Comic Book Ink in Tacoma to close

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The gloomy economy has claimed another victim as Comic Book Ink, a 10-year-old shop outside Tacoma, has announced it is closing. Only last year, the store was in trouble and stayed afloat with help from a benefit campaign. However, this time, owner John Munn has chosen not to look for help. Here’s part of an emotional letter Munn sent out:

I have no idea how to write this letter.
 
I don’t.
 
I’ve been trying to write it in my mind over the last two weeks…and I just don’t know how to start it without saying:
 
“I’m sorry…But I believe…I have let you down.”
 
Let me tell you why I had to decide to write this letter.
 
Two weeks ago, I walked into my bank to see my banker on a Tuesday…
 
Please know that I have an incredible bank…they have stood by my side through everything that has happened in the last six years…including giving us a $30,000.00 credit line within the first year of banking with them.  A line that we maxed out fairly quickly…and kept maxed for six years.
 
But..two weeks ago…Tuesday…they were not able to do what they wanted to do….which was to help me.
 
On some Tuesdays, from time to time, they would allow me to overdraw the account so that I could cover the shipment that would be arriving that afternoon.  This was never an issue, because they knew that the following day was New Comic Book Day and we would always be able to cover any overdraft.
 
But, on that Tuesday, my banker looked at me as if she had shot me on accident.
 
“I can’t do it,” she said, “They won’t let me.”
 
I told her, ‘That’s it.  I’m done.  I don’t know what else to do.  Its over.” 
 
“I’m so sorry,” she said…she looked like she was going to cry.
 
“It’s not your fault,” I told her, ‘It’s nobody’s fault but mine.”
 
As I got into my car…it fully hit me.  I was going to let each and every one of you down in such a way that I have fought against with all of my might.  I was going to have to close the store.
 
I can’t begin to tell you how many of your faces rushed by me in my mind.  Seeing the hurt in your eyes.
 
I broke down.
 
I realize, in the past..when met with adversity..I asked for your help.
 
I knew that, if I asked for it again, you would help.  
 
But I couldn’t do that to you.  Not again.  Not anymore.
 
You’ve been asked too many times.
 
Last year,  when I asked for help…the message found its way around the world.
 
And I got messages back of hope, care, support…and, you need to know…messages of hate and loathing on a massive scale.
 
“You don’t belong in the comic book industry.” One wrote.
 
“With all the trouble in the world…you’re asking for hand out?  Grow up and close your store.” Wrote another.
 
“You’re a blight.”
 
One retailer called to tell me…not 10 minutes after the message went out: “You don’t deserve to be nominated for an Eisner. You should shut your doors right now.  I really should call (the committee chair) and tell them that shops that are in the business state you are in…should be disqualified.”
 
“You’re an embarrassment,” I was told on more than one occasion when I went to San Diego last summer for our Eisner nomination, “Everyone is asking why you are here. Why are you here?”
 
There’s more.  A lot more.  But I don’t want to make you angry.
 
I know you are going to be disappointed enough in me…and the anger might come later…which I also deserve…but I have to close the shop.  In light of my position with the bank, I honestly have no other choice…other to ask you, again.
 
And you already know now…that I will not be doing that.
 
But I am not going to lock the doors today and walk away.  That’s not the kind of person I am.  That’s not the relationship that I have with you.  It wouldn’t be right and it wouldn’t be fair to you.
 
I am going to try my best to keep the doors open until July 9th…the opening weekend of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.  We open the store 10 years ago when the first Spider-Man movie was going to open.  It has symmetry that we should leave when the rebirth happens. 
 
We are going to operate as if there is no tomorrow.
 
Full steam.
 
All shipments will be fulfilled until we close.
 
All Subscriptions will be filled until we close.
 
All New Gaming Materials will be coming in fully (Magic, Heroclix, etc) until we close.
 
