It was a lazy Sunday. Sitting on the couch with my girlfriend watching old episodes of LOST while it rained outside, I found myself surfing the internet and reading about upcoming comics. As I flitted around the internet, I found myself gravitating toward a website I had seen before – the website to the comic bookstore Comicopia. I had known about this store for a little while as several weeks ago, while attending my friends wedding at Fenway, I passed the store. If I hadn’t been going to a wedding, I would have stopped in immediately, but since I was I made a note of the location, telling myself that I would make it back here one day to check it out. And, in honor of my LCBS Spotlight feature, I decided to go out and visit the store in honor of my second review.
So let’s get right down into it. On my way to the store I had decided that the two things I wanted to leave with were Captain Carrot And The Final Ark! and Phonogram. Both were books I had wanted to read for a while now, and I felt that it would be a good day to go and grab them. It was just one of those days. As we got to the store, the first thing that happened was the guy working behind the counter thanked us for coming in through this weather. Nice! I really like when the people behind the desk choose to interact with the customers, and it’s probably my favorite thing about NEC, which I go to on a regular basis. So already I gave ’em points. And although the store is rather small on the inside, there was a lot to take in visually, so I made my way slowly around the store.
Despite it’s small size, they have a lot to offer. We’re talking floor to ceiling graphic novels, here. On one side you’ve got the comics we all know and love, and on the other side you’ve got so much manga it’ll make your eyes go ^_^. In fact, the store boasts having the largest selection of manga in Boston, but considering I’m not really into manga at all I’ll just take their word for it as I’ve never seen this much anywhere else (for all that stuff, you can talk to new recruit Julie!). I found myself entranced by the wall of graphic novels, and after a thorough investigation I found that their incredibly large selection had both one huge plus and one huge minus.
One huge plus: Oh my God, you guys. Their collection of hard to find graphic novels blew my socks off. Not only did I leave with more than I planned, I left with stuff so amazing that if you don’t have it and have never read it, you just may cry. We’re talking super hard to find Grant Morrison stuff, i.e. Sebastian O, and all 3 graphic novels of Geoff Johns’ Hawkman run, as well as Kevin Smith’s second volume of Green Lantern in which he created Onomatopoeia (which, for some reason, I can never find despite the character being returned to the DCU). That’s pretty incredible. I mean, I’ve been to a lot of comic stores in my day, but I’ve never found this stuff. And now? It’s sitting on my shelf here at my apartment. If leaving with all that doesn’t constitute a good trip, then I don’t know what does.
One huge minus: The organizational system. Oh man, I had a tough time with this. Ok, so you have a DC wall/shelf, and a Marvel wall/shelf, right? Simple enough. For everything else, it’s organized by author. And there’s one shelf set aside organized by characters. Now, I’ve been to a lot of comic stores in my days in many different states, but I’ve NEVER seen a system like this. This is typical of a book store, sure, but not comic book stores. And while my complaint on this might seem odd, think about it this way: is it easier to go to a store and say, “I’m looking for Hellboy, which is a Dark Horse title,” and then just looking for all the other Dark Horse books to find Hellboy? Every other store I’ve ever been to has been by publisher, or at the very least by title, and while some have definitely had special sections for authors like Alan Moore or Warren Ellis, it’s always been easier to grab a hold of.Continued below
Needless to say, I did not leave with Phonogram. Sure, I could have ASKED, but with all I was leaving with (my girlfriend grabbed RASL at the last second and I grabbed Point Blank right before paying (another hard to find title)), but if there had just been an Image section like I’m used to, who knows? Maybe I would have. The organizational method they had did eventually prove useful as I perused all that old Grant Morrison stuff, but I prefer by publisher. Especially when odd titles that were published by Marvel or DC pop up on the other walls (such as the old versions of Skrull Kill Krew, which I debated getting).
As far as their new releases and general comics go, they had a great selection. Everything could think of was there, and even some things I couldn’t. While of course some titles sold out and there were holes in the wall, I found this to be natural of a comic store by Sunday. As I flipped through occasional back issues, I found that their recent back issue selection was really pretty good. Heck, I found an issue of Planetary I had been looking for elsewhere with the intent to grab it and frame it as art (although I eventually framed up the final issue of Y: The Last Man instead). Their issues of variants, all neatly displayed behind the counter, were all great. They had some awesome variants, most of which I’d love to own if I had more money (or at least wall space and frames!). In fact, I made note of some of them just in case I feel like spending a bit, because Lord knows I’d love to have that Old Man Logan variant with him on the horse as a cowboy. That was totally sweet.
When I tried to go further, though, I was hit by a road block. Their back issue section? Essentially non-existant. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, but what I saw for back issues was a tiny little corner that really consisted of nothing that I wanted or had interest in, some mystery bags, and some grab bags of runs too obscure even for my standards. It is not the perogative of every comic shop to keep a large section of back issues. I’m not trying to stipulate that it is. Heck, in most cases, too many back issues take up too much space and leave a clutter. And they did have a good selection of recent back issues! But sometimes it’s nice to go to places like That’s Entertainment! in Worcester, or even Midtown in NY, and see what you can find in the back issue section. Me? I’m all about grabbing graphic novels these days, but I still love a good rare back issue or two. Especially with my sporadic jumping into series these days (the boys on the site have been convincing me to read X-Men Legacy…)
On top of that, there were no real extras drawing me in. They had some t-shirts around, some neon super hero signs, and a single wall of 80% graphic novels. Unfortunately, none of these caught my eye. It’s not that I come to comic shops to toy shop or anything, but… you know, it’s nice. Heck, the day I went to a comic book store and saw an action figure of the Drummer, I nearly peed myself in excitement. The comic book store only NEEDS to have one thing – comics. Everything else is just an added bonus for being a nerd.
