Josh Clinton, Contributing Writer
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe setting box office record after box office record, comics have never been more prevalent in media.
With the rise of digital media, one might assume that the traditional print comics are a thing of the past. However, the average moviegoer might not realize that the comics industry is still bustling.
According to the comics data analysis website Comichron, the chief comics distributor, Diamond, made approximately $446 million through direct sales to local retailers.
With the convenience of Amazon’s direct home delivery, the average Avengers fan might wonder why they should bother with a local comic shop.
Tommy Donovan, manager of Richmond Comix, said he thought brick-and-mortar stores would disappear before the internet became ubiquitous.
“In the early days we’d get on the message boards and talk about how excited we were,” Donovan said, “about comics, about creators, about things that were happening in the industry.”
With the internet’s looming cynicism, the local brick-and-mortar comic book store can serve as a safe haven where people can find solitude in the mutual enjoyment of their hobby.
“With the rise of digital media, one might assume that the traditional print comics are a thing of the past. However, the average moviegoer might not realize that the comics industry is still bustling.” — Josh Clinton
“A good comic shop will have people who are excited about something that’s happening in comics,” Donovan said. “I’ve noticed stores with employees that say ‘nothing’s good’ don’t tend to last that long.”
Velocity Comics manager Patrick Godfrey said the store’s readership has diversified and increased, thanks to longtime readers.
“Our longtime customers have gotten their kids into comics. But the biggest growth in readership has come from a rise in female and LGBTQ readers,” Godfrey said. “As soon as books that appeal to those demographics are available to order, we make sure to order them and make sure they’re visible in our store.”
While maintaining a positive atmosphere has proven successful to sustaining a local bookstore, Godfrey’s experience shows the importance of expanding into other markets.
“Barnes and Noble killed the local bookstore, but now Amazon is killing Barnes and Noble,” Donovan said. “This has effectively expanded the niche for the local book store to return to relevance.”
No matter how convenient ordering comics online will be, nothing will replace the tangible sense of community that local bookstores can provide.