All Gaming Nights (Thursday & Friday Night Magic / Saturday Heroclix / Sunday Pokemon & Warcraft) will be going full bore (with Prize support) until we close.
 
I don’t want to fade away with pieces being sold off…I want Comic Book Ink to be there for you until we have to leave. 
 
This will give you time to transition your files to other comic book stores.
 
This will give other stores time to increase their orders. 
 
This will give you time to find another gaming store that feels that same way about you that I do…like the soon to be open NERDY STUFFS.
 
This will give my staff time to find  new places to work..  Places of which I can only hope love them as much do…and will care, respect and have pride in them as much as I do.  Because I love them as much as my own children…and I know they are your family, too.
 
This will give me time to try and sell as much as I can to make as much as I can to try and take care of all of the Angels that took a chance with me…and supported the store in more ways than I can possibly begin to tell you.
 
PLEASE keep purchasing stuff from COMIC BOOK INK on a weekly basis, until we are gone.  I’ve had too many people tell me, that I am causing myself further fiscal crisis by staying open and being here through this time of needed transition, ending, loss and separation.  I think they are wrong.
 
Please, prove me right.
 
I don’t think I will have to have deep discount sales in order to get through this and liquidate my stock.  I believe that you will not want to see us go that way.
 
I will have one sale…for everyone who’s files are empty…But I am saving that for the final weekend.
 
I am also hoping to have a gathering at the store…on the last day…that you can be a part of.  I will get that information out as soon as I am able.
 
I feel an overwhelming need to say, “Thank You” to all of the Comic Book Professionals (and Retailers) too, who became part of our family: Adam Kubert, Brian Michael Bendis, Clayton Crain, Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, Daniel Way, Brian Reed, Michael Lark, Stephano Guadiano, John Layman and so many more… bless you for helping us be the little shop that so many people heard about.
 
You all need to know that Roger, Beth, Kris, Dave…all of my family at Diamond Comic Distributors and Alliance Games… fought very hard to convince me to stay after I told them the news from two weeks ago.  They were willing to do anything…ANYTHING…they could do to help.  I am blessed that they are who they are.  Again…you need to know…Diamond and Alliance were ALWAYS there for me.  And are going to stand by my side as we move through the weeks to come. 
 
As you know…there are a lot of Angels who took a chance with me…and supported Comic Book Ink.  It is by their grace that I got to try and fight as long as I have.  Please…prove me right…and keep purchasing with us to try and take of them as much I want to.
  
This couldn’t happen at a worse time for my own family as they struggle to find employment in this economy.  My late father’s businesses..that were created for one purpose…are now all closed and unable to be sold.  Fiscally… this is not a decision that I make with confidence in my own family…but it is the right thing to do for the shop.  

 

Comments

  1. Gianluca Glazer says:

    WOw. That is sad news to hear. Reading John Munn’s letter makes it even harder, knowing all the hard work he’s put into making the store what it was.

  2. Its always sad to hear something like this, and while i’ve never been to that shop, it sounds like there was a definite passion for comics there. It sucks that business side didn’t work out.

    Those negative comments from other retailers are really f@$ked up. Its sad to see that so many retailers are vindictive a-holes, rooting for their brother in arms to fail. Karma’s gonna take care of those jerks i’m sure.

  3. I’ve been rooting for John Munn’s Comic Book Ink to make it. He’s a good guy with a real zeal for what he does.

    As for the retailers giving him negative feedback, that’s less about their frustration with him personally and more about the general frustration among retailers that store failures get played up a whole lot more than do the successes in this business.

  4. I sympathize…I do…and this will probably come across as trolling (which it isn’t)…if you max out a line of credit and can’t make a dent in it, in six years, then you are in the wrong business.

    I’m sorry, comics really needs to move away from the idea that people with zero business sense can get by with a love of comics and not much else.

    Comic shops can succeed, you just have to understand that it is a business first and a passion 12th.

  5. Would have been nice if some of those haters to this guy aside and gave him tips on how to become a stronger businessman. But then they would have had nothing to complain about.

