Friday, December 27, 2013

Comic Store Boxing Day Tour!


We tour all the comic stores in Calgary on Boxing Day for some sweet deals! Calgary is a unique incubator for comics and has generated some amazing talent. Fionna Staples, Riley Rossmo, Chris Peterson, Scott Kowalchuk... The list goes on! And some of these artists even worked at some of the stores we toured. At one point the local paper compared the number of comic stores proportionate to  the population and reported that Calgary had more stores per capita than New York! That's something to be proud of!

I take a tour with my 11 year old Doctor Who fan and my brother in-law (a victim of the 90's comic bubble) of all of the open comic stores in the city. We discuss our thoughts and discuss some of the deals that were to be found on December 26th: Boxing Day! Hit the jump to read more!





With a zee.
So, in many of the Commonwealth countries we have this tradition called Boxing Day. It's always on the day after Christmas Day, so of course the 26th of December. What was once a day to get a gift or box from your boss at work, it has become somewhat of a sale extravaganza where the demon hordes descend on shopping centres with open wallets and a thirst for dealz. For our American brothers and sisters this is comparable to Black Friday. People line up outside of the Best Buy to get last years top model of television for a smidgeon.

All of the comic stores that were open today had a Boxing Day sale, but many of them have extended it to a Boxing Week sale. We decided it would be a great day to get a picture of all of the stores that Calgary has to offer. The stores take on the full range of what you might expect, from the small shoebox size to the multi level geekery comparable to a castle. On this tour, I had with me my eleven year old son Anthony who is a Doctor Who fan. As well, I had my brother in-law along for the ride. Paul is clearly a casualty of 90's comic excess and hasn't revisited the medium since that time. And of course, if you don't know me, I am a comic collector and just getting into collecting action figures as well. I have been collecting for about twenty years, 12 years more seriously with one reality relapse in there to remind me why comics are so awesome.


Why does nobody like this?
I think I just outlined the challenges to the store owner. The comic store should be able to find the right balance to appeal to those three types of people (or more). It should be welcoming enough for someone new to the medium but also have the depth that will interest the more savvy collector. As well, it should appeal to a generation that likes their mediums like they like their buffets; A little bit of everything. This includes not only comics but also board games, collectible gaming, action figures, video game related merch and some ambrosia salad.

Our first stop is what people refer to as their "home store". This is usually where the majority of a comic collectors money ends up, at the hands of subscriptions to Marvel's latest crossover...  crossovers. For me this is Words and Pictures on Centre Street. This is a store whose roots were in a campus store. I'm not certain what prompted the move out of campus (it was a broom closet of a store is my guess), but now it has a lot of space. This space now houses a relatively healthy mix of board games, figures and comics. On this Boxing Day sale they were offering 25% off of everything in the store. This included the stuff I had in my file!


Lots of love at Words and Pictures.

I find the owners super friendly and Jason Bisschop of the Between The Pages podcast works there. This is the main reason I get my subscriptions there. They always ask about my family and are very open to supporting local artists through sales of their books. If I had any criticism of this store it would be that they don't get a lot of copies of the newest comics. I would even go as far to say that the variety lacks in the comic department as far as recent stuff goes. If you are an avid comic reader and want to discover something new outside of the Big Two, you won't likely find it here unless it's in second print has been already showing some sales elsewhere. Paul said that it has that old record store feeling and this is probably why it appeals to me so much. They also have a well organized back issue section with healthy prices even when it's not Boxing Day and I think that adds to the "old record store" feel. My kid, Anthony felt like it focused too much on comics and that although there are board games here, there weren't very many.

I walked away with Silver Surfer Parable 1+2 for 7.50. Good buy!

The next stop on the tour was Phoenix Comics north located on the Trans Canada Highway. This is a store with three levels. The basement houses an inviting dollar bin and filled to the brim with manga/anime. The main floor is tightly packed with trades, action figures, and comics. The top floor accommodates gaming and has several tables set up for exclusively that purpose. While the selection is pretty good, I always feel super cramped in this store. It's tight. And it is also teeming with CCG players. I find that while the staff are friendly, they are almost always heavily engaged in Magic Strategy with another customer. I feel like at times I'm interrupting.


