Dandelion Seeds: Comic Shop Crawl

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A Facebook friend posted today that he had recovered from a leg injury, and needed to get back in training for softball.

I suggested he hike to a few comics shops as a warm-up.

I had done that myself when I was younger.  When I started collecting comics in 1984, I would walk a mile to the Westroads Shopping Center to purchase my weekly fix of four-color comics.  That Winter, I managed to catch my left pinky toe on an open door while chasing after the family dog.  While I didn’t need a cast, I did have to wear a Frankenstein shoe to keep the taped toe immobilized while it healed.

Once I got a mostly clean bill of health (I couldn’t wear tight shoes due to the way the toe healed), I decided to test the foot by hiking east to The Dragon’s Lair, a comics shop which was mostly known among my gaming friends for selling clear plastic dice.  It was still winter, February I believe, and there was a lot of snow on the ground.  (Yes, back then, it snowed during Winter.)  I took some shortcuts across fields, walking the 1.5 miles uphill both ways (90th and Blondo is on a hill; my house and the shop were situated on lower elevations), and discovered that comics shops got comics three weeks before newsstands!  So I left with three weeks of comics and trudged back home, like Scott of the Antarctic.  I would continue to do this each week, usually right after “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” ended on Saturdays.  If the weather was especially fierce, I would stop at the gas station at 90th and Blondo to warm up and peruse the magazine-stand there, or cool off by refilling my Kwik Shop drink cup.  (And if the local comics shop was sold out of a title, I’d buy a copy off the spinner rack.)

Later, I would drive or take a bus on the way home from work downtown.  When I moved to the District of Columbia, I would take the Metro up to Bethesda, and get my comics at Big Planet.  Usually, I could read two comics on the ride back.  (And with those long escalators, I could probably read another issue on the way down to the station!)

On the second Free Comic Book Day in 2003, I noticed that Diamond had a list of all the local comics shops participating.  Since this event was meant to encourage people to visit comics shops, I charted out a path to hit all of the stores in Manhattan, starting on the Upper East Side and ending up downtown.  Half of the stores I haven’t returned to, as they were either uninteresting, or went out of business.  (One was nothing more than a room full of long boxes and a card table with a smattering of the FCBD titles.)

Then, last Thanksgiving, I got a crazy idea: Omaha has lots of great comics shops.  Why not make a grand tour on Black(est) Friday, spending the entire day driving around the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, visiting shops I haven’t been to in years?  There were a few shops I couldn’t get to, there were some I would never visit again (what kind of comics shop doesn’t have a prominent fixture for new comics?), and some that were just amazing!

So here’s the crazy idea:

Organize a comics shop crawl!  Get a group of people together, pick a day, and wander from comics shop to comics shop!

Shops too far apart?  Rent a trolley or tour bus and make a grand tour!  Pretend you’re tourists from out of town!  Take group photos in front of each store!  Try out that fake accent or high school Spanish with the employees!  Stage a scavenger hunt where participants have to find and buy comics with specific themes on the cover!  (“No!  Not you!” mystery villain, “In This Issue Someone Dies!”, primates, insects, foreign language, “headlights”, talking animals….)  Of course, have food and drink available, or stop at the local McDonald’s to get the latest Happy Meal toys!

Got a weekend free?  Or a federal holiday off?  Or on your way to a convention? ROAD TRIP!  On Memorial Day in 1992, I drove from Omaha to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, where my former classmates were graduating from Cornell College.  So I stopped in Des Moines to check out a shop, then later I drove up to Minneapolis to visit another friend, stopping in Cedar Falls to check out a shop.  I hit DreamHaven and bought some naughty books I couldn’t find in Omaha.  I spent a good sum to buy a year’s worth of Sandman back issues (the gap between Dream Country and A Game of You).  All in about four days.

I haven’t done that since, although I do check out comics shops in whatever city I’m in.

It doesn’t just have to be comics shops.  You can stop at universities with comics collections!  Visit a comics museum!  Or find a comic book sculpture to photograph!  Plan ahead, and maybe take a comics pro out to lunch!

Anyone in New York want to do this?  Let us know below, and we’ll pick a random weekend to test it out!

Oooh…. really crazy idea:  RAGBRAI meets The Long Walk!  A long distance comic crawl!  Maybe with costumes!

Or make it a fundraiser for the CBLDF, similar to the AIDS Walk.  Each shop gives a free comic to each participant.

