Saturday, August 25, 2018

Comics Lust 8/25/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/frantic panic Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Greetings, Denizens. Birthdays, weddings, and no time to write, oh my! It’s another jam-packed weekend—dang, I’ve had a lot of those lately—so Tulip and Reverse Obie pulled a couple of posts from over 500 entries ago that they thought would be a great interlude between talking about comic books. Most of us have fond memories of walking into our first LCS and getting struck by the comic bug. I’m incredibly nostalgic for those hours upon hours spent in that store, so why not talk about my first greatest of enablers: Andromeda Bookshop. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health, keep your pets safe, cherish the ones you love, hydrate, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Comics Lust

My First LCS (An Interlude)

As a kid living in Akron, OH, I always had comics around from a very young age. I’m not completely certain where they had come from, whether my mom or dad bought them for me, or maybe they had been lugging some around for some reason, I’m not sure. All I know is I had quite a collection. Of course, I had your typical Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, The Fantastic Four, The Legion of Superheroes, and The Avengers—the usual superhero fare—but I also had some titles most adults would consider worthy of contacting child protective services.

Would you let your
six-year-old read this?
Yeah, this six-year-old loved to read himself some horror funny books. Weird War Tales, Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, Godzilla, The Unknown Soldier, House Of Secretsand House of Mystery all of which completely rocked my world. I recall the odd Richie Richor Casper the Friendly Ghostor Hot Stuff (which I liked…y'know…a devil baby, c’mon) titles kicking around my collection, but for me, the creepier the comic, the better. It’s no surprise Swamp Thing #10 is the issue that solidified my love of comics.

Of course, I wasn’t exactly reading the issues way back then, mostly I flipped through and enjoyed the monster mash show, but that one issue of Swamp Thing…dang, I just could not get enough of it. Swamp Thing made me love comics, but I still only bought my books on occasion off of spinner racks at convenience stores and grocery stores. That was until the day I bought my first issue of The Micronauts—cue the “Hallelujah” chorus from Händel’s Messiah. The amazing Micronauts toyline had utterly consumed me for some time, but the day I saw The Micronauts #2 sitting on the rack at the newsstand, it seized my eyeballs as I seized 35¢ from my mom to buy it up. On the cover, there’s Acroyear, Space Glider, and my soon-to-be-favorite character, Bug, who I prayed would someday be made into an action figure—I’m still waiting. One read through this sci-fi adventure with gorgeous art by Michael Golden, I had suddenly changed from a kid who bought comics willy-nilly, to a monthly buyer and collector.

Oh my gosh!
Deep breaths. Breathe!
My poor parents. I kind of feel sorry for them at this point. Not only did I beg to go to the toy store at the mall, but more so I wanted to go to the newsstand a couple times a week, just on the off chance the latest issue of The Micronauts had arrived. My love and devotion to this series followed me from Ohio to California, where I was still able to find all my new issues at the grocery store, 7-11, and K-Mart. I was happy as could be until the day Micronauts #37 arrived to shatter my world. The death knell of buying comics at grocery stores and newsstands had sounded. The Micronauts was one of the first series to go to the magical realms known as “comic specialty stores” and “select retail outlets,” which made zero sense to my 11-year-old mind. I then entered into what I call The Micronauts Void, a time of uncertainty, panic, and dread that one of the things I loved with my whole heart would forever be beyond my reach.

This period lasted roughly a year and a half until by some weird miracle I found out about Andromeda Bookshop. The first time I set foot in this L-shaped store, I was initially disappointed by the overstuffed shelves of sci-fi and fantasy books, but once you walked further in and hung a right…glory. Before me was a large, square room with cubbies full of comics behind the counter on the left and back walls and new comics on racks to the right. There was also a table in the center that held the week’s new releases, and multiple bundled series climbed the right wall toward the ceiling; we won’t go into the XXX books crammed into the corner. I had found it, my own pirate’s treasure trove. I had entered Olympus itself, and it bore riches beyond my imagining. More importantly, there sitting upon the Andromeda comic racks was that which I coveted beyond all else: a new issue of The Micronauts, #50 to be exact

Dave Sim signing
I have tried to find pictures of Andromeda for
years and finally found one. I was not here for
this event, 
but this is the room. Photo by Ted Mills.
I was back in business. Not only could I buy new books, I could also fill the many gaps in my collection—once I had saved up enough allowance, of course. This would take some time, as new and what would become legendary comics—Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Miracle Man, Watchmen, The Saga of the Swamp Thingand so many more—were dropping like joyfully dark rain upon the gritty concrete streets of darkly dark nights of darkness…hey, it was the theme of the times.

