There are tons of places to get comic books in the South Jersey-Philadelphia area. However, one place does stand head and shoulders above them all as the best in the area. The Gleaner had the opportunity to sit down and interview Scott, the owner of The Comic Station, a few weeks ago. The Comic Station is a comic book store in Haddon Heights and the place to go for all your comic book needs. However, comics aren’t the only the thing that the Comic Station does, here is what Scott had to say about the store, comics, and the local artists and business he helps to support.
First things first, where are we and what do you do here?
We are at The Comic Station in Haddon Heights, NJ. We are a comic book store. We buy and sell Comic Books, toys, statues, we have original artwork here, we do cosplay and pretty much everything that is even remotely associated with comic books or nerdism.
What is your bestselling comic book right now?
Always Batman, there’s a few blips here and there where something new might spike. But it’s generally always Batman. And just regular Batman, not Batman Eternal or Batman in Detective Comics, just Batman. I order the most of him, and I sellout of him the most too.
Why a comic book store? A lot people say that print is moving out, we have things such as digital comic books now on the rise. So why a comic book store?
Well there’s a whole bunch of reasons. My brother and I have been collectors for many years. I always collected comic books, he collected toys and throughout our careers we did as well. About four years ago I had some down time, and due to the fact that we are both geniuses we opened a comic book store in the worst economy in the past god knows how long, and its stuck around. Here we are 4 years later, actually it will be our four year anniversary on September 1st, and we’ve blossomed into one of the bigger stores in South jersey.
There really isn’t anyone who does more volume than us in the South Jersey area, and for most of the stores that have been around they’ve been here 20-30 years and we are a lot larger physically than any of them. It’s just our love of this type of stuff. I still love to read comic books, my brother still collects toys. He has one of the biggest Batman and Star Wars toy collections of anyone in this area, he has close to 5,000 action figures at home. Now like any business you start it and you’re happy and you can stay small and comfortable, or you can get aggressive. I have a tendency to think big and huge and want to make this the best damn comic book store that we can. I would love to bring us to a national level, hopefully that will happen over the next year or so.
You just spoke about some of the other comic book stores in the South Jersey and Philadelphia area, what is that sets The Comic Station apart from a store like Fat Jack’s or Atomic Comics?
From a store perspective, our store is incredibly neat and laid out well. I’ve been in a lot of Comic Book stores over the years and my brother and I knew that we didn’t want to be that stereotypical comic book store. The stereotype is that its small and not lit well, there’s too much stuff everywhere, the owner or guy behind the counter is miserable at best. Our thought process was to be neat, vacuum the store very day and be bright inside. I don’t know if you noticed but the color on the walls are the Joker’s color, that was just happenstance, but the walls are green and racks are purple so it’s colorful. We aren’t huge but there’s space to walk around. We bag and board all of our comic books which a lot of people tend to think is because we don’t want you to read them but that isn’t true, it keeps things neater and helps keep the stock from getting damaged. People tend to pick up an issue and read it, over time they get damaged, they are paper after all. If you are a true collector you want it to be as nice as possible. That’s one thing that sets us apart.
The other thing is that we try to be friendly. I man the store most of the time and I don’t think there’s a person who comes in here who we don’t at least say hi to. It isn’t a requirement that you talk to us, but you will be greeted. We want this to be a fun place for everyone, I try to go out of my way to make everyone comfortable. This isn’t a library, I don’t allow whispering in my store. It’s fun I mean its comic book and toys, it shouldn’t be reverent it’s just a really fun thing. The only reason you’re coming in here is because you like comic books, in which case we have something in common. Everyone can always talk and bring up conversation about comics or movies or whatever, we love that stuff. That’s what sets us apart. The only thing that the Philly stores have on us is walking traffic. Atomic Comics is on South Street, you can’t beat that for walking traffic, but other than that there is nothing in the Philly stores have that we don’t have.
You mentioned before that you do more than just comic books, I was wondering if you could talk a little about that. What else do you guys do?
As far as product wise, we do a lot of original artwork. We want the local people to do stuff that fits into what we do. We have some really great artists on our roster that do original stuff as well as print work, we really try to push that aspect. These local people are doing top notch work that is just as good as or better than anyone else in the country. We try to promote that aspect of the store through Facebook and Twitter so please follow us there. We have a YouTube channel where a couple of guys who work with us review comic books, usually it’s the smaller ones. Everyone knows Marvel and DC, but not everyone knows Red Anvil or Oni Press, we try to review the new books by them and those videos come out every Wednesday. I think we’ve done like 75 of them in a row or something like that. Also we try to do other projects, we are working on a calendar right now so we are always interested in cosplayers and models. We have some more videos coming out that will be uploaded soon, I have to do some editing soon but they’ll be uploaded to the station soon. We are working with a couple local T-shirt brands right now and we’re going to carry their stuff with us in store. Right now everything is local, until we go national in which case we want to bring everyone national with us. I am a huge proponent of that. I’ve known this area for 40 years and I know there’s a lot of great and undiscovered talent here. We have the avenue and the ability with this store to do that too, and I feel obligated to promote those people as best I can.
If someone was coming in as a first time reader what kind of stuff would you tell them to pick up or try?
