For The Collector
Comics Metropolis is a world of fantasy, loaded with superheroes and games for the collector to choose from. It is organized as a store for collectors by drawing extra attention to collectible items and treating them as sacred with their packaging and handling.
Stepping in the store, customers are first in a hallway between two doorways. To the left, a series of figures, figurines, board games, decks of cards, and more. To the right, a plethora of comic books ranging from oldies but goodies to more modern, contemporary comics, as well as an entrance to the spacious game room. Below is an overview through a floor plan I drew, with each blue tab symbolizing a photograph.
The first time I entered Comics Metropolis, my instincts told me to turn left. Maybe it’s the shopping baskets on the other side of the doorway, marking a sense of beginning, encouraging you to peruse the items hung on the racks and stocked in the shelves. In the very center of the room is a display of miscellaneous small figurines, covering the remaining three sides of the rack. Lining the walls are corner shelves with action figures from Ghostbusters, Star Trek, Transformers, Warhammer, Gotham, Star Wars.
Stepping deeper into this room, customers will find themselves entering yet another room with a display of figurines. However, this room seems to have more board games than the last. Varying from Warhammer to several versions of Catan, classics such as Monopoly and Risk. A few of these options are in a locked glass case while others are out in the open on shelves, same for selections of cards and dice on display. To return to the hallway, customers must turn around and walk back through the rooms of collectibles. Walking back through the room gives customers the opportunity to revisit comics they were maybe uncertain on or catching their eye one last time.
In the hallway, random boxes of comics line the wall and a small display of discounted comics stands before an inclining staircase.
Turning right into the store, customers are welcomed to a room of comics. Comics Metropolis has about 25,000 comics, some of which are stocked based on customer influence. During our last visit, Laura [Payne] was telling us about how they are now beginning to stock items related to Pokemon because customers were inquiring about Pokemon cards, which can be found amongst the variety of other card decks, or even books about Pokemon can be found by the graphic novels. Customers requesting certain items to be stocked by a store they love reminds me of a point from an essay titled “How Objects Speak” that goes, “The more intimate the attachment to the person, the more the person remains in the object. … Objects speak to us through the memories that belong to them”. The emotional attachment customers may have had (or still have) to Pokemon deepens the appearance of those products in the Paynes’ collection at Comics Metropolis. Memories belong to customers seeking out those objects and those objects speak to us especially so when our favorite stores start to carry them and we see them on the shelves.
Immediately to the left of the doorway, people can find a wall of high-end, ungraded comic books above $1-2 comic bins.
They are regularly packaged with plastic and a backboard, however they are not as expensive as comics that may be found at the front register because they are ungraded. These comics could easily speak to collectors just as much as the encased ones up front. Placing them on the wall not only draws attention, but adds value to them rather than the bargain ones organized in bins. It’s showing that perhaps they’re more valuable because they’re above the floor.
Moving along, beside the $1 and $2 bins, customers can find a longer shelf of graphic novels and manga, showcased in the photo here.
This is a place where I spent a lot of my time during my last visit, just glancing at the titles. I felt that the more I stood and stared, the more that seemed to reveal to me, including remakes of classics such as Robin Hood and Beowulf and comic versions of famous television shows, like Rick & Morty. The options surprised me. Above this shelf are boxed collectible statues, as seen in the photo, one of which being Batman on a horse, the most expensive statue in the store. These too are above the floor, similar to the ungraded comics hung on the wall. Putting them close to the floor may diminish their “value”.
On the other side of the store are three displays of comics ranging from anything Marvel and DC to even Star Wars. The white shelf in the back of the room, closest to the game room, begins the newest comics in the store circling clockwise. On a fireplace separating the displays is a home for select collectibles.
Collectibles are placed thoughtfully throughout the store, this place being one where customers can see the collectibles at eye level. They are raised higher than the bargained and typically priced comics, but they’re not quite as high or “honored”, as the others in the store. Most homes put framed photos or trophies on their fireplaces to show off achievements, status, or value, which shines through in Comics Metropolis, as if putting certain items on a pedestal.
At the very end of these displays, closest to the register, is another place for customers to find discounted books in a bargain bin. Not only that, but on an endcap are 30%/discounted trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Those consist of books that Albert and Laura are hoping to push out to sell, with cheaper prices.
The central point of this room is the structure in the middle of the room. This is probably where customers beeline once they walk in the door. Beginning in the back, by the shelves of graphic novels, starts the alphabetical assortment of comic books from the 2000s and beyond, wrapping around to the other side, ending in Z. Below the comics from the 2000s are drawers full of older comics, also assorted alphabetically. Next to the “Z’s”, there is a small section of mixed comics that Albert hasn’t had the time to sort through yet. When asking him about it, he seemed to chuckle at the “mess”, but it reminded me of another quote, one by Walter Benjamin: “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?” (60). It may seem disorganized to someone like Albert who has everything else in this display organized alphabetically, but to customers, it’s just another great spot to get immersed in titles. Or, in a collector scope, it’s another place to find a one-of-a-kind comic.
At the register, customers can feast their eyes upon the most high-end comics in the place. The comics hung on the wall behind the register, organized in four rows of three, are encased 9.8 condition graded comics. These comics are for sale with some pretty expensive prices. Like the statues and collectibles within the rest of the store, these are hung up to showcase their value and present them to the customer in a way that says, “this is important.”
Other high-end comics reside in the glass case the register rests upon, one of which being $600 since it has the first appearance of Electro. Another comic I was shown by Albert was a Batman comic signed with a certificate of authenticity in the back.
Especially because of the presence of these collectibles and valuable objects and figurines, I would say that Comics Metropolis is a bookstore for the collector. Down to the way Albert and Laura handle the comics they stock, they too even agree that books (or in this respect, comics) are sacred items that must be treated accordingly. By packaging every comic in basic plastic and a board shows care. Same goes for the presences of locked glass cases throughout the store — it exemplifies that the bookseller has to handle the items out of the case prior to selling them to the collector. If the item was not “sacred”, perhaps Albert and Laura would leave them out on a standard shelf, open for anyone to touch or pick up. They certainly wouldn’t package every single one. Additionally, the placement in the store of the high-end comics as well as the locked glass cases shows hierarchy of value.
Floorplan courtesy of Thinglink, drawn and created by Kaitlynn Yeager.
Photos courtesy of Chris Naiman, Jacob Tashoff, and Kaitlynn Yeager.
Benjamin, Walter, et al. Illuminations. The Bodley Head Ltd, 2015. (p. 59-67)
Miller, Peter N. “How Objects Speak.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 Aug. 2014, chronicle.com/article/How-Objects-Speak/148177/.