MY FIRST COMIC SHOP
The gang over at iFanboy did a series of blog entries last month talking about their first comic shops. My first comic shop has an interesting story to it, too, as well as some fun memories. So I'm shameless ripping off their idea for this week's column.
My first regular comic purchases were at a stationery store, which I last referenced in Pipeline when it closed a couple years ago, the victim of an ever-changing economy and a CVS next door. That was just a newsstand, though I did buy books there from Marvel, DC, Now, Archie, and Continuity Comics, amongst others.
The first Direct Market specialty store I visited as regularly as my father would drive me the five or ten minutes it took to get there, though, was a place called "Cool Scoops" in Hawthorne, NJ.
Yes, my first comic shop named itself "Cool Scoops." The left side of the store was a comic shop. You had a couple of spinner racks, some magazine racks, and a larger back room area I'll get to in a minute. The right side of the store was a 1950s ice cream/burger joint, complete with waitresses in poodle skirts.
Indeed, I shopped for comics at a themed retro restaurant, whose owner happened to love comics.
It wasn't without its quirks, by today's standards. Like I said, the new comics were in spinner racks. I haven't seen a serious comic shop displaying all of its wares that way in a long time now. Comics tend to flop over the metals rails over time and get bent out of shape. The "back room" was not often used, often without the lights even being on. There were glass door enclosed bookshelves where the graphic novels and trade paperbacks were displayed. I seem to remember you needed to ask for help to get someone to come over and unlock them to get a book out for you.
I remember looking at that "Longshot" trade paperback in the glass case and thinking, "Someday, I'll be able to afford you." I finally picked up the trade at a convention on the cheap a couple of years ago, and now it's due out as a Premiere Edition hardcover.
The back issue bins were in the back, too. There weren't too many long boxes there, but they were sorted in straight-up alphabetical order. I was relatively new to comics and was disappointed the one time I went into them and couldn't find any back issues of "Amazing Spider-Man." As the owner pointed out to the unknowing me at the time, Todd McFarlane was a popular artist. I thought I was the only one who liked him at the time. I settled on some "Web of Spider-Man" and "Spectacular Spider-Man" issues, instead.
The odd thing I remember is that there was a sign that said you needed to make a minimum purchase if you wanted to take out the long boxes and paw through them. It was probably something like ten dollars, but still -- can you imagine that today?
I have other odd flashes of memory centered on the place. I remember buying extra copies of McFarlane's adjective-less "Spider-Man" comic. I guess I thought they'd be valuable some day. (Kids can be so stupid.) I remember buying my first "independent" series on a regular basis there, starting with a couple issues of "Boris the Bear" I saw on the top shelf. The cover had a lineup of kids in camouflage with a little bear in the middle, toting a big gun. Hilarious.
I remember talking to the owner about "John Byrne's Next Men" #1 the week it came out, but explaining that I'd have to get it the next week because I didn't have the money for it. He said it was selling well and wouldn't likely last another week, so he gave me the issue and told me to pay him back the next week. It was one of the most generous and kindly things I've ever seen a comic shop owner do. Also, it was slightly nuts. But I did return the next week to pay my tab.
I remember being home sick from school one day and being in the neighborhood with my father, likely getting haircuts at the barber shop across the street. I specifically remember getting his permission to run across the street to buy a comic -- it was "Marvel Comics Presents" #50, with its cool wraparound Erik Larsen cover.
Eventually, as most restaurants do, "Cool Scoops" faded. Themed restaurants rarely last long after the initial novelty wears off. But so many of my first exciting comics purchases were made there in the early 90s. There is a website that looks to be holding the "intellectual property" for the restaurant now. It's odd, but the "Cool Scoops" saga continues, I suppose. In this day and age of Doo Wop nostalgia, can a re-opening somewhere be far behind?
Luckily, I had found another shop by accident while driving around elsewhere with my mother one weekend. It was The Joker's Child in Fair Lawn, NJ, where I'd happily shop for years to come, and which remains a successful business to this day. Just to prove what sad steel-trap memories we comics fans have for the most minute of details, I can tell you the books I bought the first time I stopped there: A second printing of the hot glow-in-the-dark covered "Ghost Rider" #15, and "Infinity Gauntlet" #1. What a wonderful place it was to an unknowing comics fan back then -- open back issue bins, a whole wall full of comics, and nothing but comics stuff all over the place. In the days before I made it out to conventions, I met professionals at store signings there for the first time: Keith Giffen, Jim Shooter, Mark Texeira, among them.
But there's always that pang of nostalgia for the first one. And "Cool Scoops" in Hawthorne, NJ was the one for me.
NINE YEARS AGO
Speaking of nostalgia, it's been a while since I looked back at my weekly purchases of yesteryear. As it turns out, this was a very interesting release week, back in 1999. Let's take a look at some of those forgotten gems:
"Ball and Chain" #2: Scott Lobdell got a bad rap in the world of comics. He's basically moved on to Hollywood now, but he wrote some funny things back in the day. This is one of them, and it very nearly made it to television as an on-going series. It's the story of a divorced couple gaining powers that require them to be close together to utilize them. Hence, the drama.
"Black Panther" #13: Ah, the glory days of Christopher Priest's run on the series. . .
