Having been a comic book retailer for more than 35 years, I have come to many conclusions and quite a few epiphanies. I often compare my job with that of a bartender’s. Many of my customers come to my store to get their regular fix — one where I won’t cut you off for going above the legal limit.
A regular may visit daily, weekly or monthly. I have gotten to know a lot about many of my customers as they come by talking about their families and friends, kids, work woes, financial difficulties and even legal issues. In true bartender form, I keep that information confidential and offer advice (that’s sometimes actually helpful) when asked.
More often, though, my job often feels like something out of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” or John Cusak’s character in “High Fidelity,” both among my favorite movies. Our employees and business neighbors frequently become part of our inner circle — the ones who know as much about your life as your therapist would. And we have regular customers who are practically family, some we are jealous of, and many, many who ask us questions. Questions are part of the job. They can make your day amazing or send you into a spiral of depression.
I love the questions I get. But sometimes the context deals with personal opinion or minutiae that I find irrelevant. You can ask me what my favorite comic book or superhero is, but you might not want to know the answer. Or I might give you an answer that leaves you a bit lost.
There are two kinds of “Who is your favorite?” questions. First is the “fish.” This is a validation question, but you’re hoping my answer is one of your favorites. What I say might make you unhappy because it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. The second is the “help” question, an attempt to find new comics to read. Guess which one I enjoy more.
As with my favorite bands, movies or television shows, my tastes change as I read new comics, so my answer this week might be different than next week. And depending on who is behind the counter, you may get completely different views. That’s what makes it fun. Asking questions is the best way to find new and interesting options. It also helps me get to know you. If you ask about a new comic book and I know that you are a fan of Quentin Tarantino films, I can easily tell you about the “Preacher” comics.
For the record, my favorite comic book of all time is “Cerebus.” My favorite superheroes, in no particular order, are Thor, Batman and Miracleman.
So if you are feeling adventurous, please come in and ask us for something new to read. We won’t disappoint.