This past weekend, I attended Heroescon in Charlotte, North Carolina, once again. This year my friend Richard Rivera of Stabbity Bunny fame and I shared a booth with Frankie’s Comics, a different kind of comics shop.
As I helped Richard sell his comics, I also got to roam the Artist Alley to make some new contacts for the podcast.
However, I found myself wondering, was Frankie’s Comics an example of what a comics “shop” might be in the near future?
WHAT FRANKIE’S COMICS IS
I had the chance to speak with Kevin Fields, the owner of Frankie’s Comics, and asked him what made his store different from other comics shops.
It turns out that Frankie’s Comics is largely an online sales comics organization. Here’s how they describe themselves on their website:
At Frankie’s Comics, we cater to collectors by offering low print run store variants from today’s hottest artists.
Examples of how this works were on display at Heroescon. Besides Richard, there were two other name artists signing comics and working on commissions — Clayton Crain and Mike Vasquez. Long lines greeted many fans, and occasionally witnesses were summoned so they could verify their signatures were authentic. Both also had crafted their own unique covers for several popular comics, which you can see on their aforementioned website.
Needless to say, that booth was a busy place! After all, you couldn’t get these at local comics shops, only at this booth or at the website/store.
Of course, they also signed comics for Frankie’s that would be sold on their website/store. They also sold other variants at the booth.
WHAT FRANKIE’S COMICS IS NOT
I often engage in discussions about the future of comics shops with folks, and many pros give me the same answer as to what they see coming in five years — “I don’t know.”
I was curious to find out if you could buy regular issues from Frankie’s Comics. The answer is mostly “no.” Granted, if you want a variant of Batman #50, you can get that on the website. But you just can’t get regular monthly floppies through their site.
Also, even though they do have a place where they have their comics so they can send them out, they do NOT have a “brick and mortar” storefront.
You must either buy these books through their website or through occasional booths at cons. They do have several upcoming appearances they’re working on scheduling, but to get weekly comics, you need another store.
It’s interesting to me that collectors are becoming more and more important to the comics industry. Frankie’s Comics specifically caters to them. We’ve often found collectors are important when you’re selling books at cons, through stores, or through websites.
Will collectors eventually take over the comics industry? Personally, I don’t think so, but I’ve been wrong before.
IS THIS THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY?
One of the things that always haunts me is the number of comics shops I’ve frequented over the years. I’ve often shopped at a store for years, only to go back one Wednesday to find a “closed” sign on the door, leaving me to search for another place to buy my books.
I hate that. Comics are what is called a “habitual” medium, which means you want to do the same things on a regular basis. I like my comics shops, and I go to them because I enjoy the process as well as the product.
I keep finding more and more people with money who invest in the industry by collecting comics, often variant cover comics. Their value can skyrocket based on many variables, from the popularity of the cover artist to the writer to the company. It’s hard to pin down exactly what will make a book suddenly be in demand.
I also keep encountering comics fans who are less and less interested in comics as a storytelling venue. People tell me, after years of reading comics, they keep coming across the same story or stories retold with slight variation. Then, too, you could go to see a movie or watch a TV show more and more these days featuring some of the same characters. Why buy comics?
Of course, I love comics as stories, and I don’t plan on giving up on them anytime soon. Also, I don’t have the kind of money folks who collect these books need to have to build their collections. I also have the terrible luck of choosing something to buy that will be basically worthless in a short time. It’s my curse. But I also love to read, so stories are important to me.
I’m also concerned that a comic I buy and never open might have nothing but blank pages inside. AUGH! That’s my luck again! If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!
But I do still wonder if comics will be more collectible than readable. I mean, I’m happy that Frankie’s Comics is clearly meeting a need in the comics industry today. And I’m very pleased that they seem to be really successful at meeting that need. Good for them! (By the way, it’s named Frankie’s Comics after their pet dog who recently passed away, and you can see a drawing of him in their logo above.)
What do you think? Are collectors the future of comics? Will local shops fade away with web stores replacing them? Or will your LCS continue to plan an important role in the industry? Be sure to share your opinion and thoughts in the space below!