UPDATE: Cosmic Comics ISN'T closing

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pop ny 15 cosmic comics UPDATE: Cosmic Comics ISN'T closing
UPDATE: See owner Mark Friedman’s comment below: After January1 the store will be under new management. Yay!

After 18 years in business, New York’s Cosmic Comics is closing on Dec. 31st. A longtime fixture of the New York comics scene due to its location in the bustling Flatiron district and the former location of Marvel Comics, sales have been going down. The owner blames rising comics prices according to those who have spoken with him:

I know you guys are still asking, if it was so good, why does it have to end? Well after your Oprah moment, and a Dr. Phil cry, all things come to an end. Like Brett Favre’s career, but you should end it with a peak like Micheal Jordan. The comic book industry has changed dramatically and its really hard to run a store under such conditions. A $3.99 comic in an economy like this hurts everyone across the board. Do you know how many ghetto OOero cookies spelled with two O’s I can buy in the local bodega with $3.99??? The industry is milk the cow ie the customers before the paper comic industry crashes and goes completely online.


The link is a long, moment filled reminiscence by a former employee of the moments that make up working in a comics shop, especially a second floor comics shop. You should read the whole thing for the flavor – excerpts don’t do it justice.

Working and Cosmic was one of my first real jobs and I had the sweet dream boy reality slapped outta me within the first few weeks! I only worked 1 or 2 days a week at the store, but I worked the heavy days.

Do you know how it feels to carry a 50 lb box of comics up 2 flights of stairs on a day where the elevator is broken on a summer day? Try doing that multiple times. Did you guys really think a comic book faire came by and waved her wand and magically the books would appear? Back then marvel had over 112 titles every month! We’re not even counting DC and Image and other companies. Since the store was small, space was limited and Mark would bark orders! Cut those boxes! Wrong pile! Wrong stack! Pull those variants out! Don’t break the price gun! Can’t you count????


Although everyone knew about Cosmic Comics — it’s geographically the closest comics shop to Stately Beat Manor — it wasn’t always a destination. The other stores of New York have signing-heavy schedules and mega websites and blogs. Cosmic is …was, definitely a throwback to an older era of comics shops as back issue and periodical repositorys, although certainly NOT an Android’s Dungeon — the owners always went out of their way to hire female clerks, for instance. Whenever we stopped by — usually for an emergency research project — they were always courteous and friendly. But the challenges for any indie bookstore surviving in today’s economy are severe.

Just the other day FMB and I were walking across Madison Square Park and he commented “Isn’t there a comics store over there?”

Soon there won’t be.

There’s a store profile in this link on CBR, from whence I got the above photo.

We’re hearing many many rumblings from the comics retail community — this is not a time of prosperity. In a private mailing to his customers, one prominent comics retailer who did not wish to be named recently wrote:

To say things are dire around here would be an understatement. I work close to 100 hours a week and the crazy hours have never bothered me until recently. For years it was all about the love I had for comics and the industry itself. Now it is strictly a business and honestly, that makes me sad. All I do these days is figure out ways to make that extra dollar to pay this week’s HUGE bills. Somehow we always manage, even if just by the skin of our teeth. Long gone are the days of looking to the future and how to grow my business. Now it is just about survival.


Obviously, in the case of Cosmic Comics, some aren’t surviving.

{Thanks to reader Jason Kyle for the tip.]

Comments

  1. Snikt Snakt says:

    Thats a shame, I always meant to check the store out. Oh well. :-(

  2. I use to go there all the time when I worked at Marvel only stop going after marvel moved to a new location. I would go once and a while, but it’s been a long time. Sorry to see it go.

  3. Steve Rotterdam says:

    Sad. True, it was an effort to get there (those stairs were straight out of Dr. Caligari) and though it was never my LCS of choice, more often than not, a visit was rewarded with the easy discovery of a hidden gem.

  4. That was my regular shop when I was at NYU. I’d make a monthly trip to Hanley’s for any oddities I might have missed, but it was a fine, well-stocked store.

  5. Didn’t go to Cosmic often (it just wasn’t the most convenient location in relation to where I was), but never had any problems when I went there. It’s a shame to see it go.

  6. George Khoury says:

    Very sad to hear this. During my Marvel intern zombie days, that was my favorite place to be. Need to make a trip there before December 31st. Thanks for using my photo, Heidi! That’s one of my favorite articles.

