Editors Note: We asked one of our favorite local comic artists and fathers, Tony McMillen for the scoop on local comics shopping for Father’s Day. Here is his round up, natch.
Comics books are coming back to Boston! More accurately, and in true superhero fashion, they never really left. From Davis to Harvard to Union, our comics community are back after COVID-19 went all Thanos on the industry. Whether we’re talking curbside pickup at Million Year Picnic or a reconfigured Comicazi, our local comic book shops are tackling the pandemic head on.
Crisis on a Finite Earth
Much of comic book shops’ revenue comes from foot traffic generated by “Wednesday Warriors”, customers who come every week to pick up the new issues. So when stores were required to close it looked like it was curtains for our heroes .
Then Diamond Distributors, the single distributor for nearly all comics in the US, simply stopped shipping comics to shops.
New comics are a low-profit item that get’s get people to come back to their shop every week, often spending more than just subscription costs. But with no new comics and shops having to close their doors, what’s to keep comic customers from kicking their collecting to the curb?
“Miniature painting supplies was probably one of our most popular departments!” Manger Jill Carter of the recently reopened Comicazi in Davis Square explains. “Once we could have a limited staff in our shop, we focused on [contact-free] curbside orders and a free 10-mile radius home delivery service to get customers games, books, and toys to keep them entertained during quarantine.”
Tim Finn, owner of Hub Comics in Union Square, is donating half of June’s profits to the Southern Poverty Law Center. And he’s pivoted to keeping up a contact-free connection with its customer base.
“We’ve been in touch with customers through phone hours for local delivery, shipping, and curbside pickup, and these sales have kept Hub Comics quietly humming,” Finn tells Scout. “We have a weekly email newsletter. We’ve reactivated our long-dormant YouTube page to post videos and we check email daily.”
Avengers Readers Assemble
This sense of community is exactly what makes comic shops so perfectly suited to survive the economic downturn and extinction-level events threatened by COVID-19. The above and beyond approach applied by stores across the Boston area demonstrates that, like the artform of comics itself, the business of comics is admirably adaptive and endlessly inventive.
“In one way or another, we stayed busy over these last few months,” Comicazi’s Carter explained. “We already had a robust eBay and mail order service before the shutdown, so when we had to close our doors, we turned to social media video recommendations, moved our book clubs to Zoom meetings, developed an online store, and boosted our mail services.
“Our staff worked remotely helping customers over email, pricing comics and toys from home, and taking pictures to feature on our Instagram and Facebook feeds.”
Many stores have used this time apart from their customers to make improvements in their shops as well as preparations for a safe and health-conscious shopping experience going forward. Comicazi reopened its doors to the public on Monday June 15th and other stores have followed suit already or will be soon.
“Part of our limited hours leads into our interior and exterior renovations, which have been in the works for 18 months,” Finn of Hub said. “When we come back the improvements will be tremendous.”
At Comicazi, Carter and company are excited to show their returning customers how they’ve kept busy. So, the only real difference for readers returning to their shops is the people they’re reading about won’t be the only ones wearing masks anymore. At least for a little bit longer.
“We are going to great lengths to make our guests an team feel as comfortable and safe as possible, says Carter. “We require masks, provide hand sanitizer at the door and give the same quick and knowledgeable service as ever to limit time spent in the shop.”
Hub Comics in Davis Square and The Million Year Picnic in Harvard square are currently offering delivery, mail order and curbside pick up. Comicazi in Davis, Comicopia in Kenmore Square and multiple New England Comics location are now fully open. Check website for updated info and hours.
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