Comments

  1. For the record: “Scott of the Antarctic” died before returning to civilization.

  2. We’ve already been doing this off and on in the Bay Area for the past 4 years. We pick Free Comic Book Day and drive around to maybe 5 or 6 shops around the bay. Some of the shops are the local stores for the guys on the tour so they can show off their LCS. Others jump on to the tour later when it swings by their town. And we make a point to not just grab free books and go but to spend money in each store. It has become more of a celebration of comics and comic shops and less about free stuff. And it is about friends with a mutual interest in comics getting together.

    And then, at the end of the day, we have a group dinner and then cap off the long day with a superhero movie. We’ve been lucky in that there is almost always a superhero movie opening that week from Iron Man to Wolverine Origins to Thor. This year will be the Avengers movie. It is also a good time to do a graphic novel swap.

    We’ve been able to try out some new stores and experience the differences between stores as well. James Sime’s Isotope store in San Francisco is always a good starting point and he’s been real good to us. We’ve ventured around the bay from there to Comics Experience in SF to Lee’s Comics in the South Bay, Black Cat Comics in Milpitas, Comic Conspiracy also in the South Bay to even Joe Field (the creator of FCBD)’s place, Flying Colors Comics, out in Concord. Some have toys, others offer back issues, others have more wall comics. Every store is different.

  3. Cartoon Allies did this at SVA Once, it was a nice excursion.

  4. David T.G. Riches says:

    Wow Free Comic Book Day seems to be the trip to Mecca pilgrimages. I myself have tried to visit as many Comic shops as possible on FCBD and my record is 13 but averages out to about 9 or 10. It was easier when gas was less than half the price it is now and you could plan the long sojourns but in recent years it’s all been public transit. Toronto Ontario Canada once had almost 50 comicbook shops and is barely 30 nowadays. To me the fun is popping in and asking for that treasure you missed three to seven months earlier or the surefire bargain you cannot afford to miss.
    Wonderful thing is with FCBD on a Saturday a person can get a TTC all-day pass for $10 and two can ride while making dozens of Stops.
    There are many routes to the shops in Toronto. I live in the West end so I start with Pendragon Comics on the Lakeshore. Then I move onto Excalibur Comics at Royal York. (Excalibur is my Local.) From there moving east it’s Red Nails II at Jane Street. Then it’s Bathurst Street in Markham Village to visit The Beguiling. From there we have Spadina where a short walk gets you to The Labryinth Bookstore for the artsy and manga stuff. Now from here we have a couple of decisions to make. Keep going East to Pape for Atomic Age Comics a fine little store that has me perousing the racks more than I should then one station more to Greenwood to visit Comics And More on The Danforth. Now I can back track to Bloor & Yonge and head North to the top of the City to visit Paradise Comics, Hairy-T’s North, and Cyber City Comix, and work my way back down or just go South on foot to One Million Comix, then Hairy Tarantula (Hi Leon!), then Queen Street to hop a street car to see ghosts of Comic shops past while riding all the way out to the Silver Snail the name that people drop as THE Comic Shop for Toronto. From there we work our way back up to College Street to another Street car and a trip west to The new Comics Lounge that replaced the Dragon Lady earlier this year and if there is still time in the day possible side trips to The former Comic Cave now Hairy-T West for a decade. Maybe even a side trip to Sheridan Mall to see Red Nails II North. Five years ago there was trips to Grey Region and Yesterday’s Heroes on that bus route. When driving I would visit almost all these places plus a few in Mississauga, Streetsville, Brampton, and Oakville.
    Thanks to Facebook I document my Comicbook crawl these years and heartily recommend it to see people find out the intricacies available to them for their shops.

  5. I’m an avid cyclist, and a comics fan. It’s always good to have a destination for a bike ride, so why not a comics shop out in the ‘burbs? It provides me a goal for that 50km+ ride and gives me a chance to scrounge through the stock at shops that I rarely visit. I’ve found a lot of hidden gems this way and always get home feeling healthy and invigorated.

  6. This is a great idea! When you stop by Lee’s Comics in Mountain View, make sure to tell me you’re part of a comics crawl group, and I’ll give you some extra special treatment.

    - Lee Hester
    Lee’s Comics
    Mountain View, CA
    San Mateo, CA

  7. Jim C says:

    Oooh…. really crazy idea: RAGBRAI meets The Long Walk! A long distance comic crawl! Maybe with costumes!

    People complain about the odors of a comic con within a single day, so allow your mind to fathom the fragrance wafting off the travelers who’ve been cycling for a few days.

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