Categories
About Me

Revolutionary resolutions

Last year I made some resolutions (like I do every year) in my post “Time for some resolutions”. Last year there were 7 including one ridiculously easy one, and a couple of really nebulous ones.

#1: Move
#2: Eliminate unecessary things
#3: Only pursue projects that make money
#4: Learn to say no
#5: Get a doctor. Go to doctor. Look after your health.
#6: Go away.
#7: Be better

How’d I do?

Categories
Comics

Maybe I don’t hate comic conventions

Okay, a few months back I wrote about deep dark secret #1. I hate sports. Tonight I’d like to post a little bit about the other paradox in my life. I love comics. I hate comic conventions. In my entire time of going to conventions, there have only been two that I truly enjoyed going to. Luckily this weekend made three. That’s right, I love comic books, but I hate the celebration of same. That’s what the kids call “whack”.

Last weekend was Fan Expo Canada, formerly the Canadian National Exhibition (but not the CNE). It’s the home of the Toronto comiCON, the Sci Fi Expo, the Anime Expo, the Festival of Horror, and this year the World Series of Gaming.

I got in to Toronto late last Friday night, just in time to drop off a couple of boxes and go for a quick bite with Gus and Pete, who did an awesome job setting up the show. By the end of Friday night we knew that we were going to have an amazing weekend.

Our booth was located across from the Xbox 360 set-up, and there was a Guitar Hero stage about 100 feet from the front of our booth. With the extra space in front of us, we didn’t feel the least bit cramped.

The drive from downtown to Gus’ place at Yonge and Eglinton took nearly 40 minutes due to the combination of horrible planning on the city’s part, and my uncanny ability to hit every single traffic snag in the city. That’s the one thing I don’t miss about Toronto. In London you might get stuck on the road because a stupid train is bisecting the city in half, but at least you know why you’re sitting there annoyed.

Saturday was an early morning, and we headed down, bolstered our stock up a little bit, and got ready for a good day. I managed to leave the booth for about half an hour to grab some grub, and Pete, Erin, Gus, and Gus’ mom all took turns holding down the fort at different times. While I didn’t have a lot of time to see the show floor, I managed to buy a couple of awesome books. The first “The Art of Silver” by Stephen Silver is something I’ve had my eye on for ages. Stephen Silver is one of my favourite animators. He works in the “Spumco” style, and he’s the genius behind the look of the Clerks Inaction Figures.

The second book was “Confessions of a Process Junkie” by Alberto Riuz, which is a sort of “how to” book for art and using Adobe Illustrator to create beautiful images.

One of the regular con-goers that we’ve gotten to know, Jason Truong took my Spider-Man 100 Covers book over to the Romitas to get it signed, which was super nice.

Saturday night we had a terrific dinner at the Canyon Creek Chop House, and headed back to Pete’s place to crash out.

Sunday was a little later. I packed up so I could leave from the show, and headed down to pick up Gus. We arrived at the convention center, and already people were lined up two hours before the show started! We went across the street to MovenPick only to find that it’s gone, so we followed my “Bacon Sense”, which led us astray, and ended up at the Marche for an awesome omlette breakfast.

Sunday blew my mind. The show was amazingly busy. Before opening I condensed our TPB’s down a bit, and we discovered that we had sold two longboxes full of trades! That’s a lot of TPB’s. Our hardcovers were quite decimated, and a lot of stuff that I thought we would have forever (but which was HELLA cool) sold through.

Around 11 I went for a little stroll to check out the artists’ alley again, and I ran across Dale Eaglesham. Dale was one of my favourite artists from HERO and Villians United, and I’ve been loving his work on JSA. I saw a couple of Starman pages that I really wanted from JSA, and Dale’s wife showed me an amazing splash page of the new Steel that was insanely affordably priced (that’s the picture at the top of this story). I told them I was going to go for a walk and pop back soon, but I really just wanted to talk myself out of dropping a big load of cashish.

I went back to our booth and talked to Pete, who told me that he’d come back with me to Dale’s booth…so we left. I took another look at the pages, and I ended up buying both. My intention was to grab a couple other small things, but to be done with the big stuff.

I ended up getting a FireFly t-shirt, an Oscar the Grouch t-shirt for Kaylin, a Blue Beetle figure for me (because he’s frigging COOL), Scott Chantler’s new book “Northwest Passage” for Char, and one more page of art (this one a really nice Michael Gaydos page of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage right after their baby is born). I couldn’t find Agnes Garbowska, who does these awesome “lil heroes” commissions, so Gus went out for me, got me a sweet Robin, and then got me a Karl Kershl Robin as well to round out my new Robin themed sketchbook which I started this year.

It was all over too soon, and as we packed up the booth, I realized that I’m actually looking forward to next year’s show.