Over at least two summers, my brother and I made the couple-times-a-week walk from our house to the comic store downtown (4.25 miles round trip) so we could torment the employees by making them drag out all The Micronauts, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men (the Claremont issues, by golly) back issue stacks, so we could marvel at the covers, and bemoan the out-of-our-price-range costs. These journeys were in addition to our mom driving us to Andromeda every Saturday once we had been paid our $2/week allowance. We were obsessed.

Nerds are cool and all, but this nerd
prefers Volcano Rocks.
Admittedly, the walk downtown wasn’t just about the comics; although that was the primary force for making the trek. We also got to stop by the State Street Video Game Arcade to play Bagman, Joust, and Crystal Castles. Then there was a quick visit to the game store inside the Piccadilly Square mall, not to mention spiced potato logs, lime Slush Puppies, and Willy Wonka Volcano Rocks at Fernando’s Market on the way back home…if we had any money left over, which we rarely did.

A few years later, in the mid-eighties, a Goleta Andromeda Bookstore opened on Calle Real and although half of the store was for books, the other half was devoted strictly to comics and was almost as good as the downtown store. It was here that I met Mike Baron, Stan Lee, attended a comic book auction, and discovered Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I loved the store, but to be honest, it could not compare with the downtown location, which was closer to our house, not as humongous in square footage, and had more of “Santa Barbara secret” feeling about it; it was our store. Unfortunately, the Goleta Andromeda did not last very long and closed it's doors a year or two later—it was just too big and too generalized in its product scope.

Andromeda on De La Guerra, eventually shut its doors as well so that it could open a new location on the ever-costly and local-business-crushing State Street. This store was great and had a lot of space as well, but looking back, that was probably working against it; non-negotiable square-footage lease rates are usually Kryptonite to our local businesses that actually need to turn a profit to survive as opposed to writing off the losses as marketing expenses as I suspect is the case of the big chains that litter the downtown area. Also working against the store was the comic implosion of the nineties, where, like the housing market crash a few years ago, gamblers—sorry, I meant investors—snatched up droves of variant and gimmicky covers of really bad comics amidst a flooded comic book market in the hope of becoming rich overnight, which did not happen for the vast majority of people.

Another contributing factor to Andromeda's impending demise was that Metro Entertainment opened a few blocks up the way—off of State Street—and with what I assume was a much cheaper lease; Andromeda finally closed up shop in the early nineties thanks to high rents and the ’90s comic crash. Months before Andromeda shut down, I had already defected over to Metro after visiting the new store on its opening day. It felt more like the friendly neighborhood comic store I had loved so much as a kid and even though the store has since moved across the street, I am still shopping there twenty years later, and despite the uncertainty of the digital age of comics, I hope to still be shopping there for twenty years to come.

I still miss Andromeda, tucked away in its little nook at a time before downtown had morphed into the multinational, high-rent, chain-store soullessness it is today, but thankfully Metro Entertainment came along and I have been shopping there ever since. I also miss the twice a week, 4.25-mile walk downtown with my brother, but now I drive to my LCS and I have big boy money to spend, which given current comic book prices means I can roughly buy about the same number of books as I could back when I was a kid. Goodbye Andromeda, I will never forget you or the fact that you introduced me to some of the best comics ever created. Thank you for the good times and the fond memories.

*note* At one point in Andromeda's history, one of the founders Ralph Holt split from Andromeda to open his own store in Ventura called Ralph's Comic Corner, which is also a GREAT comic shop. I usually make it down there once or twice a year just to look around. Definitely worth a visit.


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