Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Things never were the same. Change's what we get."

This post is not about Scott Pilgrim. It's not about Superman either, for that matter. It's about something much more personal.

My comic shop, Stand-Up Comics, is closing.

The news came pretty unexpectedly for me. Though I knew business hadn't been great, I didn't know it was nearly this bad. I suspect it's largely due to the economy--when you've got to choose between comics and food, eventually food wins. I haven't bought comics in over a month for precisely that reason. Things suck all over, and it's hard for any small business in a niche market to stay solvent in the current climate.

I've applied superlatives to Stand-Up Comics in the past, and I stand by them. It is seriously the best comic shop I've ever been to, and brother have I been to a lot of comic shops. They have a wide selection of comics, displayed in a sensible, organized manner, and with excellent discounts. They offer more than just geek paraphernalia; while most comic shops' attempts at diversification usually lead to gaming materials and used paperbacks and porn, Stand-Up Comics brought in local bands and held comedy shows. The shop is spacious and well-lit, welcoming and friendly. My fianceé always appreciated the "girlfriend couch," a place where she could sit and relax while I browsed, rather than following me around like, in her words, "a lost puppy," given that she's a lot less interested in the material than I am. That's a lot more than most stores offer their customers' significant others, or girls in general, for that matter.

Stand-Up Comics is still going to be around for a few more weeks, though you won't be finding the most recent books on the shelves this coming Wednesday. Still, everything in the store will be marked down, and it sounds like there might be some end-of-an-era events in that time as well. I don't know if I can make it to the shop in the next few weeks--I'm living pretty lean until my next paycheck or two--so I'm asking my readers for a favor: Drop by. Stop in for everyone who can't, for the people like me who are too damn broke to help out good friends. Buy some books and boards and boxes, not out of charity, not out of pity, but out of recognition. Stand-Up Comics tried new things. They aren't a conventional comic shop, and they're better because of it.

And I don't think you can say they failed. I've seen small businesses with much wider appeal than comic shops flare up and die away within weeks or months around me; when I drive around my town, I see dozens of empty storefronts, some of which have never actually been rented, others the remains of short-lived businesses from just the last few years. It doesn't help that there are several other comic shops in the same general vicinity, or that Chicagoland is home to one of the largest comic shop conglomerates in the country. That Stand-Up Comics managed to stay open and popular for nearly five years, run by a bunch of comic fans with no formal business training, is nothing short of fantastic. The owners should be proud, and I know they are.

It's bittersweet, because the last thing I want to see is my friends forced into bankruptcy by a dying business, but I also hate losing a shop I've patronized faithfully, if remotely, since they opened. I've never had a comic shop close on me before. Today, I filled out the subscription form for that same conglomerate, and it felt like defeat.

But I'll get over it, and I'll move on. All of Stand-Up's customers will, and the owners are already moving on to new things. Sometimes change hurts. And often, change sucks. But change is what we get.

So good luck to Eric, Pat, Brian, and the rest of the Stand-Up Comics crew and customer base. I'll be seeing them around, and you should be seeing them too. I know I have readers scattered all over Chicagoland and northern Indiana, I've seen the referral logs. Take a trip down to 3429 Ridge Road in Lansing, IL, and show a little love for a shop that dared to try something more than Magic: the Gathering and Pokémon tournaments. In a world where comic shops are all too often run by people like this jackass, I think actual, quality shops should be rewarded. It's in our interest as customers to encourage comic shops to be as open and friendly and innovative as Stand-Up Comics, because it's one of few antidotes against the increasing insularity and homogeneity of comic fandom. Like it or not, comics are dependent on the direct market, and the direct market is dependent on new customers. And you can only get so far in that direction by stocking up on board games and D&D books.

I'm going to stop gushing and ranting, I think. You get the idea. Now get on down to the best damn comic shop in the multiverse before it, like all good things, comes to an end.

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