I wasn't planning on spending three hours on my brother's computer in a room with no air conditioning. My plan was to use his computer to print out some homework and that would be it. I got distracted by a folder on the desktop named "Spider-Man."
(This was before Marvel's Digital Comics app was available and before Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited was launched. I am not justifying piracy at all. It's stealing from publishers and retailers, but in this case it was my gateway back to print comic books.)
I would never have guessed that opening that folder would lead to me spending thousands of dollars on comic books, graphic novels, video games, t-shirts, posters, conventions, and more. The folder contained scans of the first 50 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis.
I opened up the the first issue and the magic hit me all over again. I poured over the issues and when I reached the end of what was on the computer, I needed more. I logged on Marvel's website and ordered a subscription to New Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man. The only problem was that those books wouldn't start arriving for several weeks. I couldn't wait that long to read more comics. I needed my fix and I needed it right then and there.
Back in the 90s there was a comic book store in New Brunswick called Comic Attitudes. It was a huge store right on the main stretch of road and I loved going there after school with my older brother to check out the new comics on sale every week. They had to move out of that location sometime in the year 2000, so I fell out of the comic buying habit until I discovered MC Comics in Old Bridge in 2001. I bought comics here for about a year until I stopped for some reason (perhaps the $30 a week that I was spending was getting to be too much for my parents.)
|Infinite Crisis #1 covers by Jim Lee & George Perez|
I was fully into comics again. I was buying at least $30 worth of comics a week, posting on comic book message boards, and I started attending New York Comic Con every year. The ball started rolling and it picked up enough momentum that I probably won't stop reading comic books for a long time.
|Me at New York Comic Con 2009. Photo by Judy Stephens|
MC Comics was a great store with helpful staff, great subscriber benefits and an awesome selection. The two major things that I disliked about the store was their location and the distance I had to drive in order to get there. I had just started driving by myself around 2007, and MC Comics was located off of a major road and near a very busy intersection. I recall seeing multiple accidents on several occasions at one of the traffic lights near the store. My mother didn't like me driving in a dangerous area by myself every week, but she let me do it because she knew how much I enjoyed reading my comics.
I don't recall exactly how I heard about The Fallout Shelter, but I think one of my friends let me know that there was a new comic book store in New Brunswick. I checked out the store and the first thing I did was ask my future boss Mark if they were hiring. Here's a tip: Don't do what I did. It's really annoying if the first thing that you do when you walk into a store is ask if they're hiring. I told Mark about how I was already a subscriber at MC Comics and I'd be willing to switch over if he could match my discount. I bought some random comic book, told Mark that I'd e-mail him my pull list and I'd see him in two weeks.
I will admit that I did feel bad about canceling my subscription with MC Comics. They never did anything wrong by me but it came down to a simple matter of what was cost effective. I left MC Comics that week and never looked back.
I was a customer at Fallout Shelter Comics for about a year before I got offered a job. I'd show up on Wednesdays and the books would still be getting put out on the shelves and I would offer to help because I'm that type of guy. Okay, to be honest, I wanted to help put them out so that I'd get my books faster. In any case, this started happening more often, and I sometimes found myself putting trade paperbacks in alphabetical order. This was my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder rearing its ugly head and Mark was more than willing to let me organize his stock for free.
It was the week before Free Comic Book Day when I was asked if I would be able to help out. The Fallout Shelter was going to be at three different libraries during the weekend and the library wanted someone to do a presentation on why reading comics can help children learn and develop their reading comprehension. Comic books got me through school when I was growing up, as I was promised a trip to the comic book store if I did my homework and stayed out of trouble. Reading Kurt Busiek and George Perez's Avengers when I was eight years old helped develop my vocabulary and increase my attention span.
|Giving a speech on comic books at a library on Free Comic Book Day 2009.|
Soon after Free Comic Book Day, I started helping out on Wednesdays. It began with getting the books put out on the shelves, handling the bagging and boarding for pull list customers, and working the register. I began creating sales displays, organizing the back issue bins, coming up with online promotions and more. I kept on taking more responsibilities as I continued to work at the store and my devotion to having the store succeed never faltered. The Fallout Shelter is a place that I feel comfortable in and I want to share that feeling with everyone who visits.
I interned in the Web Editorial department for Marvel Entertainment from September through December of 2010. I still kept my job at the comic shop while interning which meant that my entire week was spent dealing with comic books. I would spend three days a week commuting to New York City while the other two days were spent working at the comic shop.
It was the craziest and most exciting three months of my life and I greatly appreciate all the things that I learned while working with the Marvel.com crew. I learned so much about web journalism and what goes into promoting and writing about comics from my supervisors Ben Morse and Ryan Penagos. Marvel.com's VP of Business & Development John Cerilli helped make me feel like a part of the Marvel family and I owe them all so much for giving me the opportunity to contribute and work in the House of Ideas. I worked on articles for the website, did behind the scenes work at New York Comic Con and I even made an appearance in Episode 2 of Marvel's web series "The Watcher."
|Screenshot from Episode 2 of Marvel's web show "The Watcher" with host Grace Randolph|
The More Things Change...
The store has gone through some changes since I started working there but the heart of the store remains the same. We've gone through a move and some ups and downs but this is still the same store that I entered on that fateful day in 2008. This is a place where you can come and talk about your favorite comics, play some different board games on Thursday nights, or just search the back issue bins for that missing book from your collection.
I hope you enjoyed reading this origin story of mine, however long winded and crazy it may have been. The one thing that you should keep in mind after reading this is that there are a myriad of ways for people to start reading comic books. As fans and members of the industry, we should always be expanding and looking for lapsed and new readers alike. You never know what might happen as a result of someone finding a random comic book on the train or a digital download.
This was my story, what's yours? Did you stop reading comic books at any point during your life, only to come back into it years later? What was the series that got you into comic books?
The posts and opinions found here are personal and are not associated or affiliated with Marvel Entertainment. Please support your local comic book store and buy comics! Don't be a leech on the industry and download illegal scans.