We saw a few more of our regular customers this weekend, which was really cool. We didn’t have our usual banner up, so they found us by spotting the All New Comics stickers we were wearing. I asked them about the new pulling system, and they all liked it, although many commented that they’d like to see issue # as well (perhaps a phase IV enhancement).

Looking at our booth, there are a few things that we will likely do differently next year. We’ll probably buy some sort of a fixture to put behind us, and try to maximize the space on the wall. I liked most of the set-up we had though and I would do little to change the actual table part.

I really want to print out some shots of our site for next year, and pimp the heck out of it through static pictures (because I refuse to pay $365/day for internet access). We’ll have a nice new display, and we’ll do up some big things on FoamCore to really have a spectacular presentation. Maybe we’ll do a vertical banner so that we can pimp out our brand as well.

Categories
Comics

ComicsPRO and the CBIA hate websites

Having been told by ComicsPRO (a comics industry alliance that helps retailers have common voice with publishers and distributors) that online retailers are not welcome in their organization, I was told to become a member of CBIA which is the Comic Book Industry Alliance, a message board for retailers to discuss issues about the industry.

I had hoped that this would allow me to have some meaningful dialogue with other retailers and address industry concerns.

I filled out the form, waited a week, and got this response from Robert Scott:

I appreciate your interest but the CBIA requires retailers to have a retail “brick and mortar” storefront.

I stated my case. We’ve been around for 2 years, we have 75 regular customers, we serve a niche market and are able to get comics to places that aren’t served by comic stores (such as our customer in Nunavut who used to drive 8 hours to a comic store), we’ve been very active in the Toronto comics community sponsoring the Women of Comics panels at the Toronto Comicon, and this weekend we’re attending CottageCon which is something my partner spearheaded as a way of getting comics and conventions to smaller communities.

I got this back:

There are many reasons but mainly because I founded the group to support Direct Market Brick and Mortar shops, which ultimately provide the greatest access to comics, a presentation and tactile access that online catalog shops can not or do not.

The fact that most online retailers try to overcome that inequity by discounting, serves to undermine the ability of many stores to maintain the depth and breadth of offerings that allow not only comic fans but also the general public, to experience/discover comics.

So while I am not questioning the “legitimacy” of your business nor your right to run it any way you see fit, I will not bring to bear the resources I have built over my 20 years in this business, to support a business model (online only) that I feel is harmful to the industry as well as one that the CBIA was founded to help brick and mortar retailers fight.

That is why.

There is nothing to prevent you from starting your own forum on Delphi or elsewhere, in support of Online Retailers.

I build websites for a living. I’ve had a hand in some of Canada’s biggest sites, and the reason I opened an online comic store is because I know the web inside and out, and I know how to make a successful website!

I don’t want to play with ONLY online retailers. I want to know what my fellow retailers think about issues. I want to know why the retail community is so afraid of the future. I want to help them become better, and in turn become better myself.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been painted with the “Ebay seller” or “Deep discounter” brush. One look at our website All New Comics will tell you that neither is true.

I want to help make the industry better. I want to make suggestions for how they could use the internet to make their stores better. Heck, I want to make suggestions on how to improve their own websites.

Then again, maybe these guys are right. Maybe I should found my own internet only retailers organization. Maybe I should try to figure out ways to exclude the brick and mortar dinosaurs from what we do, and I should spend time and effort not trying to better the industry, but trying to hold on to my little piece of it at all costs.

Of course I believe that the industry as a whole can be better than that. I believe that we are better as a group than as individuals, and I believe that together we can build something great.

Maybe that’s my folly.

Categories
Comics

I can see Paradise by the convention light

The comicon ended on Sunday, and I got home in the wee hours of Monday morning. The drive from Toronto to London gave me some time to mull things over and in the end I’d say that it was a fun weekend, and a mostly successful one at that. I got to meet some artists whom I’d always wanted to meet (Matt Wagner, Michael Avon Oeming), had a cool chat with one of my childhood heroes (Marv Wolfman), got to hang out with friends whom I haven’t seen in months, met a few of our customers, and had a good time every night of the convention.

Rather than a day by day blow-by-blow, here’s what happened in a nutshell.

Thursday night pre-convention met up with Liam and Kate for some eats and drinks. It was nice to see a couple of my former compatriots, as I really miss the folks I used to work with (not that I’d trade my current gig for the old one though).
Friday: 10am – 3pm set-up for the show.
Friday 3pm – 8pm show day one. There was a monsterous rain storm that I think kept people away because it was unusually dead.
Friday 8pm – 1am, party at Club Lucky. Had some food (not great), and some drinks (great)
Saturday 10am – 6pm show day two. Busy, but not as busy as I expected.
Saturday 8pm – 10:30pm Dinner with friends and then
Saturday 11:00pm – 1:00am EVIL DEAD THE FREAKIN’ MUSICAL!!! – Awesome, hilarious, and a blast.
Sunday 9am – 11am Breakfast with Char and then a drive by the ROM where we found out 1/2 of the west end was closed due to a combination of construction, parades, film shoots, street festivals, and a charity walk. Toronto may want to consider hiring someone who can, oh I dunno, READ A FRIGGING CALENDAR!!!
Sunday 11am – 5pm show day three.