  7. Christopher says:

    This has been my comic shop since I moved to NYC. A great throwback place to get current issue as well as to dig through the bins. They always had great jazz playing too. A sad loss for NYC.

  8. James Van Hise says:

    The $3.99 comic book is causing a lot more trouble than is being discussed. In a depressed economy, raising prices isn’t the wat to deal with it, especially for non-essential items like comics. At least DC has announced a rollback, but in the nearly 2 years since prices were raised a lot of damage has been done.

  9. I remember having my first signing there. (They say you always remember your first). Best wishes to Mark and the others who made it such a great store.

  10. With three Midtown Comics, Hanley’s, and Forbidden Planet, I don’t how a store in an awkward 2nd floor location could really survive.

    I don’t think this is a problem of comic book stores closing because there aren’t enough readers, I think this is the fault of too many comic book stores.

  11. A tip of the hat to Mark and his dedicated crew. I remember when Cosmic opened during my senior year at SVA, it was too handy to have a comic shop on the way to the train. It’s always been one of my favorite shops in town. Clean, polite and well stocked with both mainstream and indie fare.

  12. Loved the store and Mark, the owner is an awesome guy I always love to talk about just about anything with…he has great taste in music as well as comics and would always recommend something to me…and I would always buy it.

    I wish them all much success wherever the world takes thm next…and for mark, a nice vaction somewhere warm!

    jimmy p

  13. Earth-2 Chad says:

    This was my regular shop in the ’90s, before I left NYC. For all the crap that gets slung at ’90s-era comics, there was some great stuff being published — Bone, Tyrant, Stray Bullets, Kane — and I bought it all here.

    A great comics shop with friendly owners, and I’m sorry to hear that it’s closing.

  14. Such a shame – Cosmic is a great store, very under-rated: clean place, nice layout, an above-average variety of books & friendly staff. Great place for casual browsing too, which is hard to find in the perpetually crowded New York comic stores. I would always stop in after hitting the Shake Shack and walk out with something I would have overlooked in other stores. Sorry to see it go.

  15. Each shop closing i see reported makes me wonder, “Are there any stores out there doing well? And if so, how are they doing it?”

  16. While I was a student at SVA, I’d often go to Cosmic Comics because it was so close to the school and dorms. I have fond memories of the store and a friendly staff to say the least.

  17. ken knudtsen says:

    wow, this was a punch to the gut. this was always the shop that i went to when i was at sva. and when i had my comic(my monkey’s name is jennifer) published from slg, mark always made it a point to put it in a customer’s hand for them to check out. i appreciated the store, staff, and mark for everything that they did for all of their customers.

  18. Kid Kyoto says:

    When I was overseas Cosmic was part of my circuit for restocking in my occasional trips to NY. I’d start at Midtown on 40th, walk down to Handleys on 33rd, then Cosmic on 23rd, Forbidden Planet on 13th, Strands on 12th and St Marks on 8th. A great way to see midtown/downtown and a comic shop every 10 blocks or so.

    Sorry to see it go, it really worked to keep indies and obscure TPBs around.

  19. Greg G says:

    That’s a shame. When Topps moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn in 1994, the downtown (way downtown) branch had just opened and we would often visit en masse for comics, cards and good conversation.

    Best of luck to all current employees in future endeavors.

  20. Such a bummer. Cosmic is my favorite shop in the City, and the only one where (some of) the employees actually know me by name. The bigger stores in town are great, but I’ll miss the old-school personal approach.

  21. Mark was the best. This was my store for a long long time. Sorry to see it go. Especially Mark, who I’ve missed seeing the last three times I was in NYC visiting.

  22. I’m touched by all the personal remembrances here….and more evidence if any be needed that Cosmic was the”Right” kind of comics shop — customer service, variety of material, hand selling.

    This gets more and more depressing.

  23. jason says:

    To the guy (someone’s Flack?) who said it’s the fault of the stores second floor location and not the ridiculous dollar price increases during the worst economic downturn since the depression. well i have a few words i’d like to say to say to you but i will just say, “you are wrong”
    Cosmic is an awesome store, Mark is a great guy. And this is a real loss.

  24. jason says:

    and when i came back to comics Mark gave me my first issue of Fables and Lucifer. He has great taste.

  25. Fond memories of interning at Marvel my summers back from college, in ’93 and ’94. Marvel was of course at 387 PAS at the time, and this was right before the industry crash of the mid-’90s…

    …I remember groups of Marvel staffers — including some who’ve already commented above — heading to Cosmic at least once a week, and then to hang out in Madison Square Park. (And an occasional sit-down lunch at Live Bait…this was pre-Shake Shack!)

