Anti-Matter Web Series Is Comedy Gold For Geeks

Life in a comic book shop is ripe for comedic exploration. Aside from the wacky conversations that are specific to comics geeks, there are the only-in-retail scenarios and tensions that arise in a small business, especially one that employs Gen X/Y employees. For people who visit an LCS every Wednesday, the awesome Anti-Matter web series is essential viewing. It’s a funny (sometimes bitingly so) comedy that takes place a New York comic book shop, and the characters are oh-so true to life. E. talked to the show’s writer/director Chris Walker, a former comics colorist for Marvel and DC, about all things Anti-Matter, and why it resonates with people who own longboxes. Continue reading

Showing Your LCS Some Love

If you’re lucky, your local comics shop (LCS) has a great selection of books AND an owner who’s knowledgeable and fun to talk to. When collecting my Wednesday haul, I always enjoy gabbing with my LCS owner, Brian, about everything from the future of Teen Titans to The Great Ten ending at issue #9. V. goes to a different shop, but I know she looks forward to her weekly visits as much as I do.

Brian is much friendlier than this guy.

Brian has tweeted regularly about a subject that should matter to all comic book geeks: LCS etiquette. It’s easy to forget that comic shops are not just fun places to hang out, but also businesses. Assuming that you genuinely like your LCS and want the place to thrive (cliché alert), especially in these difficult times, there are a few ways you can help. I can’t take credit for these tips, which are Brian’s, but I have added my two cents here and there.

Brian’s guide to staying classy at your LCS

  • If you’re going to move, let your shop know beforehand so your store doesn’t order stuff you can’t buy.
  • If you have “financial difficulties,”close your file so the store you liked doesn’t order stuff you can’t buy.
  • If you call on Thursday, and your shop has something for you, you don’t need to call on Friday to ask again.
  • It’s not really a big deal that there’s a female in the shop. Leave her alone, and don’t stare. (And if we interrupt your esoteric monologue about Grant Morrison’s Batman work with relevant and/or useful information, don’t look at us like we have three heads. We DO know what we’re talking about. — E.P.)
  • If there are only a few left, ask before you grab more than one of something. Sharing is a basic skill.
  • Use only the kind of language that you would use in a job interview. Foul language is not necessary, and bothers some other people. (Even when discussing The Rise of Arsenal? Sheesh.— E.P.)
  • If you hate the latest issue of something and want to drop it, let your shop know RIGHT AWAY.
  • If you love the latest issue of something and want to add it, let your shop know RIGHT AWAY.
  • You may love talking to your shop owner/employees, and they to you, but if there’s a line behind you, walk away. (Especially if someone in that line has a job they need to get back to, eventually. — E.P.)
  • All discussions about who will beat who in a fight have one answer: Whomever the writer wants to win.
  • Don’t put items from your hold file back on the shelf. Hand them to the employees and have them take it off your file.
  • Cash is better than debit or credit. If you write a check, make sure it’s good before you write it. (I am the debit card queen. Bygones. — E.P.)
  • Don’t haggle. Stores can’t haggle with the landlord or the utilities companies or the IRS.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Do you have a good relationship with your LCS owner(s)? What should they do to keep you coming back?

Comic Shop Unicorn-Spotting

My LCS isn’t exactly conveniently located, so I have to plan my Wednesday pick-ups strategically. If I don’t get them on my lunch break, I have to be sufficiently motivated to drive in the opposite direction of my house on a cold winter evening. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to brave some crappy after-hours weather to get my books. It turned out to be worth it in ways I didn’t anticipate.

While I’ve gotten used to being one of the few female regulars at comic shops, it’s really not all that unusual to spot another woman browsing the aisles. However, in all my years of fandom, I had never encountered another black woman in a comic book shop — at least not since college, when my friend C. and I visited the one near campus. Um, that was 20 years ago. So when I looked up to see a twentysomething black woman — one also wearing geek/hipster specs! — walking into my LCS, it was like seeing a unicorn. A fellow unicorn. I started to whip out my cell to send my husband photo evidence, but I didn’t want to frighten her away.

Fortunately, she was as tickled as I was to see someone in our shared demographic leafing through Marvels and Blackest Night tie-ins. After we traded wow-this-is-cool comments, she (I’ll call her M.) told me that she was a college student and an aspiring writer who had been frequenting my LCS for a few months. She also said her friends gave her a hard time for spending so much money on comic books. (Yeah, I’m sure they’re all squirreling away cash in Roth IRAs.) Then, she asked the question every experienced geek longs to hear: “What do you recommend?”

Best. Wednesday. Ever.

M. and I traded phone numbers, and I went home feeling like I had actually helped someone. I realize this is hardly the equivalent of mentoring at-risk youth or building a Habitat for Humanity home, but when you’re a minority in your chosen subculture, it’s nice to see a face that looks like yours once in awhile.

This is probably less of an issue for M.’s generation, but when I was growing up, other black girls my age found my love of sci-fi and costumed heroes a little … eccentric. Dabbling in the geek arts was socially risky for me — at least as risky as it could be for someone who wore Bass Weejuns and played second-chair flute and  piccolo. I wasn’t exactly sitting at the Unfriendly Black Hottie* table to begin with.

By the time I went off to a historically black college in the late ‘80s, I decided those interests were best shared on a very limited basis, with people like my pal, C. (There’s a street in our college town named Jim Lee Road, and I’m fairly certain she and I once talked about taking a picture of the street sign and mailing it to Jim Lee. Does that make us geeks or dorks?) I stopped caring about being alternative a long time ago, but it sure would have been nice to occasionally bump into a woman of color — any color — back in the day. So if talking to me made M. feel even a tiny bit more confident about loving comics, well, that makes me happy.

Which reminds me: I need to check in with my padawan to see if she wants to borrow some Fables trades. Geeking ain’t easy, or cheap — but it’s worth it.

*This is a term from the movie “Mean Girls,” which you should have seen by now.