After that it was unloading, eating, and accounting. We did roughly the same as last year, which is a little disappointing, as it seems like that’s the threshold for the show. The show has also become a bit of a dump thing where people take their overstock to get rid of. We had a lot of TPB’s and HC’s that we got during a big sale recently that we moved for good prices, and we went through a good number of variant editions, but some of the stuff I thought we would blow through just sat.

The big surprises for me were that we went through about 10 copies of the Marvel Zombies HC, and a similar number of Spider-Man Reign hardcovers.

I was also shocked by how many dealers were selling stuff for below our cost. One guy had Absolute edition hardcovers for $5.00 below cost. It makes no sense because they’re evergreen books that sell steadily because the Amazon’s don’t carry them after the initial shipments.

On Sunday I went and bought a few things like some prints, a couple of pages of original art, and got a few signatures done. My three big purchases for the show were;

An original page from Powers by Michael Avon Oeming
The cover prelims for the new Grendel Devil By The Deed hardcover from Matt Wagner
…and this absolutely silly 13″ Batman action figure with a cloth costume and 23 points of articulation.

In addition to meeting up with Donnie, Larry, Curtis, Don and Liam at the show, a few of our customers came by, which was an awesome experience. The thing about owning an online store is that you don’t have much face time with your customers, so putting faces to names is a real treat.

Thanks goes out to our crew who helped us. Dave, Gus, Erin, Heather, the other Erin, Larry, Curtis, Freak Daddy Donnie, the unofficial 3rd member of All New Comics Alex. Also thanks to everyone who worked with us this year for bringing 100% less of the crazy that we had to deal with last year.

Pete deserves mad props for the whole Women of Comics and the Comics for Kids things (not to mention bringing in Trish Stratus on Saturday) and the way he treats the guests. The man does so much for the show that he deserves a cut of the gate! It’s very cool to see the make-up of the convention floor change from middle aged nerds to families, and that’s largely due to the stuff that Pete worked so hard to make happen. I’m not sure he gets the appreciation he deserves, but I certainly think he is a terrific ambassador.

If only we could figure out a way to make money off of ambassadorship.

Categories
Comics

Free Comic Book Day follow-up

I already discussed that Free Comic Book Day was a huge success, new people are still visiting the site and buying stuff from us, and we’ve made a tiny profit despite the huge expenses of shipping Free Comics this month. This, as Martha Stewart would say, is a “good thing”. What’s not good however is the difficulties we had trying to get “Free Comics” this year because of the exclusionary practices of the Free Comic Book Day committee.

I’m so frustrated by the narrow minded view of the Brick and Mortar establishment. In their mind we have no “overhead”, which is utter crap.

We have servers to maintain, credit card deals to hammer out, shipping to cover, warehousing facilities to maintain, plus the “work” part like inputting product to the site every week, packing and shipping product, ordering, maintaining stock levels. Because we have embraced technology though, we’re considered “not real”.

I find this incredibly offensive. There are stores out there that are literally a tiny, dimly lit, cramped enclosure in another store’s basement (I can think of 2 stores in Toronto off the top of my head who fit that bill, who also pay less in rent every month than we pay in shipping costs).

So because we have no storefront, the Free Comic Book Day committee said we weren’t permitted to buy free comics (retailers pay a nominal fee for these “Free” comics). We called our distributor and explained the situation, and eventually we were allowed to get Free Comics.

This is the second year that we’ve had a Free Comic Book Day offer. We gave away around 100 free comics last year, and it was a great way to get our name out there, and to also let people who otherwise wouldn’t participate in the event get in on it. We benefited because people who didn’t know about us became aware of us, and bought stuff from us.

Today I filled out a form from our distributor and since there was no place to add “other comments”, I added this to the form in one of the fields:

We had a lot of difficulty getting Free Comics from Diamond this year to give away to customers because we are an online only business. We still feel that this exclusionary practice on the part of the free Comic Book Day Committee is wrong. We have gone out of our way to grow the comic book audience, we are huge evangelists for the comic book industry, and we have higher per-customer costs on Free Comic Book Day than any brick and mortar store, but we feel that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

A significant portion of our market cannot get to a local comic store due to distance, and we are a valuable resource to them. Being ostracized by the very retailing community which is benefiting from our evangelism of the product is frustrating.

The idea that we, who have a world class online store, are not on the same level as the most sub-par of Brick and Mortar establishments is both offensive and narrow minded.

