August 19, 2008

The Quest for the Holy LCS, Pt. I

We've all been there. We know what it's like: maybe you moved, maybe your previous comics vendor closed down, maybe you're just getting into the wonderful world of Marvel. (Or, uh, that other publisher. DC. That's it.) Whatever the reason, you're searching for someplace to pull 'n' hold for you on Wednesdays, someplace to dig through back-issue bins on Saturdays afternoons, someplace where you can get embroiled in a three hour discussion on Why Joe Quesada Is A Bad, Bad Man without anyone giving you funny looks.

By you, of course, I mean me. I've always been dissatisfied with the selection at my former LCS; to be honest, they're as much a gaming store as a comics shop, and they have almost no selection of trades or back issues. Blasphemy! Also, the shop - we'll call it Comics Store #1 - is wedged between a cheap Japanese eatery and a discount nail salon and frequented by preteens. Lots of preteens. I've been a preteen myself, so I know how annoying they are.

My quest started, as so many quests do, with the phonebook. I sat down with a listing of all the stores in my area, ruled out any more than a half-hour drive away, and then ruled out all that were in the same chain as Comics Store #1. That left a grand total of three - count 'em, three - shops.

Let me first note that while any comic store I frequent must meet Certain Standards, I am not bothered if the store is dimly lit, smells moderately of mold, or is filled only with humans of the male variety. I do require a decent selection, decent prices, and a decent owner - that is, someone who isn't a forty-year-old single creep that won't look at me above the neck. A discount bin is a bonus.

I walked into Comics Store #2 with the enthusiasm of the innocent: surely this would be it, my paradise, my bazaar! As the door swung open, a moldering waft of air hit me in the face; I blinked, let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting, and sallied forth undaunted.

Discount bins? Check. Back issues? Oh yeah, even if the organization system was a bit screwy. Decent prices? They let you bargain for everything in the store. If there's one thing my mother's taught me, it's how to negotiate prices.

Creepy owner? Yep.

Our interaction started out innocently enough; I got the guy down to fifteen dollars for seven issues of All Star Batman and Robin. "Can I write you a check?" I said.

"Sure," said the owner. "I need a driver's license number on there, though. And hey, is that your boyfriend in the back?"

"Uh, no," says I. "That's my friend. We go to comics stores together," which seems like a lame explanation, but is true enough.

"Huh huh huh," the owner laughs.

"Need a phone number?" I ask, in reference to the CHECK I'M WRITING.

"If you wanna give it to me," the owner replies. Let me add at this point that the man is balding, overweight, caked in a layer of grease, and pushing fifty from the wrong side.

"Uh, no," I say.

" looking for a job?"

What? "I have a job. I work at a coffee house."

"You know " - here he shot me a glance - "you could work here."

"I have a job," I repeated.

"Yeah, but we'd work around your schedule."

"I'll, uh...let you know if I'm ever interested." And cue me bolting.

And he offered me a job...why? He certainly didn't offer one to my male colleague. Creepy much?

Obviously that's a NO to Comics Store #2. Nos. 3 & 4 next time, tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch off, switch on, and explode.

LINK OF THE DAY: Take a gander at the Grand Comic-Book Database, a collaborative effort to collect information on every issue of every comic ever published. It's a work-in-progress, but nevertheless a great resource.