WHERE DID ALL THE COMIC BOOK RACKS GO TO?

Growing up I read all sorts of comic books. Starting out on Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie. Later on I got into Superman, Batman, Spiderman and a good many of DC and Marvel books. In order to get these books I had to go to a bunch of different stores and check out the racks each week. There was one convenience store that I would go to first each time because they had the best selection. I would then go to the grocery store that we frequented the most and finally the 2nd grocery store in my town. Sometimes they would have something I missed but mostly I already had my titles and the trip there was just to double check for the occasional surprise.

I would get my Mom or Dad or Brother to run me by these places once a week while we were already uptown. Usually on Wednesday because thats when the magazine truck made it’s rounds to all the stores in town. After I got my driver’s license I was able to just make my comic book runs myself. The time period was the 70’s and 80’s. I had no idea what a comic book specialty shop was or that such a concoction even existed. In my area of Mississippi I’m pretty sure it didn’t.

I went to college and didn’t really want to wait all week to get my comics so I would go to a few places in the small community college town. By few I mean one. The other places were actually in a small town 10 miles down the road from the college. My roommate in college was an avid comic book reader also so we usually made the comic book run together. We would start at the one grocery store in town then travel the 10 miles to the next town. We would stop at 2 convenience stores that were right across the street from each other then continue to the main grocery store in that town. We would go back to the dorm room and immediately start on our reading. Rusty was a die hard Marvel fan but I had both my DC and Marvels. Those were good times and wonderful memories. On my way back home on Friday evenings I would stop by the convenience store at home and the main grocery store and check for the titles that I did not find at college. There were usually 1 to 3 that I would have to get this way each week.

The year after I graduated college a comic book shop opened in the town next to mine just 25 or 30 miles from my house. A friend told me about it. I went to check it out a few times. I’m a comic book and comic strip nut and I still didn’t know what to think of this new concept. A store for only comic books and comic related products. The owners, two brothers, told me about their subscription service. I didn’t know what to think of it. Could I trust such a thing? I liked going to a bunch of different stores and rummaging thru the racks and sometimes having to go to multiple stores to find issues that I desperately needed but was already sold out in the store I was in. How could a store pulling all the titles that I read each week and putting them in a box until I show up, even if it was only every 3 or 4 weeks, so that I never had to miss an issue or go running all over creation to find all of my issues going to compare? They even had a bigger selection so I could start reading titles that I had no hope of finding in the grocery or convenience stores. How was that better for me, a comic book addict. Oddly enough I was suspicious. It was change and I had to wrap my head around it. A few weeks after visiting the store a few times I broke down and gave them my list. I browsed the store and found new titles. I discovered independent titles that I liked. I added to my list. It was nirvana. For over a decade I didn’t have any worries over my comic book selecting and it was perfect.

Things still change though. The brothers expanded other aspects of their businesses and left the comic book store running more and more to the employees. This was not a bad thing at first. The employees they had were really good and looked out for you almost as good as the brothers did. There were many times the brothers or these employees that I’ve mentioned found stuff for me that they new I would like. They would bring it to my attention and 9 out of 10 times they were right and I would add it to my list. It would usually be something I would never had known about if they hadn’t drawn my attention to it. The only problem was the employees were college students. College students tend to graduate, move away, and get better jobs. What happens then? You get new employees. Employees that don’t necessarily care about comic and are just looking for a paycheck. They could care less about the customers and then you start having problems not only with new stuff but getting the things that had been in your box regular for over 10 years. Since before these idiots could even drive. The brothers were smart enough to see the trend and sold the store. The following owner didn’t have it long before he had to close it due to incompetence. Luckily I had moved on to another store. I was still friends with the brothers from the first store and always will be. I didn’t leave without an explanation like a lot of my friends did. I went to them and told them of the problems and how many customers that they had lost had not quit buying comics, they were just getting them somewhere else. I probably helped in there decision of selling the store before it became a liability for them.

The problem was that there were no longer comic racks in the grocery or convenience stores in my town anymore. Were all small towns like this now? Are there any comic book racks in any small stores across America for kids to get started on comics anymore? I started using a different comic book store. It was not close. In fact it is over 2 hours away from me. I have been using it for nearly 10 years now and it is owner operated. For some reason the best comic book stores seem to be the ones that are run by the owners. I get him to mail me my books the majority of the time. Occasionally I get to go by the store and browse and shop. There are not many shops in Mississippi. Five that I know of in the whole state. Six last year but one shut down. I’m an adult….by age anyway….and I can drive out of my way or use a debit card and have my books shipped to me and conduct my comic book business over the phone. What do the kids today do? Where do they go to get started on reading comics regularly. A friend of mine that started a comic book shop years ago and then shut it down after only 2 years said the majority of his customers were between the ages of 20 and 50. One of the reasons he decided to close his shop was due to the illiteracy rate.

When comics were available in sight of a little kid shopping with his mother, was it better. That little kid could bug his mom till she bought him a book to shut him up. She might start buying him a book or more every week. She could even use it as a means to ensure his good behavior. The plus side was he was reading. It may have had cool pictures, but he was reading and enjoying reading. Later on it would lead to reading novels and such. Even if it only led to reading a bunch of comic books every week even during his adult life it was increasing his vocabulary. I’m not saying that the comic book specialty shops destroyed the comic book racks. I would not give up the comic book shop I use now. I don’t know if it was a major factor or just a contributor. I’m just curious if there are any more racks out there. Did they all disappear? Do the people that deliver the magazines and tabloids still even offer comics or did they drop out when you started to have to go thru a distributer? Were they using a distributer already? I don’t know these answers yet. I do miss the racks if for no other reason than to give kids that will never see a comic book specialty shop in their early years a place to discover comics.

Did the Internet replace the comic book rack? There are tons of comic strips and comic book type stories on the Internet now. I even have a site at BUBBAWORLDCOMIX.NET . My site updates daily and are 1 to 2 tier humor type strips. I am also currently working on some graphic novels behind the scenes that I plan to self publish and use my website to promote them. I spend about an hour every day reading all of the comics that I bookmarked from the Internet. Is this the new comic book rack? It’s better than nothing I suppose. It’s a little sad in a way, but that might just be my nostalgic outlook on things.

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