On one of my recent Dublin rambles, I set eyes on Forbidden Planet Comic Shop. Sitting just South of the River and just West of O'Connell Street Bridge, the shop has a great location. Inside, they honor their great location with a great comic shop.
What makes a great comic shop? That varies greatly depending on who is asked. Nerd-dom can be frustratingly elitist and unwelcoming to "outsiders." Anyone who has seen the Comic Store Guy in The Simpsons is aware of some of the worst kinds of fan-rage and the geek elite. People like Comic Store Guy don't seem to really like or enjoy anything in life, especially mainstream entertainment.
If one is asking me what makes a great comic shop, it is very simple. The shop has to be set up to appeal to "outsiders" and people like me, who would be a "verger?" I enjoy reading (old) comic books, gaming, and a few other "nerdy" pursuits- but I would not consider myself anything like Comic Store Guy. I enjoy comic shops that are well-lit and inviting. I enjoy a good selection of comics, action figures, gaming books and games, sci fi/fantasy novels, posters, T-shirts with funny slogans, and other surprises. I don't actually collect most of those things, but I do enjoy browsing them in a friendly atmosphere. Forbidden Planet has a large showroom with a wide selection of just what I was looking for.
|Outside Display Window|
What I do enjoy collecting from comic shops is old back issues of comics. I don't look for comic titles specifically, but rather from a time period. When I was in high school (early 2000's), I found a comic shop in Iowa with boxes of old comics from the 1980's and 90's for $1, sometimes less. My friend and I began buying them up for some entertaining fast reads. I found in them not gripping comic art and storytelling, but amazing advertisements, letters sections, and news from my childhood.
I was amazed at seeing ads for products I remembered but no longer exist, upcoming movies that I remembered wanting to see, snack food and drinks that would no longer be edible today (Surge soda?) and video games I had or wanted for my NES or Sega Genesis. Many of the ads (or others in the same ad campaign) I could remember vividly. "Mortal Monday" ads heralded the arrival of the new Mortal Kombat game to home systems. 80's and 90's sports superstars with impressive mullet haircuts like Joe Montana hawked their endorsed products from the yellowing pages.
Older issues from the early 1980's still had comic book ad holdovers from the Golden Age of comics. Multi-ad pages offered helpful lines like, "Are you too skinny for the girls? This new Charles Atlas program will make you the King of the Playground in no time! Just send..." and "Looking for extra income? Sell GRIT newspapers to your family and neighbors, keep all these great rewards! Just send..." I have no living memory of GRIT newspaper, and I only know Charles Atlas from the reference in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so these little bits of retro-youth Americana were sometimes entertaining, sometimes touching, and... sometimes a bit racist.
Comics from this era had letters and fan art sections to print user feedback. The letters from readers were usually pretty entertaining, and I could just about see myself as a boy of twelve in bib overalls and a bowl cut carefully drafting a letter with my yellow pencil to the creators of my favorite X-Men editors praising (or criticizing!) their work. Seeing one's name in print in those days must have been a big deal. Quite a change from the modern-day website comment section, no? Speaking of comment sections, there is one at the bottom of this article, if you care to...
Someday I may make a project of scanning and collecting in a digital medium these (copyrighted...) gems, because sadly, reprints of back issues of comics leave out the ads (understandably) but they also usually omit the reader letters and responses, artist profiles, "This month at (comic publisher)" news pages, and the infamous Marvel Stan's Soapbox. I'm sure licensing deals and little reader interest will keep many of these bits of treasure locked forever in the yellowing pages of aging comic books.
|Kiss, Transformers, and Strip Magazine|