Dive Into an Ocean of Comics

What do we pay attention to when we enter our favorite bookstore? For some of us, the first thing might be a staff member, walking towards us smilingly and offering their help. Others might be impressed by the atmosphere, the decor, or the amount of customers in the store. Chuck Rozanski, founder of Mile High Comics in Denver, is quite clear about what people’s impressions upon first entering his Jason Street Megastore are. The initial reaction is what he calls the “jaw-drop moment” when they realize the sheer immensity of the store. From the size of the store, we can see that what the owner strive to accomplish is completeness of their collection for the highest customer satisfaction (Rozanski “Tour”). The floor plan below might give you an indication of the magnitude of the store. If you are looking for a visual tour, I recommend Rozanski’s video on the store’s Youtube channel.

The Denver-based chain’s largest store that you can see above is 60,000 square feet big and offers 45,000 square feet of retail space. You will not be surprised to hear that the enormous building started out as a warehouse and slowly made its way to a store that’s now open daily. This space that might remind us of the large book superstores of the past, holds a lot of potential for both Rozanski and his team and the comic-enthusiastic customers. In spite of the incredible amount of comics that the store houses, there is still available space for a multitude of different events centered around comics and the nerd community in Denver. With book signings, auctions, stage events, and educational meetings, the store presents its space as welcoming to different audiences as possible. People that are drawn in this way can then immediately be charmed by the knowledgeable staff and the impressive collection (Rozanski “Tour”).

During a detailed tour around the store, Rozanski mentions his aim to stock every comic printed in the English language for six months (Rozanski “Tour”). Since I have never really read a lot of comics, I couldn’t really fathom how much this would be. One look at pictures of the store make the matter quite clear, though: Rozanski used the warehouse for a reason. The founder also addresses the difficulty of actually keeping all of these issues in stock while at the same time having the everyday business proceed. This video does a pretty good job at giving you an idea of the amount of comics in the store, and those are just the bargain books. The new comics that are emphasized in the tour take over around 100 feet of wall space, which makes this collection the largest in the world. According to Rozanski, the arrangement of the comics within the shelves is also influential on the customers’ consumer behaviors. He understands his powerful position in the comic book industry and tries to use his influence to even the market. Thus, in order to give both independent and large publishers like Marvel the same attention, the selection is sorted alphabetically and not by publisher (Rozanski “Tour”).

By grasping these differences between large and small publishers, Rozanski indirectly also references the conflict between chain bookstores and independent ones. In spite of his obvious dedication to the field, he is able to see the business aspects of the industry as well. Just recently, after 2014’s San Diego Comic Convention, the chain founder announced the end of his appearances there because of the lack of profit. In this case it is the publishers that are making it hard to compete because they sell their issues for so cheap (Melrose). If even the largest comic retailer in the world has to pull out of an event like this, this bodes ill for smaller retailers’ chances on the market. In his own store, Rozanski is allowed to ignore these differences for a while. His stock can’t even be intimidated by Internet giants like amazon.com that are heavily threatening other bookstores’ existence. He specifically says that the selection of comic-related books that they stock is “greater than what you would find even in an amazon.com warehouse” (Rozanski “Tour”). He thus successfully manages to circumvent some of the challenges that booksellers today face.

Rozanski with parts of his beloved collection.

In a different corner of the store near the new comics, there are children’s comics and toys. These shelves are complimented by beanbags and friendly colors to “make [children] feel like they’re very, very welcome” . Further, there are underground and adult publications, which are kept in the storage. Out of all of his selection, though, Rozanski’s personal pride is the large collection of Gold, Silver, and Bronze Age comics. This term describes comics published between 1933 and 1982 (Rozanski “Tour”). Among these, there are special issues that are on sale for several thousand dollars, which are showcased in glass cabinets right towards the entrance of the store (Onôv). In his video tour, they are what Rozanski presents first. Just this little thing made me realize something about Mile High Comics and its founder. In spite of the masses of comics they stock, the annual revenue of one million dollars, and the variety of stores and employees that this chain stands for, Chuck Rozanski is just a collector that loves what he has created. In James Clifford’s writings On Collecting Art and Culture the anthropologist says that at some point in every collector’s life, he will be encouraged to share his passion with others. According to him, “personal treasures will be made public.” (Clifford 219). This is exactly what seemed to have happened to Rozanski. What started out as a teenager’s personal love for comics turned into the largest comic book retailer in the world.

