Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Retailing With Ron - Secret Origin

Hello, I’m Ron Cacace and welcome back to Retailing With Ron. I'm Chief Comics Officer at Fallout Shelter Comics in New Jersey. I'm the guy who makes sure the orders get done, customers get everything on their pull list, and much more. I'm the Comic Book Guy but without the attitude or the gross physical appearance.

This week I'll be talking about how I got back into comic books after a few years of absence, how digital comics got me buying physical copies and how this all lead to my internship at Marvel and getting a job at The Fallout Shelter.  Read on for more about how Ultimate Spider-Man got me into comic books for the third time.


Digital Discovery

It was September of 2005 and I had just started my sophomore year of High School. I was your average 15 year old slacker who played a lot of video games and had a terrible Internet addiction. I hadn't read comic books regularly in years. The last comic book that I read was Ed Brubaker's Captain America #1 that my younger brother bought from a convenience store up the street. I liked it a lot but it wasn't enough to get me reading regularly again.

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.


Falling Back Into It

I knew there were some comics available at the store near my house, so I decided to check them out. Their selection was small, but they did have these neat "Flip Books", with two issues in each comic. The one that I really liked the most was the New Avengers/Captain America flip book, which had Brian Bendis' New Avengers combined with Ed Brubaker's Captain America. These flip books still weren't satisfying my needs. I needed more and as such I decided that I needed to return to the place that dominated my tween years. I had to return to the comic book store.

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 returned to MC Comics in September and set up a subscription list with over 40 titles. I was buying the majority of Marvel's output at the time, even the books that I didn't really like. I didn't care, I just wanted more comics to read. I started branching out into reading DC and Image books, which I had never really read or collected when I was younger. Infinite Crisis was just getting started and I managed to understand most of it despite being new to the DC Universe. I checked out The Walking Dead, Invincible, Y The Last Man, and other books that I had heard good things about. This was my first time venturing outside the standard super hero comics. 

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.


Enter: The Fallout Shelter

polybags just for a shorter drive. I figured that if there was a store closer to me, it'd have to at least match the discount I was already receiving. The problem was that there wasn't any store near me that was worth making the switch. Or at least, not any store that I knew of.

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.


Making Myself Useful

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.


Free Comic Book Day
 
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.
It was a pretty crazy first day of work for me but I loved it. I really enjoyed getting to speak to kids about why reading is fun, how comic books can make it easier to get through the week and how there are lessons to be learned in every super hero book.

Working and Interning

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
My time interning helped me appreciate the finer aspects of web promotion and the sheer amount of work that goes into every article and comic that gets published by Marvel. My internship led to new friendships, business connections and even my first published article that I worked on with my fellow intern and good friend Pierce Lydon. This was all part of the comic book odyssey that started after I found those issues of Ultimate Spider-Man.


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. 


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6 comments:

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I had comics pretty constantly right up until late high school.

The Walking Dead pulled me back in after years away at uni. I've alway been a big zombie fan so my brother bought me the first trade. I was sold, got all caught up, and then branched back into my favourite character, Daredevil. Who knew he was in the middle of such quality. Sleeper and Alias were the other four to round out the knowledge that comics were indded for me.

Now it's been years and I've not looked back. Comics are a massive part of my life.

JonL. said...

I had found comics at the age of about 7-8 while living in S. Calif. I had gone into the local 7-11 1 day and happened to notice the spinner rack there in the store. My 1st comic was Avengers #161. All the Avengers being attacked by ants with Antman bursting out of the cover really caught my eye. I then delved into FF , Cap and Ironman as well around that time. I stayed mostly with Marvel growing up as I liked the art style much better than I did DC's at the time.

I kept buying into the mid 90's and had a huge collection by then. I eventually wound up having to sell all my collection due to financial issues(SAD days! HAHA).

My younger brother was still buying some and I was getting my "fix" by borring his issues once a month to read. Identity Crisis was startgin up and I jumped on board for "just a few issues". But eventually I got back full force into collecting. I bought my books at my LCBS for awhile until they closed down and I had to find another avenue. It's funny you mentioned about helping them on order delivery day. I did much the same thing. Helping put the new issues on the shelves each week. And becoming good friends with the guy running it still to this day.

I now get my books online at DCBS since there is no LCBS in my area anymore.

JonL. said...

I had found comics at the age of about 7-8 while living in S. Calif. I had gone into the local 7-11 1 day and happened to notice the spinner rack there in the store. My 1st comic was Avengers #161. All the Avengers being attacked by ants with Antman bursting out of the cover really caught my eye. I then delved into FF , Cap and Ironman as well around that time. I stayed mostly with Marvel growing up as I liked the art style much better than I did DC's at the time.

I kept buying into the mid 90's and had a huge collection by then. I eventually wound up having to sell all my collection due to financial issues(SAD days! HAHA).

My younger brother was still buying some and I was getting my "fix" by borring his issues once a month to read. Identity Crisis was startgin up and I jumped on board for "just a few issues". But eventually I got back full force into collecting. I bought my books at my LCBS for awhile until they closed down and I had to find another avenue. It's funny you mentioned about helping them on order delivery day. I did much the same thing. Helping put the new issues on the shelves each week. And becoming good friends with the guy running it still to this day.

I now get my books online at DCBS since there is no LCBS in my area anymore.

Simon DelMonte's Escape Hatch said...

I think a lot of us quit comics at some point. I tried to leave them behind when I started college (waaay back in 1985). Could there have been a worse time to declare that comics were not the right thing for a college student to be reading? Within months of my decision, DC gave us Watchmen and Dark Knight and The Question and all those amazing post-Crisis goodies. First and Eclipse and Comico were redefining the industry (without me knowing it). Even Marvel was taking some steps to the next level.

My time away from comics lasted three months.

Eric van Schaik said...

I started reading translated versions of Spider-Man and Fantastic Four when I was 10 years old. There were not a lot of other comics available in Holland.
Around the time I met my future wife I went in full force with Fall of the Mutants, New Universe, Superman and never stopped.

Ivan said...

Man, I've been reading comic books for as far as I can remember. I started with tradicional Brazilian kid's comic book "Monica's Gang", then onto DC and Marvel. For a brief stint in the 2000's I stopped reading U.S. comics and read only manga, but after that I went back to superheroes and creator-owned full force.

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