    Cosmic is def a part of my nostalgia for my Marvel internship days, and sorry to see them go! Best to Mark and the staff…

  26. Steve says:

    Do Marvel or DC have any customer service people who work with retailers? The price cuts and line reductions are a good start, but there is a huge cash flow crunch at the retail level. Since I only get a few books a month I purchase wherever I’m driving by in and around Chicago. Other than in the mid-90s when anyone with a couple hundred comics tried opening a store in a down market do I remember seeing stores so thinly stocked. One store closed to go online only. Another is having a “cash flow” sale, all comics $1 including new issues, everything else 50% off. Stores are not ordering shelf copies of lower DC and Marvel titles. Other stores that used to have one or two sales a year on back issues are having them every other month.

  27. >>>Do Marvel or DC have any customer service people who work with retailers?

    DC has a whole department that does just this.

  28. Rebecca De Meyer says:

    “Are there any stores out there doing well? And if so, how are they doing it?”

    Every time I go into Forbidden Planet, no matter what time of day or night, it’s PACKED. So I can imagine they’re doing well. I personally prefer it to others in the neighborhood because of how they have their titles organized and the variety they have to offer; there’s always something I haven’t seen before, so I never leave empty-handed. It’s also perfectly located. Right next to Union Square, so it’s often on my way to and from most of the places I go to in Manhattan. I imagine being across the street from a busy movie theatre (so people who are waiting for their show to start have something to do), all the events they offer, and the cramped but comfortable atmosphere help, too (it just has a nice feel to it). Only thing I wish was that it were possible to squeeze past people in the aisles instead of having to go around to the next aisle to get around them. Sometimes it’s a little TOO cramped. And I’m skinny, so it’s not a matter of girth. :P

    Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn seems to be chugging along, too, even if they’re never as busy as Forbidden Planet. But I usually go there to buy more expensive books because they have a fantastically helpful staff, the place is roomy enough to let you browse without feeling rushed, and they carry a lot of self-published titles from local artists that I like to stop in and check out every few weeks. Also like Forbidden Planet, they seem to have an event every week.

    I think comic book stores can continue to survive (and thrive!), but like any brick and mortar store that faces competition from the internet, they have to be able to offer things an internet store cannot.

    I love Jim Hanley’s too, but they’re a little out of the way from where I’m usually headed.

    I’d never been to Cosmic Comics, though. :(

  29. Cosmic Comics is a bit out of my way, but was a decent store.

    The first time I visited, during a Grand Tour of all the Manhattan comics shops on Free Comic Book Day 2006, they recommended Mouse Guard #2, of which I knew nothing.

  30. This is a pretty bad sign. Cosmic was a bit of a throwback place–but no more than St. Marks. It wasn’t on the same level as Midtowns, JHU, and Forbidden Planet–but those 3 are top 10 stores (by Diamond volume) in the country. And despite appearances, St. Marks isn’t that far out of the top 10.

    Cosmic Comics–at least as recently as a few years ago–was certainly in the 50 stores nationwide if you ranked them by monthly Diamond purchases. It would be by far the biggest store in MOST areas, and MANY states.

    Running any kind of store in NYC is a unique retail challenge, but losing a shop that does this much volume is hard news for the industry.

  31. “To the guy (someone’s Flack?) who said it’s the fault of the stores second floor location and not the ridiculous dollar price increases during the worst economic downturn since the depression. well i have a few words i’d like to say to say to you but i will just say, “you are wrong”
    Cosmic is an awesome store, Mark is a great guy. And this is a real loss.”

    Yes, Cosmic is a great store, Mark is a great guy, but I wouldn’t say this is a real loss. There are two greater comic book stores that do a way better job at bringing in non-comic book readers into the store 10 blocks north and south of Cosmic. I don’t see the $4 comic driving them out of business.

  32. David T.G. Riches says:

    They are not alone.
    Here in Toronto Ontario Canada the little comic shop that could call Excalibur Comics & Cards located at 3030 Bloor Street West decided to close in October and instead simply closed their upstairs and has announced the downstairs will be closing the first week of January 2011. They have cut heir orders to the bare essentials of if you want it order it in advance so you won’t see a selection of too much recent titles. Still Rob Chin the owner said he was being squeezed to the point of why continue if you are only breaking even so after 23 and half years he is closing up the store.