Sulley from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.

When considering the store, it seems as though this love for comics is what drives every aspect of the interior. Large movie posters line the walls and the floor space completely embraces its nerd status: a large Star Wars spaceship with a cardboard figure of Han Solo and several other characters find their place here. My favorite is a gigantic stuffed figure of Sulley from Monsters, Inc. that you can see in the picture (Rozanski “Tour”). This love for details makes the store more than a simple space. In Tim Cresswell’s terms, people’s relations to a space are what makes it a place. This means that the more people are invested in it, the more it is commonly seen as somebody’s place (Cresswell 7). The Mile High Comics Megastore is definitely Rozanski’s place, but by inviting everyone in and accommodating other comic lovers, he extends his “home” to other people. Though the warehouse flair still remains, it looks as though the employees are trying their utmost to make the space livelier and homier, to make this store a place to more and more people. So in the end, I think that it is Rozanski’s desire for the store selection to be as complete as possible and fully welcoming to all people that makes Mile High Comics so successful in its field.

 

Sources

Floor Plan powered by thinglink.com

Books:

Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Cresswell, Tim. Place. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print

Articles:

Melrose, James. “Mile High Comics may pull out of SDCC over exclusive variants.” Robot 6. Comic Book Resources. 28 Jul. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Onôv, Alex. “Mile High Comics, La Nave De Los Tebeos.” Cabezabomba. n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Images in Post:

Rozanski sitting on the floor with Comics <http://www.comiclist.com/media/blogs/news/redraven070510.jpg>

Sulley <http://www.milehighcomics.com/images/email/110613chuck.jpg>

Overhead view of store <http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Sc1Q5E8Jws/UaGt1clttBI/AAAAAAAAABM/M2_sFK9UjKA/s1600/fcbd2013pan.jpg>

Images in Thinglink:

New comics shelves <http://unpackingthebookstore.susqu.edu/wp-content/uploads/Bildschirmfoto-2015-03-10-um-21.52.16.png>

Marvel t-shirt <http://www.8ball.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/small_image/217x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/M/a/MarvelComicsHeroesMensTShirt_AllTheGreats_12.jpg>

Storage Shelves: Screenshot from video <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k65zYbArejE>

Comics-related books: Screenshot from video <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k65zYbArejE>

Panoramic view from upstairs <http://www.milehighcomics.com/images/email/061113pano.jpg>

$1 comics <http://www.cabezabomba.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/mileofertas.jpg>

$2 comics <http://www.cabezabomba.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/mileofertas.jpg>

Events area <http://blogs.denverpost.com/nerd/files/2014/06/party.jpg>

Action figure glass cabinet <http://www.milehighcomics.com/images/email/baraf2.jpg>

Outside view and entrance: Screenshot from Google StreetView <https://www.google.com/maps/@39.780347,-104.99934,3a,75y,103.87h,85.02t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1seJt86k4XOQ_FsyiZM4hdiQ!2e0>

Glass cabinet with rare issues: Screenshot from video <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k65zYbArejE>

Gold, Silver, and Bronze Age Comics <http://gallivant.com/p/2013/08/mile-high-comics-2.jpg>

Wall with banner <http://www.cabezabomba.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/mile1.jpg>

Kids section: Screenshot from video <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k65zYbArejE>

Youtube videos:

Rozanski, Chuck. “Mile High Comics Jason St. Mega Store Tour with Chuck Rozanski.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 5 Jun. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.