My last few columns have all been about the pros and cons of opening your
own comics store. As a central theme, I have chosen to dwell on the
pitfalls that I've seen sink so many naive and inexperienced would-be
comics retailers, and to clearly point out the dangers and difficulties
of trying to operate your own comics business. My warnings have not been
out of any desire to discourage the entry into the comics market of new
retailers, but rather to be quite candid about the risks. Simply put,
opening a comics retail store is just as perilous (if not more so) as
attempting to start any other kind of new business.
Now that the warnings are out of the way, I can finally switch into my much
preferred proselytizing mode. If, after reading my past few columns, you
still believe that you have the will, the talent, the courage, and the
working capital to successfully open a comics retail business, please
take that last step, and just do it! Make your plans, do some research,
find a location (either new or existing), and get your doors open. While
opening your store exposes you to significant financial risk, it may also
end up being the very best decision you've ever made in your life.
When you join the community of professional comics retailers, you become a
member of a very elite group. While Diamond professes to supply in excess
of 3,000 active comics retailers, I would discount that number by at least
half. The accounts I would exclude from inclusion in our community are
those whose primary business are other types of retailing ( i.e. bookstores,
record stores, video stores, etc.) that just carry a few comics on the side.
While these outlets may be the only venue that services a given geographic
comics fan base, they hardly qualify as a comics specialty outlet.
I draw this distinction because a true comics shop is far more akin to a
place of worship, than any other kind of retail store. Before you scoff at
that proposition, consider that most religions are mutually shared systems
of belief, based on faith in certain inalterable givens which may be hard
to justify on the basis of apparent logic. The purpose of these systems of
belief is to help followers deal with the trauma of being human, and the
ultimate inevitability of death. Faithful adherents gather together at
least once a week to seek reinforcement in their beliefs. Frequently they
appoint a leader, and onto that leader they assign the responsibility for
keeping them on the "right" path.
Do some elements of this sound familiar with what we see in a comics shop?
I believe that they are strikingly similar. This is most certainly not to
say that I believe that being a fan of comics obviates the need for
religious grounding in one's life. What I am saying is that the mechanisms
involved in running a comics shop are far more like running a church, than
running a typical retail store. That having been said, for those of you who
might be offended at my correlation, I want to make clear that I do not
think that comics are a religion. All I am saying is that after 32 years
as a comics retailer that I believe that people come to a comics shop
seeking to escape the stress and traumas of their lives, and to find
momentary enjoyment in the art and stories that creators have chosen to
put into graphic form. That being the case, I believe it is the
responsibility of the staff of a well-run comics shop to help them find
the comics which will bring them the most possible pleasure, comfort, and
joy. Our job is to (at least for a little while...) make people's lives
happier. I believe that's a darn good reason for getting up in the
Another very positive task you will be taking on if you decide to become a
comics retailer is safeguarding the future of comics as an institution. We
are both blessed and cursed at this moment in the history of comics. Our
blessing is that the comics being produced today are among the best ever
created in the entire history of the medium. Never have we had so much
wonderful talent producing comics of all kinds. This truly is a era which
supersedes even the Golden Age in terms of brilliance.
Our curse today is that print runs have fallen so low that there is
significant risk that the entire business and culture of comics may
lose critical mass, and implode. At this very moment there are perhaps
1,000 dedicated comics retailers who are holding back the forces of the
apocalypse. Many of those select few have been financially weakened by
the comics recession of the 1990's, and are considering giving up the
fight. We need the strength and vitality of new retailers very badly
right now, for this may very well be the time of reckoning for the
entire comics world. Join us in our fight! We need you. Comics need
you. The fans of your area need you. You probably won't get rich owning
a comics shop, but you'll certainly be doing something positive and
right every day. How many people can say that is the central theme of
their lives? As I said earlier, opening a comics shop is risky. But
taking that step may very well end up being the very best thing you've
ever done for yourself in your entire life.
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221