Many people buy comic books. Not as many as you think, but there is an audience for the purchase of collected visual stories. Everything from Iron Man to My Little Pony to Pathfinder to Batman…it is all available in multiple locations. Some options are more inexpensive than others and tantalize readers with the possibility of saving a couple of bucks.
Much like music, you can hit the somewhat shadier places on the web and grab issues for nothing. If you have more conservative feelings about file sharing and want to be legitimate/support the creators, websites like Discount Comic Book Service and Instocktrades don’t offer just pennies off of comic books, but many times 45%-50% off. Then, the most convenient option (which is also the most expensive) is the local comic book store or the LCS. The LCS will often have all things “geek” available for your perusal and you might even find something new to become obsessed with in the open air format of your store. Much like traditional bookstores, many people wonder “how long the LCS will survive?”
Lone Star Comics and Games: Plano has been an establishment that I have frequented for years, although I have pursued other, more cost-effective means to purchase my comics for awhile. It was a good little store in a storefront-shopping center in between East and West Plano, TX for years. The staff was very polite and helpful and added quite a bit to the experience of coming to the store. There was a certainty with Lone Star Comics as they were a large chain backed by the impressive comic book warehouse-style website www.mycomicshop.com. I would go there for impulse purchases where I couldn’t wait for website shipping and to generally shoot the breeze with other comic book fans. Rick Cromack was their leader and he was my spirit animal.
A little over a month ago, the owners of Lone Star Comics, Buddy and June Saunders sold two of their massive chain of north Texas comic book stores to Ron Killingsworth and Brent Erwin. Brent is the COO of APE Entertainment, a main source of comic books licensed from games and movie properties and a managing partner of Collected, LLC with Ron Killingsworth, previously the Director of Retail Operations at Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. These two entrepreneurs aimed to have their own set of chain stores to branch out from their pre-established Collected: TCU store with the acquisition of Lone Star Comics and Games: Plano and Lone Star Comics and Games: Hurst. My LCS was going under a new brand. I had met Brent before and found him agreeable. Also, Brent and Ron’s vision for the store was to keep all of the previous staff, which was a good plan as I enjoy their company.
So, it has been a week or two since “Collected: Plano” opened. I went to the opening on Labor Day. There was free Starbucks coffee and donuts. There was a cake, pictured below:
There was still business being conducted, perhaps more in fact, and all of my friends were there. There were kids reading comic books on the floor and no one was discouraging it. There were middle-aged “Fanmen” coming back to comics for the second time in their lives on that serendipitous labor day. The lively scene was punctuated with Collected: Plano’s new visual elements.
One thing that I noticed and enjoyed greatly about the setup of the new store is Collected: Plano’s interest in “feeding the people.” Enticing series are out in the open or on display. The whole DC debacle with Harley Quinn happened last week and Collected: Plano had a shelf of Harley trades next to the Forever Evil stuff. There seems to be a knowledge and desire, that goes above marketing strategies, to display and suggest good comics. They keep the “Bone shelf” stocked with all of the trades because Bone is a great freaking comic book that kids and adults can enjoy. Collected: Plano seems to be thinking about what they are doing and providing a more customized experience. That’s good if you’re not getting 40% off of a website because by having good stuff available and friendly staff to sell it to you, you can find things to love that you never even knew about.
Another thing that’s great about Collected: Plano and the LCS experience is the ability to connect with friends. I hadn’t seen JK Leo in over a year and I ran into him at Collected: Plano last Wednesday. I was hyping Shea’s Top 5 Post and it turns out that JK Leo ALSO loves rap music. Shea was working (as he is an employee of Collected: Plano) and so the three of us commiserated about this blog, comics in general, and our shared common ground like fast friends. It was a wonderful social experience that I never would have found at a discount internet website. If you think about it on a grander scale, without my LCS and my overwhelmingly positive interview with Rick Cromack, I never would have started Interviews With The Industry and would not have had as many rare/positive experiences with comics creators.
“How long the LCS will survive?” As long as they provide well-marketed products and exceptional service. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is “give your LCS a shot.” It might cost a little more, but how much are the wonders of discovery and the joy of friendship worth? Collected: Plano is a nice little LCS, so if you’re in the Plano area, you should stop by my LCS and have Shea talk you into buying a Paul Pope trade or talk horror movies with Freddy or spoil Image’s “Prophet” for Sabrina. Rick will probably be there to talk about politics, the Aggies, or his beautiful family. You’ll get what you wanted, find something that you didn’t know you needed, and leave after hours of social interaction…unless you stay to play at one of their many tabletop/card game events that go into the wee hours of the night. Collected: Plano truly is your pop culture headquarters.
~ Scott Deaux ~