  6. Bruce says:

    I live in Seattle, and lived near Comic Book Ink some years ago. A good store that is literally next door to the nicest movie theater in the area, one where thousands of people have have walked by after parking their cars to see the Avengers.
    Not to sound negative or seem like I’m making light of a very sad event, but I think this closing speaks volumes about the state of the industry and the difficulty of attracting new readers with products geared to legacy readers and collectors. A whole generation of readers lost to Twilight.
    It’s just sad.

  7. Matthew Southworth says:

    Nice work, negative retailers and assorted assholes looking for someone’s face to shit on.

    Very sorry to hear about Comic Book Ink closing. Stefano Gaudiano proudly displays the wine bottle you made him for his signing there, and I know he’ll be sad to hear this, too.

    @Alex–you’re right, it doesn’t sound like you have a lot of sympathy, it sounds like you want to assert your superior business sense and obvious ability to foresee potential problems and pitfalls, not to mention your excellent handicapping of the none-too-healthy comic book business. Thanks for dropping in to kick a guy when he’s down and prove how if YOU ran the place, you’d do a better job.

    Comics IS a business, a business founded on passion. If cartoonists approached comics purely as a business–there wouldn’t BE any comics. It’s a business that pays horribly for intense amounts of work. One commercial illustration can earn you as much as a whole issue of comics can, and I’m NOT exaggerating.

    So keep that in mind as you’re dispensing business advice to a guy who made a real go of it, ran a much-loved shop for 10 years, and who’s taken a moment to express his dismay from the heart.

  8. mario boon says:

    Erm, Matthew: “If cartoonists approached comics purely as a business–there wouldn’t BE any comics”

    that’s exactly how comics started! By illustrators and animators who’d fill page after page in cheap booklets for an insanely low price.

    I’d suggest you google “iger-eisner”. That was pure business.

    Also, I’d suggest a better reading ability, because nothing what Alex said is what you’d ascribed to it.

  9. @joe field. with all due respect, i don’t buy your apologies for your fellow retailers. Those quotes are pretty damned mean spirited and pointed. Please don’t pull that “oh we just misspoke” card after you guys act a fool.

  10. Thomas Baumbidell says:

    “You guys”?

    It’s not a hive-mind, man.

  11. Plus, I wouldn’t even begin to assume that those were accurate quotes.

    -B

  12. Thomas Baumbidell says:

    If one hardware store owner says something mean to a guy who buys a hammer from him, ALL HARDWARE STORE OWNERS HATE HAMMERS!!!

  13. Matthew Southworth says:

    @mario boon–A) I’m not talking historically, I’m talking about the business as it currently exists.

    B) Eisner-Iger was run as a business, yes, and when Eisner got a lucrative contract to make instructional booklets for the military, well, he stopped making comics. You’ll note that after the Spirit ended, Eisner never did another weekly or monthly strip.

    C) I don’t think I misread Alex’s points at all. But I appreciate your suggestion that I improve my reading, and I’ll see what I can do about it.

    HOWEVER, I think I may have written a more heated response to Alex than his comments warranted. I apologize, Alex, if you feel I overreacted–I think I did a bit. In trying to make the point that comics is a business, yes, but it’s a business that on its best days makes very little sense–I believe I yelled when I should have spoken more softly. So I’m sorry for that.

  14. >> Eisner-Iger was run as a business, yes, and when Eisner got a lucrative contract to make instructional booklets for the military, well, he stopped making comics.>>

    No, he didn’t. Those instructional booklets were heavily comics-oriented.

    >> You’ll note that after the Spirit ended, Eisner never did another weekly or monthly strip.>>

    That doesn’t mean he stopped making comics. Some of Eisner’s most-respected works were done long after that point.

    kdb

  15. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Kurt–I know the instruction manuals had comics material in them, but in this discussion I’d argue that “comics” doesn’t mean line drawings in short sequences but something a bit more expressive, be it fiction or non-fiction. In some ways, you could argue that the little card in the back of every airplane seat that shows you how to use your seat as a flotation device is a comic, but I don’t think it applies here.

