“I bought a comics store.”
“Why? So you can burn it down?”
As some of you know, I’ve been living in the Muncie, Indiana area for a while now. Good people here. One of the best is my friend Jason Pierce, whose shop Alter Ego Comics has been my store of choice for some time. Alter Ego’s been pretty much a one-man operation forever; Jason’s been aching to expand, to move the storefront, to grow the store’s market and its community outreach…but while it’s always been a worthwhile enterprise, Jason could never stretch his time and resources enough to both run the store and evolve it.
Meanwhile, I–having to, on a daily basis, explain to most of the industry that championing digital comics with Thrillbent isn’t the same as “hating print”–had been thinking long and hard about what I’ve been preaching for a while, that print and digital can not only co-exist but feed one another for the overall health of the comics business. It sounds good to say, and I believe it–but with Thrillbent, I had the tools to actually prove only half that equation.
So I’ve put my money where my mouth is. Effective immediately, you can trust me when I say I want comics retailers to thrive, because now I am one. I said, I AM ONE. (I had to raise my voice there a little to drown out the screams of rage from anti-Thrillbent retailers like Phil Boyle. Hi, Phil!) Along with my partner in life and now in business, Christy Blanch, I’m logging inventory on Tuesdays and running the register on weekends and navigating the ordering process at our brand new location. This isn’t a vanity purchase, a symbolic gesture, or a silent partnership; Christy, Jason and I are each equal shareholders in Alter Ego Comics. I have skin in the game, and I’m eager to see what there is to learn about the only side of the industry I’ve never involved myself with.
How does this impact you? As with all things digital, what I learn as a retailer, I’ll pass on to you, here. Retailer Brian Hibbs writes a regular column called TILTING AT WINDMILLS; I am likely going to refer to my columns informally as NUKING WINDMILLS because, frankly, you would expect no less of me. I’m genuinely champing at the bit to, with your help, synthesize all this information now pouring through my unnaturally round head into some sort of Unified Theory of Comics. How best can digital comics advance the medium without kneecapping brick-and-mortar? How can physical storefronts best take advantage of the outreach digital provides? How will I ever stay ahead of my Daredevil, Hulk and Green Hornet deadlines? How many times a week will I have to promise Peter Krause that this week’s Insufferable really is “almost written”? This is going to be a hell of an adventure, and you’re along for the ride.
While you’re waiting for me to report in, there are a couple of things you can do for which I would be quite grateful:
First, please don’t leave this site without deep-diving into the Thrillbent catalog of free-to-read digital comics I’ve been personally curating for over a year now. Weekly, Peter Krause, Troy Peteri, Nolan Woodard and I bring you Insufferable, which asks the question, “What if your superhero sidekick grew up to be an asshole?”–and that’s not even the best of the bunch. Check out The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood. Prodigal. The Endling. The Eighth Seal. Moth City. Arcanum. And our many, many other exemplary offerings, which can be read here and purchased for a tiny sum as DRM-free PDFs here.
Second, if you’re in the Northeastern Indiana area, stop by the store. It’s at 111 E. Adams Street in downtown Muncie, and it is 1200 square feet of nifty. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s probably worth stopping by just to see all the props and memorabilia I’ve brought from home. Who else do you know who has both a full-size Phantom Zone projector and a scale-model replica of the Batcave?
Lastly, come back to this blog Thursday for the other half of the announcement. “Wait,” you say, “the fact that Mark Waid, sworn enemy of print, now owns a comics store–wasn’t that the big news? Isn’t that enough?”
Not quite. It’s bigger than that, and Thrillbent’s reach is greater. There’s even more to the story.