Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week Bennett goes back to talking about comics and comic stores.

Last year I proposed to devote more of these things to actually writing about comic books as opposed to all of the comic book-adjacent stuff that’s apparently so important to "Geek Culture" these days.  And after reviewing my output for 2015, I must confess I didn’t do quite as well at doing that as I had hoped.  But then, it’s not hard to backslide when you’re constantly getting distracted by a steady stream of shiny new factoids.  Go looking for "comic book stories" at any of the major brand name web news sites, the way I often do when trolling for subject matter, and what you'll find rarely has much to do with actual comic books.

Oh, you'll discover Krang has been confirmed as a character in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 movie or who'll be playing this week's guest villain on The Flash TV show.  But when it comes to news or reviews about actual comic books (that doesn't have anything to do with any of the Marvel/DC big name players), not so much.

Well, I did find a story about an actual comic book shop there this week, "Philly Is Home to the First Black Woman-Owned Comic Book Store" by Erika Hardison that appeared on The Huffington Post.  The story about Ariell R. Johnson, which has appeared a lot of places online (The Beat, The Mary Sue, MTV, etc.) originally appeared on the Philadelphia Daily News website.  And while it's certainly good news for diversity in an industry still predominantly white and male, it was Johnson's ideas for her store which got my attention.

"Amalgam hopes to build community around comics, coffee, and relaxing with friends, and also through hosting geeky and diversity-themed workshops, movie/TV screenings, book signings and BYOB nights."

Because except for having gaming nights, most comic shops don't do a lot to "build community."  The template for the average customer's visit to a comic book shop generally consists of, they come in, browse, leave.  It's not because they've received a hostile reception (e.g., "Hey kid, this isn't a library"); most of the comic shops I've recently visited have provided me with friendly and engaged customer service.  But once the customer has made their purchase, their business there is done and there’s no telling when or if they'll be back.  Most retailers are perfectly satisfied with this status quo, maybe because they equate customers hanging out in a comic book shop with the worst stereotypes about both comic fans and comic shops (see any issue of Evan Dorkin's Eltingville Club).

I suppose what I'm suggesting is that more stores should follow Johnson's lead and do more to have special activities and events that could bring customers back into our stores on days when they wouldn't be there normally.  I know there are negatives but I’ve often thought about selling snacks and drinks at Super-Fly Comics & Games, beyond the sodas in the cooler and the candy at the counter we already have.*  And, at the very least, by not giving our customers an area in our stores where they can relax with friends (i.e. a place to sit down) we might be missing out on a chance to get to know them better.  And consequently, missing out on sales.

And, finally, I'm Facebook friends with writer Mike Baron, creator of (with Steve Rude) Nexus and The Badger, which may sound like bragging but I’m fairly certain you could be one too if you just asked nicely.  Baron is one of my favorite writers and The Badger one of my all-time favorite comics.  So I was distressed to discover a recent post from Baron where he called the initial orders of the first issue of the five-issue The Badger mini-series from Devil’s Due/1First Comics LLC "pathetic."

Now, for the record, The Badger #1 doesn't come out until February 3 so I know I'm judging a comic sight unseen.  The same way I know that every comic is somebody's favorite, and just because this one is mine doesn't mean it's going to be yours and I can't and won't tell you what will sell in your stores.  But Badger isn't exactly an unknown property, and neither is the work of Mike Baron or artist Jim Fern (for the record Tony Akins will drawing #2 with Val Mayerik, another favorite artist of mine, doing the rest of the series).

And that on a strictly business basis it might make more sense for retailers to order fewer copies of, well, just about any mid-range Marvel or DC title, comic, comics that most likely still be sitting on your shelves two months from now, and order Badger #1.  As previously established, I believe we’re currently experiencing another Golden Age of Comics (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Welcome to the Golden Age," but retailers still have to order those comics.  It’s something they might want to keep in mind when while going through next month's Previews.

So, as we begin 2016 I am, once again, going to try and devote more of my space here writing about comic books.  But I’m afraid I can't promise anything; I know myself too well.

* I’m not a coffee guy but if I could work my will upon the world tomorrow Super-Fly Comics & Games would get a Coke Freestyle machine, one of those touch screen soda fountains which feature more than 125 Coke products you can mix into any combination. They’re popping up in more and more fast food places and grocery stores in my area but are still enough of a novelty that “being the comic shop with the Coke Freestyle machine” might be enough of a distinction to get some customers to visit our store.  I imagine the cost, not to mention the time and energy spent on general upkeep, would make having one financially prohibitive, but a Comic Book Guy can dream.  No one should consider this digression to be either an advertisement for or endorsement of Coca-Cola or any of its products.  Frankly, I'm more of a Pepsi Max Guy, but due disclosure compels me to reveal that I do love Coke Zero Raspberry.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of