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 talks about product knowledge and looks ahead to key Free Comic Book Day comics.

Back when I was first starting out, being able to read all of the comics was, of course, one of the primary perks of being a Comic Book Guy.  But even then I instinctively understood it was also good business if somebody at the store knew what was going on in the comics if we wanted to sell them.  Now admittedly, I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to sales, and have had managers, ones who had been sent to sales seminars on "The Boss'" dime, who strenuously disagreed with me.  I recall telling one that it was my job to read the comics only to have him laugh in my face and say, "No, it isn't."

Later when I went out in the world to sell other things and actually got some sales training, much to my surprise, I discovered that this was an actual thing called "Product Knowledge."  The Business Dictionary website defines "product knowledge" as:

"An understanding of a good or service that might include having acquired information about its application, function, features, use and support requirements.  A business sales representative is an example of an individual that is typically expected to acquire considerable product knowledge about the goods and services that they are responsible for selling to consumers."

If you Google "product knowledge" you’ll find that it’s generally considered to be the #1, most important aspect of sales.  As to why, Neil Kokemuller probably said it best in a online Houston Chronicle piece titled "Why Is Excellent Product Knowledge so Important in the Field of Customer Service?"

"Customer service is intended to ensure a positive customer experience and to strengthen the relationship between the business and its customers," he wrote.  "While friendliness and a helpful attitude are vital in customer service, product knowledge is the substance to delivering service.  If a customer calls her bank with questions about her checking account, knowledge of the account, its features and how it works helps the banker or service rep resolve the issue more effectively."

The only problem being that even when you have free, instant access to theoretically every comic published each week, you still won't be able to read everything.  Running a comic book shop has always been a labor-intensive, time-consuming business, and as much as you’d like to, most of your days aren’t spent blissfully behind the counter reading big piles of comic books.  It was tough twenty years ago and from a recent conversation I had with Superfly Comics & Games owner Tony Barry, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

Sometimes the best you can do is study the monthly Diamond’s Previews catalog and constantly check out the comic news sites, but every once in a while the calendar gives you a Free Comic Book Day so you can catch up a little.  I know we usually think of FCBD as being a national open house for comic shops, a way of getting the message of the medium out there in the open, as well as a way of indoctrinating people who ordinarily aren’t reading comic books.  But I also think it’s a handy way of putting out samplers of material that’s already out there and what’s coming for retailers.  And with 50 titles available this year, there literally is something for everyone.  Like?

If manga isn’t ordinarily in your wheelhouse, you’ll definitely one want to check this year’s One Punch Man/My Hero Academia FCBD 2016 Edition, featuring American style superheroes as seen through the prism of Japanese culture (something I’ve already dealt with here, see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Weekly In Review").

And since it seems to be an international phenomenon you might want to check out the Attack on Titan Anthology Preview FCBD 2016 Edition.  I’m a manga guy myself but for a number of reasons I’ve never quite “gotten” the appeal of this one, partially because the singular "Titan" in the title kind of makes it sound like it’s going to be spacesuit science fiction.  At least if it was plural "Titans," we’d have some hint it was going to be about mankind’s war against a race of inexplicable Visible Man-looking giants.  I didn’t find anything in the comic that made me a fan, but I did get a pretty big kick out of seeing the unexpected one-pager from Evan Dorkin.

While I am a Doctor Who fan I usually give the licensed comics a wide berth, but I’ve got to say I enjoyed the Doctor Who: Four Doctors Special FCBD 2016 Edition primarily on the basis of the first of the "Four Stunning New Stories!"  In it, the current Doctor deals with the first threat ever faced by the Tom Baker Doctor, the "Giant Robot," a.k.a. K1.  He got kind of a raw deal in his first and only television appearance so I've been hoping he'd make a return appearance.  This new version was dubbed "K2," which probably means that he’s a direct ancestor to K9, the Doctor’s beloved robot dog.

I predict that this year’s almost immediate FCBD title sell-out will most likely be IDW Publishing’s Rom: The Space Knight.  And while I know that nobody asked, making it onto my personal looking forward-to list this year is the surprisingly good Bruce Lee, Grant Morrison’s Avatarex: Destroyer of Darkness and The Phantom: 80th Anniversary Special which features stories by the late, great, Jim Aparo and Don Newton.

Just to give you an example of how you can’t read everything: other than Godzilla in Hell, I really haven’t been paying all that much attention to Dark Horse’s Godzilla comics.  Which is how I missed the appearance of Jet Jaguar, the size-changing, monster-fighting robot from the 1973 movie Godzilla Vs. Megalon (see "Confessions of a Comic Book--Angry Issues") on the cover of Godzilla Rulers of Earth #24.  Sadly inside, his appearance is mostly a cameo, but I’ll take what I can get while waiting for the inevitable Jet Jaguar miniseries.

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