Local Comic Shops are Dead!

After returning to collecting comics, I have noticed a lot has changed since my days in the late 90s. It doesn't take very long for you to realize how much has changed. Just walk to the register of your LCS with a few books under your arm. I hope you have got deep pockets full of green! "This issue costs how much? $3.99!?" I fully understand that it is not the fault of the shop owner, it is a direct result of the publisher and distributor. I admit that I am no economist however, I understand a little about the concept of inflation. In a little over 10 years, has the cost of trees increased? Does ink cost more? Are those creators finally getting the big bucks they deserve? Regardless of the reason for the increase in price it is here to stay.  
 
If you maintain a pull list at your LCS, the price of this habit can quickly creep up on you before you know it. I am now at the point where I am faced with a choice. Can I continue to afford spending upwards of $100/month? (Granted some may think that $100/month for comics is cheap--but those are the ones with the real addiction problems--seek help!) Do I want to start dropping books to settle the comics vs food debate? If it comes down to this decision, I do not believe that there really is much choice....but wait! There is! Why not have both? 

To answer this question, I have done some research on how you may accomplish this feat. These are not one size fits all answers and each has their pros and cons (no pun intended). Here are some worth mentioning: 
 

Mo' Benjamins (Overachiever Method)

This one may not be obvious for everyone so I will spell it out here. If you want to stick around in $3.99 land you are going to have to get some additional income. This can come in many shapes and sizes. You can work more hours, get a second job, or sell baggies of white powder on a street corner (you assume all risk). I do not recommend doing any of these as they take the most effort. Keep in mind the reason for these alternatives we are trying to maximize our comics reading time. If you work more then this means you read less. This would be counterproductive so let's disregard this option entirely. Who really wants to work extra anyway, right?

Stickin' With the Locals (Negotiation Method)

This is the most local-friendly option. Three Reasons: One, it keeps Joe--the behind the counter guy--happy as they get to keep your business. Second, you get to receive your books on their scheduled release date. Third, no additional expenditures for shipping and handling. Now for the worst part of this option. This one will require some work and will be an uphill battle. You are going to have to play "Sammy the salesman" and negotiate a deep discount (~40% or better) on all of your purchases. If you can accomplish this task you are much better than I and should be teaching your talent to others! My LCS gives a measly 10% discount (on purchases greater than $20) and only if you have a pull list. Having to talk shop owners out of their razor-thin margins will be an art form. In order to meet or beat the next few options you have no choice. Let's check out what's next. 
 

The Pony Express (Mail Order Method)

 Not everyone is aware of this alternative. To me, this was the most attractive and rewarding. Here is what it entails: You find a mail-order website where you pre-order your books (often months in advance) and have them shipped directly to your door. This is my primary means of receiving comics. I have now been a loyal customer of Discount Comic Book Service for six months and haven't thought to look back. There are many reasons why someone would want to choose this option. The best reason, and the one that is the hardest to argue with, they regularly have deeply discounted books ranging from 50-75% off cover price (e.g. those $3.99 books... you get them for $1.79). Not to mention, they have monthly $0.99 an issue promotions on the selected titles. With prices this low, I can afford to pick up more titles and/or especially those which I were debating on purchasing. Another great reason to go with DCBS, you do not have to brave the elements and walk, ride, or drive to the LCS to purchase your books. Every so often a uniformed member of UPS delivers my order directly to my doorstep. When they arrive they are packaged so well they could survive a nuclear blast and a tsunami simultaneously. In addition, on every shipment you get notification email when it has shipped and you can log into their website to see what is contained in each box prior to its arrival. You also can purchase anything at DCBS that is contained in the Diamond Previews catalog (i.e comics, TPBs, HCs, toys, magazines, games, apparel, etc). Thanks to DCBS, I have managed to cut my comics bill in half while maintaining the same quantity of books. Who can complain? With that being said, there are a few drawbacks. Yes, you have to pay for shipping. Shipping is a standardized price of $5.95. Another drawback is that you do not get to enjoy your comics on their release date. Depending on how far you live from their shipping facility--in Indiana--you will get your books a few days after release. I do not complain because, for me, an at least 50% reduction in price is well worth the wait. The final drawback is that you have to pre-order your books two months in advance. So, if you decide to drop a title you probably have another two issues coming which cannot be canceled. The other side of that coin is if you decicde to pick up a title at the last minute it's off to the LCS to get an issue. No harm done here, but if you like it you have to add it to your order which will then be received two months in the future--necessitating another visit to the shop the following month. All things mentioned, these guys are great to work with and I have not had any bad experiences with them. They come highly recommended! Now on to the last and final option  
 

Direct From the Man (Subscription Method)

As I'm sure you have guessed, this is a mail order subscription direct from the publisher. Unfortunately the "big two" are the only ones which offer this service (as far as I know). Also, hard to believe, Marvel's subscriptions are even cheaper than DCBS (only by a few cents)! Marvel Direct offers quite a selection from their titles (not all are available) and you can get 12 issues (as a first-time customer) for ~$25. I'm no math genius, but If I believe my figures are correct this translates to a little over $2 an issue ($24.97 for 12 issues = $2.08). If you were to purchase these issues at the newsstand you would be paying $47.48 for the same 12 issues. Once your subscription expires you can renew it at an even more discounted price, $19.97 each title (Marvel only to my knowledge)! This method is also not beyond its flaws either. My largest complaint is that they give no notification when an issue ships. You, again, also get your issue about a week late from the in-store date. They arrive in your mailbox (your mileage may very on this depending on the TLC your mailperson provides--see below) individually wrapped in a very thin cellophane bag and backed with cardboard. When I say "a week late" I am being pretty liberal here. I have found it very difficult to predict when the issue will actually arrive. I have no idea if it is Marvel, the post office, or a combination of both. The good news is that Marvel has pretty good customer service and if your comic arrives in less than acceptable condition they'll send you another on the double. Luckily, I have only had to do this on one occasion. In my mailman's infinite wisdom he decided that he needed to fold the issue in half and force it in the mailbox. 
 
P.S. once you've purchased your first subscription title from Marvel (I'm not sure if DC does the same), on the backside of the cardboard is a coupon to get any of their 31 titles for $19.97 which saves you another $5. You can use this to your advantage. Makes a great gift idea! 
 

Conclusion

As you can see, we all have many options when we purchase comics. The LCS doesn't have to be the sole provider of our comics anymore. The days of the Internet has brought stiff competition. In order to remain in business the brick-and-mortar stores who cannot compete soon become obsolete. I do not want to see all local comic shops to close their doors. That is not the point of this post. I always enjoy walking into the store and browsing, chit chatting, and visiting when they have creator signings! I just believe that it will be very difficult for them to remain competitive due to their high cost of overhead and razor-thin profit margins. Keep in mind that I have no mention of the digital revolution or "waiting for the trade" (which is also a viable option). How will this change things?
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Reference Material, Artistic Representation, or Consequence?


 Aspen Matthews
 Aspen Matthews

   Evangeline Lilly 
  Evangeline Lilly 
Throughout my time reading comics, there have been a few times where I have had to do a double take at a particular panel. More and more I have noticed that some characters have a striking resemblance to famous people. Does this bother anyone? I know that artists are under a tight schedule and sometimes have to cut corners to get the issue out on time, but where do you draw the line? Maybe I'm way out on a limb here but it sometimes seems like characters are a direct copy--or artistic representation--of real-life people. I know about artists using reference material and that some are consequential but there are also direct copies of actors/actresses. Take these two images for example. Are these reference material, artistic representations, or merely coincidence?
 
P.S. Why can I not get these images side-by-side? Darn software!
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