I think that, when it comes to reviewing comic book shops, there are a lot of things you have to take in to consideration, and I’ve been doing my best with it. Selection of new comics, as well as old, along with trades and extra goodies littered about are all things I take into consideration when judging the store. Things like presentation and staff are categories too, but less so than the things above, because not all comic nerds come in to look for somewhere to “hang out.” Most just want their comics first and foremost. It’s a fair enough assessment standard, I believe.
It is with these categories in mind that I feel like I can call one single comic book store “the best comic book store in Massachusetts.” That title is of course one that is contested on a daily basis as I visit different shops, but to this day I have never been to another store that has managed to trick me into spending an exorbant amount of money when I had originally planned to spend nothing. This is the one store that I can never spend less than an hour at because I always get lost in their selection and debate heavily what I should get, if anything at all. And that store is Worcester’s 1997 Eisner award winning That’s Entertainment!
It should be noted, right off the top, that That’s Entertainment! has two locations. The one I want to focus on is the one in Worcester. I’ve been to the other one, and it doesn’t even remotely compare. In all honesty, not much does. Worcester’s branch is such an enormous treasure trove of goodies that if you ever saw the other one (whose location I won’t even bother to mention – not to be rude, but come on), you’d think you were at the wrong store.
So I listed a bunch of categories above, right? And I will use all of them to show you my evaluation of the store, bit by bit. It’s the best way to focus and clearly show you all the different aspects of this absolutely amazing comic book store.
New Comic Books
Let me tell you all a story. You ever hear of this Eisner Award Winning comic book series, The Invincible Iron Man? When Dark Reign hit, I decided that this was a definite book to read, considering Iron Man’s status in the Marvel U. I didn’t pick it up because I was afraid it would just be a re-interpretation based on the movie version of the character (and, to my credit, RDJ is on the cover of the variant first issue). However, when I started to pick up World’s Most Wanted, so did everyone else (queue Eisner award). It was with that that the book became kind of hard to find, even though I added it to my subscription at my personal LCBS. It came the time when no one had the most recent issue of the book, and I was in a bind because I really wanted it. I started calling stores all around the state that I frequently visited in order to find this one issue of Iron Man, but no one had it. I called friends in other states to take a look for this book, but they would tell me their store didn’t have it. Needless to say, I was disappointed and annoyed.
That is, until I remembered That’s Entertainment! I called them up on a weekend gamble and asked, in a very knowing and pessimistic tone, “Do you have any copies of the latest Invincible Iron Man?” I was put on hold for a minute before the reply was, “Oh yeah, we got it.” Excitedly, I asked the attendant to hold me a copy, but he told me not to worry – there was plenty to go around. I hopped in my car and raced to the store as fast as I possibly could and got my copy of the issue, returning home proud and triumphant.Continued below
This is just one of the many examples of times I’ve gotten great books I couldn’t find anywhere else. The variant for Blackest Night #1? Yeah, I grabbed it there the last time I visited. How about the issues of Dark Reign: Young Avengers other people didn’t grab? Oh yeah. I’ve got it all. TE! has literally one of the best selection of new release comics (and the last four or five issues before that one) I’ve ever had the pleasure of browsing, spanning two walls and I don’t even know how many shelves. If there’s something you want, I can guarantee you’ll find it at TE! Of course, you run the risk of leaving with much more than you intended, but that will be discussed later. For now, know that if you need something, TE! will have it.
Honestly, ’nuff said, am I right?
Ok, I’ll elaborate it. This is probably the single most intense selection of back issues you can find outside of a convention. They have so many things you won’t be able to find anywhere else, and I really mean that. I’m talking Watchmen #1, which should now be worth quite a bit of money now that the movie is out. Did I mention I grabbed a copy of that while I was there? The next thing I plan to buy when I visit is all the original copies of Kurt Busiek’s Marvels, something I’d very much like to own.
So needless to say, whereas the last store I visited did not have a back issue selection at all, this store has enough back issues for a lifetime.