Happy beards at Phoenix North
But they did have an awesome selection of some obscure hardcovers and random other goodness on the cheap. The staff joked with me and my kid and Paul found it particularly inviting. They also have a shiny new red van in the parking lot that looks great.

I left with a hardcover copy of The Unclothed Man and a copy of the Big Book of Losers. This for under $15!
Anthony got a small Doctor Who figure which took $10 worth of his allowance.

Down the hill in the trendy shopping district of Kensington you will find Another Dimension. Located directly on the C-Train line, this is likely the busiest store in the city. Once you walk in you can see why. It's organized. It's loaded with stuff. That stuff is displayed in an inviting way. Also, the big artists and writers get small sections in the store where their stuff is stored. This store is very supportive of small press and local artists. Riley Rossmo who was doing pages of Proof while he worked here also has a section.


Enter for hours of browsing.
There were numerous sales throughout the store and all were enticing. Paul kept saying how he thought his son, Aiden (8 years old) would love the store. That's a great aspect of this place is that it's inviting and there's a ton of stuff for the kids and newbie alike. And for me? Well if I am exploring and want to find something new this is the place to go. The best part of this store is sort of their independent sort of mature readers shelves. If I am low on cash I have to avoid this section of the store.

I left with 3 POP! Planet of the Apes figures because it was buy 2 get the third for free! $24 for the haul.

Next we hit Phoenix Comics on 17th ave. I'm never sure if this place and the one on the Trans Canada are connected outside of name. The customer service is very different from that one. I think the only thing that was said to me during our visit was was the total of my purchase. In spite of that I do like coming here even if it is out of my way. Today all of their back issues were half price. All of their back issues are normally priced at a dollar so I dove in hard core.


My kid hates this shop. In spite of the modernity of the merchandise he says it just feels old. He gets incredibly bored when I am bin diving and makes audible complaints. Soon our other travel partner was hovering as he had exhausted his browsing of Melodoya Records which is attached to Phoenix South. I can take a hint.

I left with a ton of back issues. 38 in all and I paid about $18. Mostly issues of 52 and DMZ.

After a bite to eat we made our way to ComicKaze on Mac Trail. The owners were super friendly here but I've always found this place to be a bit overpriced. They have a top floor where there are reams of action figures that are priced way too high. This didn't stop me or Anthony from getting some swag.


History, baby.
Comickaze does have an important place in the comic scene of Calgary. They once had a location in a mall way on the north side where none other than the talented Fionna Staples worked. While at that location and at the new one they hosted 24 Hour Comics Day. This really was a day of bringing local talent together for an awesome time and sparked what was an exciting era for underground comics in our city. I promise I will do an article about that history at some point so you can see where all these people went, but Comickaze had a major place in that history.

It was buy two items get a third for free as the sale. I purchased two silicon ice trays (Thor and Back To The Future) and an Eaglemoss Odin statue which I have been looking for for some time. All this for $40! Anthony walked away with some cool Doctor Who swag too. It's this little hologram thing that is the Tardis but it's actually not there. I think this was thirty bucks or so.


Alpha as in Alpha Flight. There's a Puck in the window.
Our last stop was at Alpha Comics. Alpha Comics is kind of like that comic series that you read that was quiet but totally awesome and can't wait for the creative team to do something else together. Alpha, like Another Dimension, is clean and has a very obvious care for this medium. The enthusiasm is on par with the great Happy Harbor in Edmonton. Alpha just needs the right sized aquarium to grow into. It's pretty surprising the selection that's available in such a tiny store. There is totally room for discovery as the options for independent content is there.

I picked up some DHP back issues as they were only .50 each and the first three issues of Dept. of Monsterology from Renegade. I thought it would be nice to buy local to round out the day and to see what all the buzz is about. $17 total!

All in all a great Boxing Day adventure. I would have liked to visit Purple Gorilla in Crossroads Flea Market, but they weren't open today. Every time I visit that place I feel like I'm getting Boxing Day sales all the time! I always leave with an arm full of comics and it's an impressive back issue depot. But alas, maybe next year as Boxing Day will be on a Friday. I'd also really like to see a tour done of Edmonton because there are some great stores there too. I have a year to plan so we'll see what 2014 brings! Happy new year to you and thanks for going on this journey with me!


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