    And I agree, certainly, that of course Eisner made tons of great stuff in the late 70s and onward. I’d argue that stuff was more heavily a “passion project” than a business venture, at least initially, but I confess I don’t know Eisner’s feelings on that subject.

  16. “A good store that is literally next door to the nicest movie theater in the area, one where thousands of people have have walked by after parking their cars to see the Avengers.”

    Did he do anything to tie-in with the movie theater (“10% off Avengers collectibles with Avengers ticket stub” or somesuch)?
    Did he promote Avengers-related merch in the windows?
    Did he stay open late on Friday/Saturday/Sunday to catch the crowds going in/coming out?

    I hope he did…

  17. Andrew Farago says:

    It’s scary how many comic shops exist on a week-to-week basis. I’ve seen several shops go under because they miss a Wednesday delivery, customers migrate to the next shop, and they lose just enough business that they’re stuck playing catch-up after that.

    I’d bet that the number of retailers who are using this Wednesday’s income to pay for next Wednesday’s shipment is a significant amount.

  18. >> I know the instruction manuals had comics material in them, but in this discussion I’d argue that “comics” doesn’t mean line drawings in short sequences but something a bit more expressive, be it fiction or non-fiction. In some ways, you could argue that the little card in the back of every airplane seat that shows you how to use your seat as a flotation device is a comic, but I don’t think it applies here.>>

    I don’t think it needs to. This is from PS Magazine:

    http://www.comicmix.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Joe-Dope-PS-007-e1313030823721.jpg

    So’s this:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-1g1BpBnESsk/TaDKwoxTU8I/AAAAAAAAAP8/8D_HO5PbWfo/s1600/PS177.31-34.jpg

    Comics:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-GQ973_W9brI/TXAP9u7cbfI/AAAAAAAAAJQ/FC99CtrEm24/s1600/PS128.30.jpg

    PS Magazine had stories, it had recurring characters, it had humor, drama — all in service of the main purpose of the magazine, but it involved flat-out no-fiddlin comics.

    >> And I agree, certainly, that of course Eisner made tons of great stuff in the late 70s and onward. I’d argue that stuff was more heavily a “passion project” than a business venture, at least initially, but I confess I don’t know Eisner’s feelings on that subject.>>

    You said he stopped making comics. And you seemed to consider it meaningful that he never did another weekly or monthly strip, as if that applies. This is what I take issue with.

    I don’t think Will ever stopped making comics, for any great stretches. He made comics in different forms, but he kept making comics. And part of the reason for that was to make a living.

  19. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Kurt–I concede, yes, those are comics in terms of medium, but the topic of discussion was the comics business. I wouldn’t call military instruction manuals part of the comics business any more than I’d call those seat pocket things part of the comics business.

    To make money, Eisner used his comics skills outside the comics business and stopped making periodical comics (I definitely should have included the term “periodical” in my original point for clarity’s sake).

    I don’t for a second think Eisner made those military manuals out of a sense of passion; I think he made them for money. So to Alex’s point that “comics is a business first and a passion project 12th”, my point was that if cartoonists treated comics purely as a business–they’d be off making military manuals or storyboarding commercials with those skills, and what we think of as “the comics business” wouldn’t exist.

  20. I don’t have much interest in this passion/business argument, like it’s one or the other; I don’t think there’s a hard line between the two.

    I’m mostly just responding to the claim that Eisner “stopped making comics” in 1950. Of course he did; he did it for decades. The idea that he never did another monthly or weekly strip, when he was producing a monthly magazine with regular features in it, doesn’t make any sense.