"Intrigue" #2: From Image Comics, I had no idea what this one was until I looked it up. How quickly we forget! This was the three issue series written by Howard Chum. In retrospect, the big "A-ha!" here is that it was drawn by Kaare Andrews. (Where's he been lately?) There's a nice little back issue bin hunt you can go on someday.
"Mr. Majestic" #4: It's early work from both Joe Casey and Ed McGuinness. Wonderful work, too. I believe there is a trade out there somewhere reprinting their run. Find it, if you can. It's well worth the price of admission.
"Proposition Player" #1: The beginning of a mini-series featuring poker and the devil, as written by Bill Willingham, of "Fables" fame.
"Quantum and Woody" #18: I don't know what the status on this series is at the moment, but I'd love to see an omnibus collection of it. It was great fun from Acclaim, only to eventually get lost in a failed publishing effort and potential legal issues. I thought the rights had returned to Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright by now, but I can't be sure.
If the characters of Milestone Media can return to the DC Universe, certainly there's room out there for a couple of Acclaim Universe characters?
"The Authority" #8: Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch were completing their second story arc on the title together with this issue. Just when you thought it couldn't get any bigger than this issue, they pulled off the third storyline starting the following month. It went so big that they left the book afterwards. What could possible come next? (Answer: Mark Millar and some creative disputes over artwork and story content.)
"Top 10" #4: As Season Two begins, let's look back at the original season, from Alan Moore, Zander Cannon, and Gene Ha. It's one of my favorite comics of all time, and one I've reread the most. I'd pay good money for an "Absolute" edition on this one.
Also out that week: "Action Comics" #760, "Deadpool" #35, "Deathblow: Byblows" #2, "Hellblazer" #143, "Supergirl" #39, and "The Flash" #155.
All of the books mentioned in this section were priced between $1.99 and $2.95.
SHOW NOTES FOR A LOST PIPELINE PODCAST
Honestly, I meant to get a podcast recorded last week. My daughter's odd sleeping habits prevented it. However, it would have been a great show and I didn't want to just throw out my notes for it. Instead, the show notes will have to be the show.
Here, then, are the Top Ten Collected Editions Released for October 22nd, 2008.
10. "Hulk: Heart Of The Atom" Premiere HC, $29.99
I wish this were the collection of the current Jeph Loeb-written series. I want Hulk punching that bald creep, Uatu, in hardcover format, stat! In the meantime, this will have to suffice. It collects an assortment of "Incredible Hulk" issues: #140, #148, #156, #202-203, #205-207, #246-248 and others. That includes the story written by Harlan Ellison.
9. "Elektra By Frank Miller" Omnibus HC, $74.99
This collects "Elektra: Assassin," "Elektra Lives Again," "Bizarre Adventures" #28, and "What If?" #35. Those last two were originally in the third trade collection of Frank Miller's "Daredevil" a few years back. The new printings have resorted all this stuff around, it seems.
8. "Warren Ellis Aetheric Mechanics" GN, $6.99
It dawned on me in putting together this list that I'm not reading any Ellis comics for the first time in a long time. I should catch up on his "Astonishing X-Men," at the very least. But this story -- complete with a Sherlock Holmes-like character -- piques my curiosity, too.
7. "Tomb Of Dracula" Omnibus HC Vol 1 (Regular John Buscema Cover), $99.99
This one contains the first 31 issues of the series, though I don't understand why Gene Colan's artwork isn't on the cover. I have all these issues in "Essential" form, which I think works best for Colan's work. I'm not sure I need it in color, but die-hard fans might enjoy this.
6. "Spirit: Femme Fatales" TP, $19.99
The march to the movie begins! I watched the movie trailer over the weekend (thanks, Apple TV!), and still don't know quite what to make of it. All it made me do was appreciate the Darwyn Cooke series more. (Where's that "Absolute" edition, DC?)
5. "Northlanders" TP Vol 1 "Sven The Returned", $9.99
The first story arc got some strong reviews, and neatly ties itself up. The price is right, too. Vertigo does a great job with keeping prices of their series' first trade low.
4. "Sky Doll" Premiere HC, $24.99
A hardcover presentation of a translated Franco-Belgian comic? I'm in.
3. "Green Manor GN Vol 2 Inconvenience Of Being Dead", $19.95
This is another Franco-Belgian comic that I've seen art from on-line here and there. It's beautiful stuff. I didn't realize Cinebook was doing translations of it, though. I need to order up Volume 1 in the series.
2. "Y The Last Man Deluxe Edition" HC Vol 1, $29.99
It's only the first ten issues, and DC's publishing schedule with books like this is very slow. Yet I enjoyed these issues very much and would appreciate having this permanent-feeling collection of the series on my bookshelf.
1. "X-Men: Longshot" Premiere HC, $24.99
I'm very curious to see how this reproduction looks. I want to pair the hardcover up with the traditional (and ancient, by today's standards) trade paperback to see how newer technology has helped the reproduction values, or hindered it. Digital restoration can do some funky things to line work and colors.
If you were to buy all ten items on this list at full cover price, by the way, it would set you back $341.86. Shop carefully. And if you have a problem, seek help.
Thanks, as always, to ComicList.com for providing the new release list each week.
Next week, I'll be taking a look at Frank Miller's classic "Daredevil" run.
The Various and Sundry blog is still updating Monday through Friday, now with Tweet Compilations, DVD Releases, Random Thought Pieces, and Link Dumps.
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More than 800 columns -- more than eleven years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.