In the end, Comicopia definitely lives up to it’s name. It is a veritable cornucopia of comics, at least in graphic novel form and whatever is recent. I didn’t spend a lot of time interacting with the staff, although I wish I had. I just felt guilty buying 8 new graphic novels when I had planned to buy 2, and I was only actually leaving with 1 of those 2. From what I overheard from general eavesdropping while perusing, however, let me know that these guys are real deal (and visiting their Myspace is also a clear indication of this). These guys (gals) definitely want to make sure the college kids in the area looking for their fix are happy with the store, and as I walked around they were brainstorming ideas and seeing what they thought people would like. Previously, I had sent an e-mail to the shop on my epic quest for that one “correct” version of Planetary volume 3 (long story) and they had responded very quickly and nicely. And that’s what I like to see in store owners – they care. Ok, so maybe not everyone can go toe to toe with us on trivia of comic books, especially with all the ridiculous amounts of continuities these days (my old comic book store guy claimed Wolverine was Australian once), but as long as they care about the people that come in their store, then count me in.Continued below
So if you’re ever in the area, stop by Comicopia. Especially if you’re looking for some hard to find graphic novels, as I always am. You’re bound to leave with more than you bargained for.
Comicopia is located near the Kenmore stop on the Green Line of the T, at 464 Commonwealth Ave.
Today I came home to find a rather nice e-mail from Matt Lehman of Comicopia. He was having trouble posting a comment and wanted me to get out the message of why it is that they have their different filing system. I now present that e-mail to you, in all it’s glory:
Thank you very much for your positive review!
You said, “Now, I’ve been to a lot of comic stores in my days in many states, but I’ve NEVER seen a system like this. This is typical of a book store, sure, but not comic book stores.”
Since we consider ourselves to be a specialty bookstore whose specialty is comics, I’ll consider that as an unintended compliment. 😉
First off, no matter what kind of filing system a comic book store devises, there will be some who will be confused by it. We tried to come up with a system that made sense to us and was easy to explain, with a minimum of exceptions. In creating our system, we asked ourselves, “For a given titles, what is its primary appeal?”
In our experience, with the exception of the DC & Marvel universe titles, we find that most people tend to follow the writers or writer/artist than a particular publisher.
This is why Vertigo & most Wildstorm titles get filed under author, even though they’re technically published by DC, as do Icon books, even though they’re published by Marvel.
I understand that you happen to know which titles Image publishes. But from what we can tell, there’s nothing about most of what they publish that identifies them as distinctly “Image”. If Phonogram were to switch publishers, which we’ve seen happen to other titles, where would we file it? But if you’re a fan of Kieron Gillen’s then you’ll find other non-Image works by him filed next to Phonogram.
An exception would be Gillen’s Warhammer comic, Crown of Destruction, which would be filed with the Warhammer comics in our Media section.
The point is, we try to make our store just as accessible to the aficionado as to the neophyte who likes a particular writer, but doesn’t happen to know the publishers. Whereas we assume the aficionado with be familiar with both
We also think it makes more sense for Star Wars (Dark Horse), Battlestar Galactica (Dynamite) and Warhammer (Boom) to be filed together in a “media” section, than by publisher. In those cases, we think that the movie, tv or gaming aspect trumps the publisher or creative teams.
For those non-DC/Marvel titles that have been by many authors (Conan, Hellblazer, Authority, Spawn for example) we have the Character section, as you pointed out.
Also, if you file by publisher, which small publishers get filed under “misc”? And if you have a special section for authors, again, what criteria does a writer merit inclusion/exclusion? Either way, you have to come up with an arbitrary cutoff, which won’t be obvious to the uninitiated.
As for our product selection, we decided a wile ago to pick a few things; new comics, graphic novels & manga, and do them well. Unfortunately, this led to a gradual shrinkage of back issues, until they were no longer represented. We found that the back issue that were in demand were the ones we were out of, and we were left with the ones no one wanted, which took up valuable space.
The rent we pay in our urban Boston location make the economics harsh: everything must justify its space or else it must go. This is why we’ve stopped carrying action figures. There was a time when they used to sell well. However, after several DC Direct series in a row failed to sell, we decided it was time to stop throwing money away. Of course, we’ll still take special orders.Continued below
So to summarize, we want to have a comic book specialty store that will appeal to as many types or readers as possible; the weekly Wednesday customer, the casual graphic novel buyer that visits a few times a year, or the new customer, who’s visiting because they heard a story about comics on NPR or read a review in Entertainment Weekly.
BTW, the guy from your old comic book store did have a point about Wolverine: Hugh Jackman is Australian. 😉
And as a further note, David was telling me that Warren Ellis wrote in his book (that David reviewed) that Ellis actually prefers more unique filing systems like Comicopia’s store then the average comic book shop. So even more reason to go there!