So in this space today, you were supposed to get a review of the first issue of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.’s new Eternals miniseries. I wanted to help persuade all of my Gaiman-loving but not necessarily comics-reading friends to find their way to a comics shop to pick the book up. (Assuming that the book’s good enough to recommend… oh, who am I fooling? It’s Gaiman.)
You might notice that this ain’t that.
And you know why? Because the guy who runs my local comics shop apparently has a brain the size of an M & M underneath his dyed-blonde mullet. I was going to go by New England Comics when I left work and pick up this week’s new releases. For those of you not into such things, Wednesdays are always new release days for comics. And for those of you not in New England, NEC is a chain of pretty decent comics shops up here in the metro Boston area â€” a chain which is not, as best I can tell, run by incompetent sludge-brained mullet-headed nitwits. (Fun trivia note: NEC is best known for being the original publishers of The Tick, who was originally created by Ben Edlund as a mascot for the store.)
Anyway, since I was leaving work a bit late last night and didn’t want to take the time to deal with the parking and traffic hassles of getting to the NEC store in Norwood, I decided instead to just drop by the local shop nearest my house. The store, which shall remain nameless here, is not a good example of What A Comics Shop Should Be. It’s dingy, not very well organized, not inviting and usually not very well stocked. The owner’s a nice enough guy, but he’s the very embodiment of Comics Fan Who Opens His Own Store Despite Having Not A Lick of Business Sense. I’ve met a great many of those people over the years.
Here’s an example of Mr. Mullet’s lack of business sense:
I couldn’t go buy my new comics last week on Wednesday because… well, honestly, because I was waiting for Friday, a.k.a. Payday. So I swung by the store on my way home Friday night instead. Pulled into the parking lot right around 6:20 â€” and the store was closed. Early Friday evening, and the store was closed. You don’t close your comics shop at 6 on Friday night. Not if you want to stay in business long, you don’t.
I was irritated, but figured I’d come back during the weekend. On Sunday I tried again â€” and the shop was closed again. You don’t close your comics shop on weekends. Not if you want to stay in business, you don’t. I realize that a great many of these shops, inclduing this one, are one-man shows  and have to close some time so that the owners can get a break, but you don’t close during the times you’re going to be getting heavy traffic. Close on Monday and/or Tuesday, not on the weekends. You’re taking money out of your pocket by doing so.
Those frustations, though, didn’t leave me anywhere near as dumbstruck as the vapidity I was faced with when I went into the (actually open!) store last night. I looked through the new releases and picked up most of what I was looking for, but I didn’t see Eternals. I took my time and looked very carefully because I hate asking for something that turns out to be in front of my face. But nope, there were no copies of Eternals to be found anywhere on the poorly-organized racks.
So I ask Mr. Mullet: Are you out of the first issue of Eternals?
Yeah, he says, I blew through ‘em this morning.
And then he blames his customers, most of whom didn’t pre-order the book or let him know they wanted it. Only two people asked for it, he says, so he only ordered fifteen total â€” and hoped those would sell. He sold out of them almost as soon as the store opened.
I’ll give him a tiny touch of slack there: comic shop owners largely base their orders for books (which they have to place months in advance of the release dates) on customer requests and what they think their customers will buy. If no one asked for it, how’s he supposed to know to order extra copies?
Because it’s Neil Fucking Gaiman, that’s why.
A huge part of your job as the guy running the shop and placing orders, Mr. Mullet, is to know what’s going to sell â€” and sometimes that’s going to mean taking your head out of your ass long enough to see what’s going on in the world outside your shop’s doors. He actually said to me that no one wants anything from any given creator until that creator shows up in the Wizard Top Ten Writers or Artists list (Wizard being the biggest consumer magazine for comics nerds). Gaiman, since he doesn’t work in comics that frequently anymore, isn’t on that list.
But c’mon â€” it’s Neil Fucking Gaiman.
He might now show up regularly in Wizard’s Top Ten lists anymore, But I think the New York Times Bestseller List might have a little bit of influence too, don’t ya think? Neil Gaiman is far, far bigger than comics at this point. He’s popular with readers who could give a shit less about most comic books â€” but would be willing to hunt down your shop, come in and give you money just to get the new Gaiman comic. I’d also wager that a lot of your customers didn’t tell you they wanted the book because (for right or wrong) they assumed you’d order enough of a new comic written by Neil Gaiman. And you should’ve known those cases to be true, Mr. Mullet. That’s part of your friggin’ job.
< smoothes shirt, slows breathing >
Sorry. I’m OK now.
Anyway, I still plan to give all y’all the lowdown on Eternals #1.
Provided I can ever find a copy, of course.
 I’m not being gender-discrminatory there; I’ve just never yet seen any comics shop owned and run solo by a woman, though I’m sure there’s got to be some out there.