Time and time again I get asked, “What can I do to help my local comic shop?” or “What can I do to be more involved in my local comic book community?” If you had asked me these questions even three years ago, I would have shrugged my shoulders and given you a blank stare. However, after going all in and finding my voice in the thing I love so much, comics can be a place of much joy, community, and relationship building.
Over the last two years, I moved up the ranks of a local comic shop. I went from just an hourly employee who spent hours bagging and boarding new comics to managing one of the largest retail comic shops in North Carolina. If you had asked me three years ago if this was what I’d be doing I probably would have laughed and uttered something like, “I wish,” but God has a sense of humor like no other. So with a seminary degree in my pocket and a decade of Federal Government experience, I became a comic shop manager in an effort to be a source of good to my local community of comic geeks.You can do good by just being the geek you are every day around other geeks.
The question I get most from people is how they can dive into comics at their local comic shop to be a source of good to that local group of friendly comic nerds in their neighborhood. For you, loyal readers, I offer the following crash course on how to become your friendly neighborhood local comic shop hero!
Read More Comics
Yup, it’s that easy and no, this isn’t a sales pitch—it’s the reality. What helps many local shops keep the doors open is a customer base that comes in weekly to pick up comics. This helps the local business keep the shop open as a safe haven for local geeks, but also allows you to dive into comics and just read. If you’re not sure where to start, the people behind the counter are happy to help you out.
Be Physically Present
It may come as a surprise in today’s digital age that being somewhere physically still has value, but in the case of your local comic shop, it is vital. Like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, but that comics community comes from the neighborhood the shop resides in. So show up! If you are taking the above advice you’ve got to get in there once a week to pick up new books anyway, so spend that time getting to know the employees, owners, and other comic book nerds that frequent the shop. Be careful to not be overbearing and don’t bother workers who are clearly busy, but make an effort to get to know them by being genuinely curious and asking questions. These are your people—share in the experience with them.
Yeah, I know a lot of folks don’t like working for no pay, but there are fringe benefits to helping your local comic shop. Many shops are running tight ships in terms of staff because physical comics retail is not cheap. Getting to know your shop allows you to find out when and where they could use an extra hand:
- Mondays/Tuesdays – Many shops get their orders of new comics in and need to process them so they can be sold on Wednesdays every week. Offer to lend a hand. They get help and you literally get to see everything coming out week to week.
- Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) – Every first Saturday in May is FCBD! Local comic shops get in tons of books to give away for free. Some shops hold huge events and everyone could use an extra hand or twenty. This is generally the busiest day of the year for every comic shop and is a great way to love on the shop and the community that shows up!
- Conventions – Some larger shops host comic book conventions or many stores travel to set up at conventions to sell collectibles. Offering to help set up and tear down is almost always welcomed by most shop owners, as this is typically something they are doing on top of running the shop they do. Any way you can help is generally welcomed.
- In-Shop Events – Many shops host signings, costume contests, game nights, and many other nerdy related events. These take time and effort. Lending a hand is a great way to show you care for your shop and those who are part of that community.
Start a Book Club
Comic shops and comic geeks love to talk about their favorite reads. Starting a book club is a great way to get folks into the shop if they are not already coming, and a great way to build community specifically around the shop and the comics themselves. It doesn’t even need to be that often—once a month is perfect. Offer snacks and the promise of an occasional field trip to the movies or conventions, and you’ll find yourself neck deep in nerds seeking community in no time! Be sure to pick a graphic novel or collected edition of a popular comic to get started. Something recent or historically highly-regarded in the comic industry is always a great place to start (Watchmen, Kingdom Come, Batman: Hush, X-Men Dark Phoenix Saga, God Country, etc.).
Find out what your local comic shop might need the most help with or what they are trying to accomplish as a shop. Maybe you are good at websites, graphic design, marketing, event planning, organization, or any multitude of skills not listed here. Comic shops need people of all walks and all capabilities to help for any multitude of reasons—sometimes all you have to do is ask how you can help.
Not everyone is wired to just dive in with both feet in all situations, but one of the best parts of the comic book community is that there is a place for everyone. Introverts, extroverts, DC readers, Marvel readers, indies, and even people who don’t generally enjoy comics (not kidding, we have people that help out at our shop that come for the community alone) all can find their niche at their local comic shop. At their core, comics and related fandoms generally hold to the mantra that “Comics Are For Everyone.” Because of this, there is a huge opportunity for those of us in the Christian community to simply be our nerdy selves while also loving our fellow nerds.
Peter Parker didn’t want to be Spider-Man; his powers came to him through a series of random events and a radioactive spider doing radioactive spider things. Peter went through changes so fast he didn’t really know what was going on, but as he took control of his new found powers, he went into his neighborhood to bring good. You might not get bit by a radioactive spider, run over by a chemical truck, struck by lightning, or be of alien descent, but you can do good by just being the geek you are every day around other geeks.
As the great Stan Lee taught us, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” and in Christ, we’ve been sent to the masses with a truly unique and powerful message. How we choose to carry ourselves, act, and live, matters. We should strive to be that positive representation to a culture that generally is not excited by most things found in faith of any kind. Our faith, our willingness to serve, our willingness to help others, and our drive to simply gather as geeks should empower us all to great things. Our power comes from the desire to draw a community together in our shared fandom of comics and to be that community as we navigate the complexities of life. Do not take the power of the local comic shop for granted, for it truly takes a village to keep the doors open serving geeks of all kinds.
Go forth and love your local comic shop and help to make that community thrive!