  33. “I wouldn’t say this is a real loss. There are two greater comic book stores that do a way better job at bringing in non-comic book readers into the store 10 blocks north and south of Cosmic.”

    There’s a strane phenomena in comics: when you open a new store it creates a lot of new customers (as opposed to cannibalizing an existing customer base). Unfortunately the contrapositive is also true: some fans disappear when they lose their regular store. It’s not an absolute law, but it tends to happen.

    New fans are important, but the Big Two are still very much reliant on the stability of the direct market shops.

  34. CBrown says:

    Man, I was just there today, and didn’t find out about this until I’d gotten home (gotta use up my store credits asap!). Cosmic Comics was my regular LCS for a long while. It’s not as big as Jim Hanley’s or Midtown, but it usually had what I was looking for, had a good store credit policy, a clean layout, regular sales, and a friendly staff.

    I liked the little signs they would put in front of the new releases; sometimes of the ‘staff recommendation’ variety, but often pretty sharp digs at the books and creators. Uh, maybe not great salesmanship of their product, but I can’t say I usually disagreed with their assessment.

    I’m really sorry to see it go.

  35. Bill Scurry says:

    I think that Manhattan can easily supply its comic stores with bodies to shop inside of them — this is a comic town, if there was ever one. We’re not even taking into account all the baseball card shops and hobby stores that carry comics, with long lines on Wednesday afternoon. I totally understand that guys like Cosmic can’t cover their overhead for reasons that have little to do with demographics.

    As bad as I feel for the Cosmic guys, this sounds like another peril of working with a direct market, for both the content creator and the vendor.

  36. Thanks for all the kind words about my store, but the reports of its demise are premature. Cosmic Comic closed because my partner and I wanted to retire(we are both in our 60’s and have interests outside of comics). Sales have gone down significantly in the past few years. I suppose the high cost of individual issues, combined with a bad economy are the logical culprits, but our store was and is still profitable. Indeed , we have just completed a deal to keep the store open under new ownership, starting January 1st. So thanks again for the nice remembrances, but please keep patronizing the store

    Mark friedman
    Cosmic Comics

  37. Chris H says:

    Mark, I just read your post. I’m delighted the store will still be around, I hope the new owners will keep your many great employees (I assume they will – to paraphrase Sidney Greenstreet said in Casablanca, Cosmic wouldn’t be Cosmic without them). I for one will continue to shop there.

    That being said, the place won’t be the same without you. Have a blast in whatever you decide to do next.

  38. The Beat says:

    Mark, you just had the Mark Twain moment!

    Great news!

  39. Add my name to the list of alumni who called Cosmic Comics their shop while attending SVA. Mark and the employees there have always been great and I wish them the best of luck in their future projects!

  40. Interesting juxtaposition of this ‘Comic Store Closing’ article with the ‘Comic-Con SELLS OUT’ ones above it. (Emblematic of the current state of the Comics Industry, right?)

    And with the store owner’s comment, I guess that this is one blind “item” where story
    follow-up was… important?

  41. Thank goodness cosmic is staying! Say what you will about the other stores in Manhattan, Cosmic is the only store willing to let people reserve what books they want in advance like the stores in the suburbs do. Combine that with giving $20 store credit for every $100 you spend, and you have hands down the best comic shop on the island.

    I became a regular at cosmic when I was finding that after work at Midtown, they were selling out of the books I wanted the Wednesday they came out. I live and work in Brooklyn, any trip to Manhattan is out of my way. It really sucks to make the trip out day of release only to not find the books I was after.

    Cosmic also ran by far the best Free Comic Day in the city. Allowing people to line up and take a set number of the books they wanted. FP gave out random bags, St Marks gave one random comic from the top of a secret pile.

  42. KillJoy says:

    This is the same shop that literally berated it’s customers for their buying habits? With those peculiar signs they’d hang in front of new comics that often literally said “why are you buying this shit?”

  43. @Killjoy Those signs are my favorite thing about Cosmic Comics! They were often hilarious and spot-on. My visits to Cosmic would always last longer than I planned because I would myself reading all of those signs. Not all of them berated, some were responsible for directing me for the first time to books I loved.

  44. KillJoy says:

    @billy – I’m sure it worked for a small percentage of people, like yourself. But I didn’t care for it, and I think I’m in the majority on that one. I avoided that store like the plague.

