As mentioned during my time at Heroes Con, artist Don Rosa recalled his encounter with a group of children who struggled to understand the concept of Charlie Brown purchasing a comic from a newsstand. Said scenario was not too foreign for my age group, as the closest my generation has come to that experience was buying a comic from a grocery store or the 7-Eleven. Of course, those were not my only options for most of my life, but I recently began to realize how much of these experiences would join newsstands of Mr Rosa’s anecdote in generational dissonance.
The late 1980s was the time that direct-to-sell comic book stores began to spread nationwide, giving access to independent comic publishers. At the time, I was only 8 years old and pretty much removed from current events of the world, but even back then, I knew the idea was pretty novel. Previously, I had only seen comics at the 7-eleven or the grocery store and by that point it was those places with which I associated comics. As soon as I saw an ad for the comic book store on TV, I just had to get my mother to take me there.
Geppi’s Comic Book Store was the place in my area. It had a name that caught a child’s ear, and just the mere concept was a dream come true: a store with nothing but comics. That had to be the best thing to happen to a kid since…….an all cartoon channel!
Hey, this was five years away.
I remember as I entered the store it was wall to wall of shelves with nothing but colorfully illustrated works. Of course, There were so many titles I had never seen, so I wandered around to find whatever struck familiar. Were there adults in the store rummaging through the merchandise? I don’t remember. They weren’t my focus. All II remembered was that the first thing to catch my eye were the back issues of Disney Adventures Magazine.
Yes kids, the “Nice Judge” from American Idol was once “Totally Cool”.
I first saw advertisements for this magazine on The Disney Channel (back when it was a pay channel), but didn’t obtain access until I spotted copies sitting next to the TV Guides at the grocery rack. By that point I had only received the third issue so far in the publication (the Bronson Pinchot issue pictured above), so my disappointment in missing the first three issues unthawed.
To be honest, I’m surprised DA survived into the Hanna Montana Era.
Somewhere off to the side, I spotted a a comic book adaptation of a sitcom airing at the time— Married with Children, published by NOW comics. I asked my mother to buy one for me. She was bit hesitant to do so, having seen the show, but added it to the pile of more-kid friendly fare already gathered in my arms.
If there were any dirty jokes, they went over my head.
Although I would make subsequent visits to new comic shops, the grocery store and 7-Eleven still remained primary sources for titles. My interest in Disney Adventures eventually dropped by early high school, only keeping my subscription when the magazine began running Jeff Smith’s Bone series before ending it to purchase the series separately in a new store. Had I not gone in search for Bone, though, I never would have been able to reconnect with Frank Cho’s series Liberty Meadows after it syndication in The Washington Post for Image Comics. I owe a lot to the Comic book store.
I never thought I would look back on that time the same way the generations before me look back on their visits to the newsstands. Today, every major city has at least two comic book stores. There are two within a 5 mile radius of where I live. I would go to one first before anywhere else for a comic. I don’t see a lot of true comics in the grocery store’s magazine section anymore. Most 7-Elevens I’ve been to recently don’t have an arcade cabinet let alone a comic rack.
Of course, I still attend my current local comic store, which now hosts the annual Free Comic Book Day. Whenever I wait in line for those complementary comic samples, I cant help but notice children who attend with their parents. I could imagine half of them look at their selected titles and wonder why some of the characters buying a comic from the convenience store.