Many decades ago, I would wander far and wide to get my comics.
Sometimes it was a magazine rack at a small town grocery store.
Othertimes, a spinner rack at a newsstand or bookstore.
Later, an actual comics shop. (Yes, uphill both ways, but with a convenience store halfway with a soda fountain!)
This weekend, I flashbacked to summers long ago, as I wandered around Manhattan. (Heat + aroma of newsprint + no agenda/responsibilities = childhood nostalgia)
Saturday, after blogging, I headed downtown to Carmine Comics. Since the street had a name, I thought it was south of Houston, and blindly exited the subway at Cortlandt Street. Only then did Google Maps show me that Carmine is actually in the West Village, that soft place where streets run into each other, where one wrong turn can find you back in the Gilded Age.
So I took the subway back up, and found the street, which seems to be from a Hollywood backlot. It is Little Italy West, a bit more gentrified, a bit less touristy. I found the store, and was a bit confused… it had it’s own door, but shared a space with a bargain bookstore, Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books.
The store is slim… about three yards wide. The slat walls and deep shelves do not display single issues best, and the back issue boxes do not encourage browsing. It has a good overall selection of titles, and I discovered some old small-press comics in the dollar bins. (There are also some Silver Age rarities for sale!) This store arose from the old Manhattan/Cosmic Comics store in Midtown, and I’m not yet certain if the gestation was like a phoenix from the ashes, or Dionysus from the thigh. The store hours are amazing (open until Midnight?!), and the gentleman minding the store was friendly.
Then I wandered next wall (not next door…there was an open space). There, I discovered more graphic novels, almost all remaindered. (As a bookseller, I have developed an eye for this sort of book.) Nothing really caught my eye…I knew they were good books, but nothing had an urgency. (Not even the slipcased volumes from Another Rainbow which could easily be flipped on eBay!) Until I wandered back to the juvenile section! There, faced out, were old copies of Gladstone’s Walt Disney’s Comics in Color! These were repackaged/rebound collections of Gladstone’s slimmer albums, with new covers by Don Rosa. (Some featuring a rare depiction of Mickey Mouse!) Most of the stories are by Carl Barks, but included are some Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse strips (reformatted for comic books), and the occasional Rosa story. On sale…$6.50! I bought a copy of each, and I know I already own some, so I’ll probably send these on to the nieces and nephews for lazy summer reading.
How does one engage in lazy summer reading, you ask?
- Find a book to read. If you need to practice, I recommend “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Roald Dahl is also good.
- Find a place to read where you will not be disturbed for hours. The beach is good, as is a tree fort, a bedroom, the attic, anyplace where people are not likely to either see you or bother you. Basements are nice, as they are cool, out of direct sunlight, unvisited, and usually contain a bathroom and second refrigerator stocked with goodies which will probably not be noticed in their absence. (Myself, I like to ride the subway and read. Every stop has a deli nearby, although restrooms are more challenging.)
- Prepare as you would for a desert island. Take whatever snacks, drinks, and implements you will need for the next few hours. A fan may be nice if inside, or a breeze if out. Wear suitable clothing, sunscreen, and insect repellant.
- Turn off your cellphone and any other distractions which might snap your suspension of disbelief.
That store held an interesting surprise: cover reproductions from Another Rainbow’s Disney collections! Originally priced at $15, they, too, were $6.50. The paper isn’t thick, but the colors are glossy, and almost every cover is Barks. The sun was setting, so I took the subway home, escaping to Hawai’i along with Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews.
The next day, I planned to do more blogging from Midtown, but got to chatting with a photographer on the subway, which meant my deliberately missing my stop. So I exited at 33rd Street, to walk over to Bryant Park. That’s when I remembered that Jim Hanley’s Universe had moved! The new store is nice, if much smaller than the former store. The air conditioning was working quite well, and the shelving was an improvement over the former wire shelves. It reminded me of Big Planet Comics in Besthesda, Maryland: carpet, shelves along the walls, kids comics up front, adult comics in the back. Their amazing selection has not changed, just condensed. Periodical comics are shelved along with books, which is a bit inelegant. (Does anyone make plastic magazine displays in comicbook size?) Personally, I liked the “Batcave” fire escape near the back…or is that where the pogo plane is stored?
This layout is what I call “comic strip mall”. It’s a long thin storefront, about five yards wide. Bergen Street Comics and the long-gone Rocketship Comics are two other local examples. This type of store usually has a dedicated display for the periodical comics, and bookshelves for the collections. I hope Diamond and/or ComicsPRO will design a layout for new comics shop owners. It’s a good basic layout for new stores, and the spaces are easy to find. (I wonder if strip mall developers have a standard design?) Or, perhaps offer a service where a new store could send a blueprint, and get a design in return.
So I exited JHU and headed north on Fifth, to get lunch at Sunrise Mart, a Japanese deli/grocery. At 38th, I noticed a sidewalk shed sporting a big black sign which read “Montasy Comics“. What? A comics shop I had not heard about? So I buzzed the door and walked up a flight of stairs.
There I discovered an open floor, nicely divided. The back half of the store was reserved for events, with numerous tables and a gaming tournament taking place. A back issue bin served as a divider, although it seemed a little out of place. The store had a good selection of monthly comics, well displayed, but a sparse selection of graphic novels. The staff was predominately female, which was untypical of most comics shops. (But welcomed!)
In a bit of serendipitous synchronicity, I was searching for something to purchase, and came across the Avengers issue featuring David Letterman (the DC go-go checks caught my eye). Almost immediately, a father shopping with his young daughter was looking for a souvenir for their visit to New York City! I immediately offered him my copy of the Avengers, and mentioned that the only issue more “New Yorky” than that would have to be the team-up of Spider-Man with Saturday Night Live! An employee then located that issue, and I ended up with the Avengers. I then did my best to encourage the father to get books for his daughter, even recommending his local public library! He was from Sunnyvale, California, so I recommended he visit Comix Experience in San Francisco. He’s a lapsed comics reader…he’s currently into gaming and RC models. I even gave a good spiel on Marvel’s Oz books! So here’s hoping…
I then got my lunch, found my oasis, blogged, and that’s my weekend! I’m now off to Central Park to read some comics! Share your favorite Summer reading below!