    And of course that’s part of “the comics business.” It’s comics, done professionally. You seem to be eliding from the idea that Eisner/Iger was a business to the idea that because American Visuals didn’t do newsstand comics, they’re somehow not part of the comics business, which would mean the Marvel-produced KOOL-AID MAN and LIFE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II wouldn’t be part of the comics business, nor would the Spire Archie comics, or the comics in BOYS’ LIFE and on and on.

    Eisner was making periodical comics. Calling them “military manuals” or “instruction manuals” with “line drawings in short sequences,” when they were traditionally-drawn/lettered/colored comics that came out every month, seems like an attempt to blur the distinctions, to say they have more in common with airplane instruction cards than with AIRBOY or Super Turtle.

    >> if cartoonists treated comics purely as a business–they’d be off making military manuals or storyboarding commercials with those skills, and what we think of as “the comics business” wouldn’t exist.>>

    I don’t think this holds much water either. Eisner had the PS Magazine gig; it’s not like hundreds of cartoonists could have gotten the same deal.

    And comics creators did those gigs when they could get them — Frank Robbins did toothpaste ads in comics form, Caniff and Sickles did comics-format ads too. Neal Adams did some, and on and on. When jobs like that were available, cartoonists didn’t refuse them out of love for doing REX THE WONDER DOG; they took the money where they could get it.

    If it were possible to simply move whole-hog into military contracting work and commercial storyboards, Martin Goodman would have done so in a flash (and pocketed most of the money); he certainly wasn’t in it for love.

    But there was a lot of competition for those advertising jobs, and storyboarding gigs, and such (and there were indeed artists who jumped from comics to that sort of thing, if they could get enough work from it, just as there were comic book artists who jumped to comic strips or to advertising). There still are lots of comics artists today who do storyboards too.

    What I don’t get, though, is this idea that it’s not the comics business if you’re making comics for the Army instead of for a newspaper syndicate, or a newsstand comics publisher. It’s still making comics, and it’s still doing it for pay. Cartoonists didn’t refuse better opportunities to stay in comics; comics was a business, too, and a way to pay the rent or mortgage or whatever.

    Eisner didn’t stop making comics. He didn’t stop making periodical comics either. He found a good gig doing comics of a certain type, and lived on it for years, much as Gil Kane found a good gig at DC, and drew whatever he was asked. The big creative difference was that Eisner had more control over the work than Kane had over his.

    kdb

  21. One last thought:

    >> what we think of as “the comics business” wouldn’t exist.>>

    What I think of as the comics business may be broader than what you do, but even what you mean by that exists because people viewed it as a business, and were in it to make money.

    Even if every artist producing comic book pages in, say, 1947 had managed to get a gig on a newspaper strip or at an advertising agency or animation studio, the comics publishers would have filled up their books with the work of other artists that couldn’t get those gigs, and the business as we know it would have continued.

    The history of the comics industry is largely a business-driven history. Jack Kirby didn’t team up with Stan Lee and co-create the Marvel Universe because they had a shared vision and were turning down other opportunities in order to chase that vision. Kirby went back to work at Marvel because his options elsewhere were less attractive, and he needed to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead. That’s what Stan was doing, too. They wrought magic because attracting readers was how you stayed in business, so they did their best to attract readers.

    But if, in 1958, Eisner had offered Kirby enough work to keep him busy on PS Magazine, at more money than Goodman was paying? Kirby would have worked for Eisner; he had mouths to feed.

    These guys were creators and businessmen (as we still are today, each freelance one of us), but for the most part, they’d grown up in the Depression, and used their creative abilities in the service of making a living, as best they could. Making comics may have taken long hours and paid poorly per page, but it paid most of them more than their dads made.

    kdb

  22. I think part of the misunderstanding is that many presume (even if only subconsciously) that unless it has the Marvel or DC logo on it, then it’s not a “real” comic. which is bupkiss. I was just arguing in another forum how Diamond Previews actually shows a very limited view of the comics released each month, in only focusing on the larger publishers. There are hundreds, if not thousands of small pressers and self-publishers out there, and though they may not have the big print runs, their work can still be astonishingly good.