This is the downfall of my dollar every time I walk into this store. You probably can’t really tell from the image here, but the wall of graphic novels is just as, if not more so, intense as the new comic wall. If you look at the image of the back issues, in fact, you might get an inkling of an idea. This store has provided me with so many hard to find graphic novels, like how about the original printing of Rose and Stupid Stupid Rat Tails? Oh yeah. And you better believe I picked up a sweet helping of Grant Morrison while I was there. They even have used trades now, so you can get amazing books (like Kevin Smith’s Quiver, which is what I have been reading at the moment) for $5.00. Yeah. You heard me. I barely paid anything for it used, and it’s in AMAZING condition. It looks as if it’s barely been touched.
I remember the first time I ever went to That’s Entertainment as a young boy who didn’t know the world yet (and by young, I mean sometime while in college). I went in so wide eyed and hopeful and left pure and destitute, but with SO many awesome graphic novels. I have been told I have a very nice collection, and that was before I moved and went on an intense graphic novel buy up spree. I have all sorts of fun little rarities, including… brace yourselves… Ultimate Adventures! Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. It was the only Ultimate title I didn’t have, so I figured, why not. They have it, and no one else does! And now I have it. This situation continuously repeats itself over and over. I’m going to admit something here that I have not fully admitted to a lot of people. The last time I went there? I spent around $250. Yeah. You read that right. Not all of that was on graphic novels, mind you. I got other things (which I will get into it), but the majority of it were new and used graphic novels. Speaking of which, I really need to read that Space Ghost trade…
Now I must warn you – unless you are willing to part with some money, do not go near the trade section. It is a fool’s errand if you have no money, because you will be tempted to grab and spend, and I promise you there will be SOMETHING that you just can’t leave the store without. There always is. There. Always. Is.Continued below
In line with that $250 I said I spent, we get to the extras. You see those toys there? That’s just the start of it man. There are toys hanging on the walls, toys sitting on top of shelves, and toys sitting all around the back issues. There are brand new toys straight from the latest Diamond Direct shipment, and there are toys from the 80’s you didn’t even know anyone still had. How about a Mad Max action figure from Beyond Thunderdome, or perhaps an original Buzz Lightyear figure from when Toy Story first came out? Want an action figure of Communist Superman or Anarchist Batman from Mark Millar’s Red Son? Yeah? Well too bad. Because I already got ’em. See, here’s the thing about this store. If you grab any two used action figures, you get another two free. So now not only are you getting some rare awesome action figure or something, you’re getting another three because why not?!
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, KIDS! Want some old video games for your SNES? They’ve got ’em! Want some old VHS tapes? They’ve got ’em! Looking for that one hard to find t-shirt with the specific logo? They’ve got it! Statues, rare candies, super old and rare/important issues of comics, card games, records, DnD books, weird sci-fi novels in tiny paperback format (you know the type) – you name it, they’ve got it. If you want some random and cool piece of nerdery, they’re going to have it for you. And if they don’t have the specific item you’re looking for, they’re going to have something else you want just as bad if not more so to make up for it. The last time I was there, I got old action figures of the Planetary crew. I didn’t even know those existed until I saw them hanging on the wall atop a bookshelf, at which point the clerk was happy to take it down for me. So yeah, they’ve got something for everyone.
Of course that’s not really all, though! They have a room in the front where you can sit with your nerd friends and play some Magic. Yeah. The Gathering. That one. They also host small artists and writers to come, promote their work, and sign it. They have parties and events. They. Have. Everything.
What more can I say? This store has it all. This is the store that I hold as a standard for other stores, which is clearly entirely unfair if you can’t tell from the pictures alone. It’s just one of those little gems that you make special trips to go to, because it’s definitely out of the way for me. But that’s what’s so fun about going there, really. It’s like a little road trip. Drive an hour or so outside of Boston, browse comics you don’t have for another hour, and go home with a car full of new toys and fun. This is literally the best comic store I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in in Massachusetts, and I love gong back there.
I strongly and very highly recommend that any big fan of comic books take a trip there, because you will definitely get something out of it.
That’s Entertainment! is located at 244 Park Ave., Worcester, MA, 01609