If the retailing community won’t embrace those like us who go out of our way to use new technologies to spread the word of comics, then what hope does the medium have?

Categories
Comics

Free Comic Book Day (a little late)

So last Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, and for the second year in a row All New Comics participated, despite the Brick and Mortar based “Free Comic Book Day” Committee’s desire to keep online retailers like us from doing so.

At midnight on May 5th we posted our ten selections, and within minutes people were ordering comics. I went to bed around 1am with about eight orders placed. I woke up around 8:00am to see about 50 orders placed. I did some quick math, and realized that we’d probably run out of free comics around 5:00 if things progressed.

The orders kept coming, and as a testament to the new changes we’ve made to the system, the site ran smoothly despite doing more than 20x the usual volume of traffic and around 50x the usual volume of orders.

Around 11 Char, Kaylin and I went out to check out some of the local stores. We dropped by LA Mood’s here in London where I said hi to my old boss Gord and his wife Carol. We picked up a TPB (because I like to support the locals), and I took an Owly FCBD issue for Kaylin since she loves the little dude.

We went for some lunch at the market, and then headed back home to check on stuff. The orders were still flying in, though they had slowed significantly. I went through and canceled a bunch of orders for multiple comics, or several orders to single addresses, and any U.S. orders.

Which brings me to a mini-rant. I love giving away comics. We give them away for Halloween, we give them away to any kids we see at the summer con, and I’ll gladly give bundles of them away when we are at the Cottage Con in August.

HOWEVER, when we give comics away on FCBD, we have to pay for shipping. 1 comic is about $1.00 to ship. 2 comics is about $2.99 to ship. 5 or more comics is about $6-10.00 to ship (depending on a person’s location). So we offer 1 free comic to anyone. We said this year that if you want more than one, buy something. Spend $3.00, pay for shipping for the $3.00 book (so maybe another $3.50), and we’ll send you 5 free comics. Even at that price we would still not make anything off the transaction, and we’d likely lose a few cents, but I could handle that.

For some reason though, a few people decided that they’d just order a ton of comics and let us sort it out. It was a tiny percentage, but I found it kind of rude of those people. Here we were offering up free comics (which we paid the freight on), and those people wanted more. I guarantee that we’ll never hear from those people again until next free comic book day too.

Other than that though, the day was a tremendous success. By 10pm I had to shut down the Free Comics because we only had a handful left and I really wanted to go to bed.

We’ll still do it again next year, because it was a huge success, and it’s a lot of fun hearing from people who are new to us.

Update – later Sunday night
I neglected to mention that we did HUGE sales on May 5th, and the sales spilled over into May 6th and 7th, both of which saw marked bumps in orders placed and traffic, which is all good news.

In the time since Free Comic Book Day, we’ve signed up four new subscribers (which is quite good since we usually do about one new subscriber a week), and we’re still getting a nice little trickle of new orders from folks who heard about us through Free Comic Book Day.

Categories
Internet

All New, All Comics, All Mine! (…and Pete’s)

This month marks the One Year Anniversary of the re-launch of All New Comics. We got our start in August of 2005, but it wasn’t until April 2006 that we went “public”. In the beginning we just sold to friends and people who learned of us through word of mouth. The site quite frankly sucked. Then in April it got better.

Originally there was a news area, and a products area and the two didn’t really have much in common. Subscriptions were a manual process (email us your list and we’ll pull your comics for you). Page views were quite low, and about 95% of people didn’t go past the front page. Around February I got a Google Analytics account and started making plans for the future.

The first thing I did was merge the news and stores together so that the main page would have products, news, marketing blurbs, all that good stuff. I really revamped the design at this point too, and in the best move of the year I hired my buddy Ryan to help me out with the subscriptions portion of the site. He wrote a subscriptions engine from scratch and fused it onto the back of Candy Press.

While he was doing that, I undertook the process of adding about 1,000 products into the system.

By mid April we were done and up, just in time for the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon, which was our big “coming out” party.

Our traffic has gone up tenfold since then, we do a little paid advertising, but a lot of our traffic comes from Google and the way that we’ve optimized the site (plus some really serendipitous stuff that’s happened in comics like the Infinite Crisis, Civil War, and the Death of Captain America). Our sales have increased steadily, and so has the monthly work required to keep the site updated.

With all that in mind, this is the month that I’m going to do a minor refresh to the site, with a new layout and a little new functionality on how things get displayed. Next month Ryan and I are going to tackle the subscriptions portion again and make it a slightly more automated process so that I can focus a little more on getting more product on the site instead of wasting my time with repetitive effort that could be automated.

So those three boxes at the top of this month’s layout? Well the first one is V1 of All New Comics (the sucky version), the second is V2, the present version…and the third box? Wait and see that one. It’ll knock your socks off.