A Collection Worth Saving
As I walk into Comic Metropolis, I am left with a decision once I enter the store. I can either go left, to many collectible action figures, or I can go right and discover the world of comics from Marvel and DC. This type of decision is something that makes Comic Metropolis unique to me as I can explore the readings of the comic world or I can buy and collect these action figurines that would be worth something sentimental to me in the years to come.
Comic Metropolis is a comic book store but it has a different vibe than “just a store”. The comic shop looks to be set in a house as I saw a staircase that leads to somewhere upstairs and it felt “homey” to me. This to me is a really important aspect of a store. How it feels to you can shift your opinion and your experience about the store itself. With Comic Metropolis having a homey vibe to it, I felt like I was welcome there and that I could stay as long as I want. This helped me browse around the store without feeling like I was being watched or wanted out.
When I walk into the left side of the store, I am greeted by walls and shelves full of collectible figurines. It gave me deja vu to see this because when I was younger I used to go to Target and Toys R’ Us to find shelves on shelves full of action figurines that I would collect. To see that Comic Metropolis was selling some of the same ones I used to buy, such as Batman, was a very positive experience for me. Around the figurines were also some Pop! figurines that have been around for a couple years. These figurines are really cool to collect as they have newer characters such as the Avengers or The Guardians of the Galaxy, which are very popular movies and comics that attracted a lot of people old and young.
Walking into the back room on the left there were many more action figurines but also board games. This to me was kinda odd but it made sense as I found out more about them. The board games were utilized by groups in high school that come to Comic Metropolis every Saturday to play together. The board games add another aspect to what this space in the store is used for.
Heading into the right side of the store, we arrive at the holy grail of comics. As I walk into the room I am stunned by the walls, large shelves and bins of comic books that are waiting to be looked through. The way it was organized was confusing at first. It seemed to me that comic books were plopped into containers. This reminded me of what Walter Benjamin wrote in his essay “Unpacking My Library.” He said, “For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order” (Benjamin, 60). This can apply to Comic Metropolis in that the containers seemed like there was no organization of the comic books but in reality they really were. Each section of the store had its own purpose, some shelves were dedicated to the Avengers comics, and containers were in alphabetical order of older comic book series’. After learning more about the organization of the comics it made me appreciate the products more. I began to look around the comics and I indulged in them. Looking at the different stories and characters and seeing how comics have evolved amazed me. To see how art work had progressed amazed me as well but also seeing the old art of comic books made me realize that this kind of thing need to be preserved. The retro artwork had a different aesthetic that seemed happy to me.
There were many variations of comics offered at Comic Metropolis. As I browsed around I noticed there were shelves for new comics but I wondered why they were in the back. I asked the owner of the store, Albert Payne, why he organized the store like he did. He replied telling me that he placed the comics in the set places so that the customer would have to look through the comics to find the one he/she needed. Doing so, the customer is more likely to purchase other comics that caught his attention. Albert also said he offers $1 and $2 comics to customers because this is a way to get new comic book readers into the world of comics by offering a very low and affordable price. As for why the newer comics were displayed in the back of the room was because he wanted customers to pass other comics on their way to the new comics hopefully influencing them to buy more comics.
Looking more around the store, some comics were much more expensive than the other ones. The prices ranged from $30-$200! Why was this so? These comics that were priced higher were first editions of the comics that were special and had a different meaning to them. This concept reminded me of what Laura J. Miller wrote in “Reluctant Capitalists”. She said, “For booksellers, selecting titles because of their ‘intrinsic’ worthiness rather than because they are easily sold has been a way to demonstrate and preserve their special status…booksellers have tried to keep books from becoming mere products.”(Miller 221) This applies to Albert and his store since with these special status comics, he wants them preserved and not just sold so he marks up the price since it has more value to it. Once the comics he displayed was a Spiderman comic and it was worth $600. This was because it was the first time Spiderman met his arch-nemesis, Electro. Therefore the comic has a special value to it and can be sold for more than regular comics and they need to be preserved rather than used like a product.
When I walk around Comic Metropolis I get a vibe of welcomeness and a feeling that I am at home. Even though comics aren’t my biggest passion, the way the shop used its space to organize the comics made me want to learn more about them. Albert Payne organized the comics in a way that would encourage people to discover the world of comics and indulge in the shop. In my eyes he achieved his goal because I felt encouraged to look through the store and browse for comics. I ended up buying three and two of them were from the $2 comic book pile. I thought it was a great alternative, as I stated before, instead of just buying the newer comics for a higher price. Albert’s shop is not just a shop, to him it is his world and he wants to share it with everyone. He wants to share his collection in hopes some one will also find joy like he did collecting comics. You can give comics value as it could mean something to you such as it was your favorite super hero growing up and that is a collection that is worth saving.
Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking My Library.” Illuminations, Schocken Books, 1969, pp. 59–67.
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
All photos provided by Christopher Naiman