "Nikolai Dante," "Shimura," "Robo-Hunter" and "Bad Company" collections which should be available at your favorite comic emporium as you read this.
All damn good books. And the paper isn't half bad either.
For those who haven't heard about it already, I'm throwing yet another soiree at my comic shop here in beautiful San Francisco. Unlike events the Isotope has done in the past this one isn't about the past or even the now, it's all about the future. And even better the future of comics.
I'm excited by the things I see happening at Image Comics in 2005, particularly "Sea of Red," "Mora" and the incredible "Strangegirl" (which you'll be hearing a whole lot more about in my next Comic Pimp installment). Really, really excited. So the theme for this event is a sneak peek at some of these jaw-droppingly cool books that will be coming out under the Image banner later this year, including wall-to-wall previews of books that you won't see anywhere else and lots of exclusive ashcans, sketches, and poster giveaways. And yeah, we've got a few creators coming in too.
My staff and I are looking forward to it and it doesn't hurt that it's one of my favorite event flyers either!
Read all the juicy details on Image's message board here.
Before I sign off props must be given to Josh Richardson's new column IN THE TRENCHES. If you've ever wondered what it's like to get your first gig in comic books and work your way up from very bottom of the comic industry (is there any pro comics job less glamorous than a color flatter?) you owe it to yourself to see what this young man is up to.
Until next time...
James Sime is the proprietor of San Francisco's Isotope - the comic book lounge. He has funny hair and owns lots of pairs of shoes.