    And sad to see another brick and mortar shop go in these glorious economic times. They really can be special places.

  23. Maybe so, Richard, but I can guarantee you that Matt Southworth, co-creator of STUMPTOWN, is not one of the people that presumes such a thing.

    I think he might have been unfamiliar with just what PS Magazine was, maybe, and what it looked like.

  24. Synsidar says:

    Anybody who’s curious about the comics material in PS Magazine can view digitized issues. From the description:

    As one of the biggest names in the industry, Eisner attracted some of the best aspiring comic artists. Artists you will find in PS Magazine include: Murphy Anderson (Strange Adventures, Mystery in Space, Adam Strange, The Flash, Green Lantern); Mike Ploog (Creepy, Planet of the Apes, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing); Don Perlin (Werewolf by Night, Ghost Riders, The Defenders); Dan Spiegle (Space Family Robinson, Mangus, Robot Fighter, Korak); and comic strip artist/writer Andre LeBlanc (“The Phantom,” “Flash Gordon,” “Rex Gordon, MD”).

  25. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Richard–no, definitely, absolutely 100% not. I not only think that books not published by Marvel and DC are “worthy”, I think they’re often far superior to their Big Two counterparts. Chris Ware, Jaime Hernandez, Adrian Tomine, and Jeff Smith sure as hell don’t need a Marvel or DC logo on their books.

    (and that’s not to say the Big Two don’t do great stuff from time to time, either)

    I am somewhat familiar with PS Magazine, Kurt, though not deeply so. My feeling that I didn’t consider PS Magazine to be “comics” is based on my looking through the recent PS collection and saying “yeah, these are just instructional brochures” rather than seeing them somehow as creatively-inspired material. While I know that many, many comics are also not particularly inspired, my hazy definition of “comics” didn’t necessarily include that sort of material. But I think that’s a semantic failure of mine (this coming from a big, BIG Eisner fan who has every issue of Kitchen Sink’s Spirit reprints and almost every GN he did, too).

    But I think my basic failure here was in poorly communicating my point…the point was simply that I think most creators working in comics do not look at it purely as a business, but more often as a passion. That were we to look at making comics from a cold, purely business standpoint we’d choose to work in a business that paid better (in many cases FAR better), but that since we have such affection for comics, we stick around, because the payoff is more fulfilling than a bigger paycheck.

    And then, as relates to the original point of the article, that many retailers likely have the same mixture of business sense/passion.

  26. Matthew Southworth says:

    P.S. @Kurt–I LOVED the Spire Archie comics when I was a kid, growing up in a fairly religious, church twice a week household. I found some again recently and was thrilled, despite the fact that I left religion behind long ago. I think they’re nifty.

  27. Matthew Southworth says:

    P.P.S. Read more Stumptown! Coming in September! Not from Marvel or DC!

  28. >> But I think my basic failure here was in poorly communicating my point…the point was simply that I think most creators working in comics do not look at it purely as a business, but more often as a passion. That were we to look at making comics from a cold, purely business standpoint we’d choose to work in a business that paid better (in many cases FAR better), but that since we have such affection for comics, we stick around, because the payoff is more fulfilling than a bigger paycheck.>>

    I don’t think that’s historically true, overall.

    Comics history is full of examples of people working in comics because it was the best they could get at the time, who abandoned it for more lucrative fields when they opened up, or people who would have abandoned it but their pitches to other clients didn’t pan out.

    I think it’s been more true in recent years, as making a living in comics has become less of a backbreaking prospect. But nobody was working for Mort Weisinger out of love for the medium.

    But yes, everybody buy more STUMPTOWN.

  29. Al™ says:

    Sorry to hear of another comic shop shutting down. Sounds like it had been a labour of love for the owner, but business was not sufficient to keep it afloat. Best of luck in his next venture.

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