First off, if you are into superheroes at all start with your favorite superhero. You may or may not be into what’s being written at this particular moment, but they change writers and artists all the time. After that the best way to go about it is to pick up a variety of different comics from a variety of different genres. They make western, horror, superheroes genres, you name it they make it. You will love some writers and artists and hate others, it all comes down to taste. I would say to come in and get a variety of different things that you think you might like. It’s not overly expensive to do that either. Indie books are huge right now also. Publishers like IDW, Image, and Dark Horse are putting out books like The Walking Dead and Kick Ass and that kind of stuff that’s super popular. Lots of new books are coming out all the time too and starting at number 1. You don’t always have to start at the first issue, but depending on the type of comic I would say may be easier. I tend to see that with superhero comics you can jump around and don’t need to do that and can pick up just about anywhere.
Sometimes jumping into a comic series is hard, which is why the trade paperbacks are great. You might pay a little more for it, but you are getting a complete story. As someone who has read comics for many years, I change up every week. Some comics you read out of habit because you always read them, not because it’s particularly good or bad but because it just is. I know every week I pick up a Superman book and read it regardless of whether or not I like the story that week, because I love the character of Superman. We get an average of 80-100 titles every single week so it’s a personal thing, there is a lot to choose from.
Do you have a personal favorite?
The book that I have liked the most lately has been a book called Lazarus, a post-apocalyptic book with these families and bio engineered people called Lazeruses and there’s the huddled masses and everyone is kind of like starving and families are fighting against each other. I like that. Another great book, which is privately published is called Dead Man’s Party, a friend of mine is the artist on that and he writes it with his friend. It’s a phenomenal book and it’s about a hit man, who accidently puts a hit out on himself. Very, very well done and I highly recommend it. Three out of four issues are out now, the fourth is being worked on as we speak, and around here you can only buy Dead Man’s Party at the Comic Station. A couple local guys too, one of them just had a write up in the local paper, Ryan Brady, he writes The Bolt. We carry the Bolt here in the store, there are four issues out and they’re only $2.00 apiece. It’s so great to see a young guy, a college age guy, putting out his own book. He writes, publishes, and draws the whole book himself. It’s a really interesting story about a superhero in Camden.
As for the bigger guys, I really like Earth 2 by DC I think that is really well written. Most of the Batman stuff is really good as well. Marvel has their usual stuff, I try to stay away from the big ensemble stuff, so I don’t read The Avengers or X-Men because there are just too many timelines and characters to keep track of. It gets aggravating after a while. I will read individual stuff though, one of the best individual books out there has been Magneto I think it has been phenomenal, but we will see where it goes. The talk right now is that Marvel may reboot its entire Universe like DC did, so if that happens it should be chaos.
What is your connection to Rutgers-Camden?
A bunch of my friends went there, but also my daughter is transferring over and will start in September. I was interviewed about the Comic-Con that was held there, unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to be a part of it last year. I have spoken to people involved and hopefully we can be a part of it the next time it comes around. From what I understand it was a great turnout for the inaugural year but you always want to do better. Also, Rutgers is local, it’s the biggest college around here and anything that we can do to be involved locally we would love.
How often do you guys run events or promotions here at the store?
We try to do at least one signing per month. We also run sales, we will have a sale through the end of the July, and another where we turn the back the clock to when comics were 10 cents apiece and you’ll be able to come in here and get relatively new comics for 10 cents. We do three major Black Friday sales a year, and then it depends on what else is going on. We don’t do conventions a lot, I don’t think it’s worthwhile for us. We are working on bringing in some writers in August, and trying to bring down the team behind Dead Man’s Party. Check out Facebook and Twitter, everything we do is posted there. We don’t post stuff just to post it, if it’s going to happen it will go on there, if nothing is happening then we are pretty quiet. We don’t want to load up your newsfeed with gibberish.
Where do you guys see The Comic Station going? What are your goal and aspirations for the store going forward?
I want there to be no question that we are the best store in South Jersey, but I mean hopefully we can get the internet working a little bit better, we haven’t been terribly great at that yet. Hopefully then we will be more of a nationally based comic book store where you can order online. You can certainly call me right now and I will send you whatever you want, whatever I have in stock to wherever you may live. I want us to be known as the store for art, and the store for the props that we make. We currently make custom made Pokémon props, you can’t get those anywhere else in the entire world besides here. I want us to be known as a fun place. Once we can move into a bigger location we will do even more fun stuff, and that’s what this is all about. And still to read, you mentioned earlier about digital comics, I saw a great quote by Stan Lee the other day whether, he said it or not I don’t know, but it said: “Comics are like boobs, they’re great to look at but I’d rather hold them in my hands.” That’s the truth, you can read whatever you want online, but it’s nothing like holding a comic book in your hands and reading it. Collecting is the same way. You can collect all the files you want, but it isn’t the same as being able to go into a box and say “hey, here’s my copy of Amazing Spider-Man number one.” There’s nothing like that.
Anything else you would like to say or talk about?
If you’re interested in a better comic buying experience than come to our store. We do stuff all the time, we have artists here all the time, we do book signings all the time, and we have cosplay events, so we do everything. We had by far the best Free Comic Book Day out of anyone around here. We had 6 artists, 3 cosplayers, a video crew, photographer and we blew out 2,000 books in an hour and 20 minutes. Like I said in the beginning, this is supposed to be fun, come in and talk to me, get involved. If you want to do a window display and you think you have the chops for it then I will let you do a window display. We have a big, big window where we do displays at. I want everyone to be involved.