A Reflection on the love hate relationship I have for Comic Book Shops

Going to a comic book store can be a pretty cool experience, there is always a chill of excitement that runs down my spine when I go into a new store just itching to crack open a new issue of some comic.

I think part of the excitement is that no two stores are completely alike and the experience you get going to different stores changes every time. Growing up in Flint, Mich I was blessed to have a father that nurtured my comic book obsession. He would take me to the comic book shop and buy me comics when I performed well in school, bought me a subscription to the Amazing Spider-man, and wouldn’t hesitate to buy me some comics from a local drugstore called Underhills (which was eventually bought out by Arbor Drugs).

When I was a kid it was always the Amazing Bookstore that was my comic book heaven. Ran by an old man who didn’t exactly seem interested in the costumers he sold comics too, the store offered the standard Marvel, DC, and Image comics. The stores center like many other stores had long boxes filled with back issues of comics. The man had a glass case up front that contained some comic book memorabilia and that was about it. It was pretty standard fair and different really offer much in presentation but still had all the essentials.

Well while also growing up I would visit my grandmother in a different part of town, and on the days visiting I would pass another comic book shop called Comic Relief which had a picture of Spider-man’s head on their sign. When I was younger I wasn’t allowed to walk to the store by myself but when I grew older I was finally granted permission to do so. Walking in I was exposed to a whole new world of comic book shops, ones where posters of my favorite heroes wallpapered the walls, action figures behind the counters ready to be sold, and bootleg anime put on sale in the front. As a kid the anime was really a big selling point for me wanting to go there, a huge fan of Dragonball Z at the time I could get all my favorite episodes uncut, uncensored and in Japanese.

Anyways, this store became my new favorite place to buy comics; it was a store with some real characters not some sterile environment that merely sold comics. So over the years I would return to the store making it more and more part of my life. In high school when I had time before soccer practices I would drive to Comic Relief with a friend looking to look at comic books with him and talk about who my favorite mutant in the X-men were at the time.

Of course when I got to college that all stopped, for one I now had the miracle of the internet and a fresh new debit card to make all my purchases. Never having to leave my home I became sloth like in my comic book buying. Also at school up in the northern part of Michigan I had one option. My options were limited and I found that this new shop was not really about comic books and was more about games like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, two realms of geekdom I do not belong to.

I was lost on the comic book shops I found that I would rather read trades then go in and listen to the blathering of some anti-social comic book know it all who hadn’t had the time of day for us normal folk. This know it all geek would rather discuss the merits of DC’s acquisition of Charlatan comic characters like the Blue Beetle and The Question when he in fact was too young to even remember such a thing ever happening. Of course I am teased here and there of being sucked back into the world of comic book shops when I make a casual visit for the day to the city of Ann Arbor where a two story comic book Valhalla exists: the Vault of Midnight.

A store littered with every trade in print, who sells comic books, features local comic books, and has a staff that isn’t only obsessed with the world of Marvel and DC. People talking about old school comics like Finding Nemo, Little Orphan Annie and Terry and the Pirates. Last time I visited I saw a staff member kindly helping someone who had no clue about comics, at most places this person would have been scoffed at and brushed aside for being an idiot.

Vault of Midnight teases me every time and makes me regret my decision to stop going to comic book shops, yet when I return to my home up at school I see the general lack of enthusiasm amongst dealers and customers less obsessed with comics and more obsessed with a pitiful game of Heroclix.

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