By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the news regarding the closure of a modern Los Angeles pop culture beacon, Meltdown Comics. Yes, it’s happening, rather quickly actually, March 30th to be exact. If you’re just finding out about this, I’m sorry. Believe me I hate to be the guy who throws your memories in a blender.
The folks over at Nerdist.com published a goodbye letter from Meltdown Comics owner Gaston Dominguez-Letelier which you can check out by clicking the link.
Yep… it’s a sad day for pop culture. So I know what you guys are thinking; “dude, don’t you live in Ohio? Why the hell do you care? What could Meltdown Comics ever mean to you?” Honestly, you are 100% correct. I do live in Cleveland, I’ve never been there, and go figure that Meltdown would close its doors a mere ten days before I set foot in the City Of Angels for the first time in my life. I’m not about to put on a pair of poser pants and have you scroll through commentary on an experience I never will have. That’s not me. But what I will do is offer up some advice on choosing your next place to purchase continued tales of our favorite superheroes.
I’m no stranger to the decline of the brick and mortar. Here in Northeast Ohio, we’ve seen our fair share of businesses go to a farm up state. We’re called the Rust Belt for a reason. If you’re a person with a strong sense of brand or location loyalty like myself (if Nike made food I’d buy it) discovering a new establishment to spend your hard earned dollars is a difficult task.
In my experience, there are a couple different types of stores. I’ll shy away from names because most of you will have no idea what I am talking about. However I feel the comic book shop itself is limited to a few motifs, applicable to the whole country (I hope) and by the time you get to the end of this piece, you’ll have a new destination in mind. Remember, real fans don’t buy digital. Comics are meant to be put in plastic after reading then stored in a box you only open to add more to, or settle a drunken debate you’re having with your friends.
The first type of comic book store is what I call the “Mega-Shop”. Don’t be fooled by the name, size has nothing to do with it. These places we’ve gotten familiar with through television and movies. Stuart’s “comic book store” from The Big Bang Theory or Jay And Silent Bob’s Secret Stash from AMC’s Comic Book Men are prime examples. You know what I’m talking about, aside from the books, the stores feel like a museum of Nerd Culture, selling everything from Funkos, collector’s edition action figures, magnets, and the occasional Joker cookie jar (those exist). Staff members engage in discussions with the regulars while younger readers stand around soak in the dialogue so they can sound cool at the cafeteria lunch table.
I’ve been to the Secret Stash and it’s a must go for East Coasters.
What I like about them is the “one stop shop element” for comics as they usually carry more than just Marvel and DC. You can go there when you are looking for titles like Sex Criminals or The Armory Wars which may not be sold at the other two types of shops we will highlight today. If the popular stuff is up your alley, they will stock the shelves to the point where you are pretty much assured you’re leaving with what you came there for. Except Doomsday Clock, you had to pre-order that.
When trying to find a new base of comic book operations, the Mega Shop will more than likely be the first place you are drawn too. Totally cool, there are easily more pluses than minuses in going to the Mega Shop, a full blown Nerdgasm. But stay with me, because I’ll save the absolute best option for last.
FYI – most shops these days are independent so set Amazon aside and support your local businesses.
Next is what I feel to be the biggest tease and by far something I’ll steer you away from. In Cleveland we have a couple locations that advertise the sale of comics on their sign, but when you walk in, you find the store is more of a place to play Magic The Gathering or whatever you kids are into these days. The floorspace, where boxes of back issues would normally be, are tables. Even when nobody is playing, they’re still there. When you look to the walls and see copies of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and a few other staples, you’re ultimately wondering how the hell this joint had the audacity to put “comics” on the front of the store. If Magic is your thing, by all means, go for it, but a DC Rebirth logo will be like seeing a fan of Suicide Squad, rare.
We’re getting to the end of this article and it’s time to share my personal preference for comic shopping. I did a Google search of stores in my area and went to one towards the bottom of the list. And little did I know I would stumble into a place right up my alley. B&L Comics on Ridge Road in Parma, most of you don’t know it exists. That’s okay. But I’m sure there’s something equal to what I am about to describe in your area.
B&L is the template for a small business. It almost looks like the owner is selling his personal collection. The inventory isn’t too deep but it gets the job done and if you ask nicely, maybe they’ll order a back issue for you. (thank you for reserving those Doomsday Clock issues for me) The space is never too crowded, the guy behind the register has zero problems talking the latest plot twists, then it just sort of becomes your go to spot.
It sucks when a place you have a connection with closes its doors for good. There’s tons of it happening lately. If your favorite store is no more, I hope this piece helps point you towards a new hun of Nerdery.
I’m not sure if Meltdown will ever reopen, or if comic book stores, or stores, will be around in twenty years. But while we have them, it’s never been a better time to fall in love or back in love with comic book culture. Guaranteed you can find something you enjoy.
I’ll leave you with this; it doesn’t take a landscape like what you saw in Terminator for technology to triumph. So when you can, support your local scene.
By Adam Chmielewski
Photo Credits- Adam Chmielewski, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Warner Brothers
Got any great comic book shop recommendations? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!!