  45. Earth-2 Chad says:

    Good lord, comic fans can be a sensitive lot. Killjoy indeed.

  46. KillJoy says:

    Earth-2 – Next time you are in the grocery store and the cashier berates you for all of your food choices and tells you they are shitty choices and you are a moron-….

    What’s that? That doesn’t happen at the grocery store?

    Then why the hell should it happen at a comic store?

  47. Killjoy, I think it’s very considerate of you to wait until the store was saved to start pissing on it.

    And thus, order is restored!

  48. Hi

    This is Reno the original writer of that Cosmic Comics Closing article.

    Thank you Hedi for posting up tidbits of what I wrote, I meant every word of it. lol

    Jim Krueger! you’re still cool in my book!

    Rick Parker I still remember you from that signing!

    Jimmy P! Thank you for giving me fan boy Ash sketches. lol!

    And I want to thank all of the supporters of the store and yes even you grumpy people as well.

    To read the full article:

    http://www.cosmiccomics.com/v2/?q=node/4006

    Thx!

    Reno

    donutcomics@yahoo.com

  49. KillJoy says:

    I know you’re being sarcastic but I did do that. It seemed overly rude to piss on it while it was dying and dead.

  50. KillJoy says:

    For all our occasional talks of bringing in new readers to comics, and not supporting shops that are down right frightening and scary, it seemed hypocritical to support this shop that literally berated and insulted it’s customers as part of it’s business model. I am happy that it worked for some people, and I wish the new management all the best.

  51. The Beat says:

    Killjoy, I was only half joking. I’m sure Cosmic has its detractors and waiting for the revival to complain was good manners, in this case.

    You do seem to be outvoted however.

  52. As an owner’s daughter, I remember our days starting out when I was seven years old and handing out flyers. This store has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’m glad to see the store changing hands, but so sad it’s out of ours.

    I’ll miss the annual Christmas sale the most. It was always my favorite thing to do for the holiday. I’ll miss some of the customers that have been around almost as long as I have been and all of the employees through the years. They were always truly the best.

    …and there will ALWAYS be haters, but if there was a new brand or food at the grocery store, I’d like to be told if it sucks too. Just sayin’.

  53. As a Cosmic customer since 1993, when I was interning at Tor Books in the Flatiron, I can safely say that I will greatly miss Mark’s acid humor and Chuck’s welcoming smile. Cosmic has always been a class operation in the mode of the classic comic store, and I hope the new ownership will keep running it in that manner. I highly encourage them to keep on such stalwarts as Jacqueline, Paddy, Paul and (if she’s still up for it) Jade!

    Oh and to killjoy: as a victim of Paddy’s comedy on the STAFF PICK! signs more than a few times over the years, I think I’ll miss the signs more than anything else. So to you I say: suck it.

  54. Well Killjoy – I’ll tell you when I first started shopping there 15 years ago I asked Mark for some recommendations — he told me he didn’t read this comic swill. So I guess it’s all how you read the commentary. I loved the little signs. Sometimes they even persuaded me to buy books I had not intended. When I was told the other day that Cosmic was outright closing I felt like someone close to me jut got rushed to the hospital was a couple weeks left to live. I was heartbroken. Cosmic is definitely different than everything else in NYC. Perhaps the new ownership will recognize that while also putting there own little spin to pep things up. But you gotta love Mark – he actually negotiated to allow our Credit to carry over! That’s dedication to his customers that cannot be overlooked. I’ll keep coming in ’til my credit runs out – and by then I’ll know if I want to come keep coming back. A word to the new boss — keep the staff! The closing of Cosmic – although the stay of execution is well appreciated – is just another nail in the coffin of the old NYC I grew up with. Cosmic Comics is Dead — Long live Mark’s Cosmic Comics!

  55. Cosmic will be deeply missed. Mark and the staff made you feel like you were part of the family. As soon as you walked in they would know your name and say “hi”. Every Wednesday felt like you were coming home. Mark supported indie artists by giving them space in the front of the store to sell their books. Mark had a good mix of indie and mainstream books. The staff was amazing and loved to shoot the shit about comics.

    I went into the store today(the first day of the new ownership) and was pleased to see that the new owner kept Josh and the crew.

    I would like to thank the Beat for giving us a forum to share our final thoughts about a one of a kind comic shop.

    Mark I will miss seeing you every Wednesday. Good luck in your future endeavors.

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