This week, we'll be celebrating our twentieth anniversary at Dewey's Comic City, the comic shop I have worked at for the better part of twelve years (and, as my boss Dan points out, we're doing it not at the beginning of the twentieth year, but at the last moment, right before our twenty-first anniversary. It's the Dewey's way). And with such a momentous occasion at hand, I'd like to take some time to talk about the comic shop, as a place and as an institution, and why I think digital will never fully replace the comic shop.
The general public has a very specific view of what comic shops are. It's a view that people who are not regular comic shop patrons still seem to have on occasion when they come into the shop for the first time. When you ask people on the street, a lot of them picture the Android's Dungeon from The Simpsons, with it's surly proprietor, or the films of Kevin Smith, with the refrain of. "Tell 'em, Steve Dave!" ringing through them. But those of us who spend time in a comic shop know that those stereotypes have changed. That the comic shop, or at least some of them, have come out of those dark ages.
Our customers at Dewey's are, for the most part, normal folks who happen to share a hobby and a passion for comics. They like to hang around and discuss the comic news, the books they read, or their theories on whatever big event is going on right now. And that's what makes a comic shop different from most of the establishments we all frequent on a regular basis: the comic shop is a place where you're part of a community.
I know that part of that is the fact that comic shops depend largely on our reserves, our regulars. And that's true, but there are plenty of regulars who aren't reserves. People come into the comic shop because there aren't a lot of places where you can go where you'll find people to talk or argue comics. We are the sports bar of the geek crowd. I've met a lot of good people throughout the years, and made some excellent friends. Where else are you going to go to see what people think of "Night of Owls," or Avengers Vs. X-Men? Wednesdays are a holy day of sorts, Geek Sabbath, and we all love going to the place where we know there will be someone to share the experience of buying our comics.
Then we get to the question of digital comics. In theory, between the news sites, the message boards, and Comixology, you can duplicate the comic shop experience on-line. But theory and practice are two very different things. Where digitally can you have someone who you've known for ages make custom recommendations, not based on an algorithm but on experience? Discussions at comic shop can get heated, sure, but there's no anonymous flame wars. And you make friends not just with the clerks but with the other customers. People meet up to go out and see movies, or just grab a bite at the local diner after picking up their books, people who met because they share the same comic shop.
So, I say thank you to all our customers who are reading this, for helping make twenty years at Dewey's. And to say thank you to all of you who have your own shop to keep comic shops going. I'll see you on Wednesday.