The “Last Comic Book Store on Earth” Demonstrates Why it Will be Just That
You might think that all comic book stores are the same. You might think that those individuals who choose to work there can be haughty comic snobs. You might think you’d do better getting your comics, graphic novels, game cards, and collectibles online. If you agreed with any of the above statements, you’d be dead wrong. Touting themselves as “the last comic book store on Earth,” The Joker’s Child has much more to offer than an empty excursion like shopping online. Not only do they have one of the largest stores seen by most, they also have an extensive selection of comics, graphic novels and collectibles. You can spend hours perusing the stacks and still not see everything. In the words of owner Caren Katz, “We want you to relive your childhood when you walk in the door.” For the adults who frequent the The Joker’s Child, located at 12-23 River Road, this is not difficult. In fact, for many of them, The Joker’s Child was a large part of their childhood. So much so, that now they bring their own children to visit.
Having been on River Road for twenty eight years is a testament to what a large part of the community they truly are. When asked what sets The Joker’s Child apart from other comic book stores, Katz replied, “customer service,” without hesitation. She went on to explain that she spends enough time in the store to know about ninety percent of their regular customers by name. That kind of attention to patrons is part of what keeps them coming back. Every member of the staff is welcoming, helpful, and full of suggestions for those who are not even sure where to start. From cartoons to classics, from television series continuations to adaptations, there is something for everyone.
If you thought comic books were all about superheroes, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that this is not true. Sure, there are plenty of superheroes, but there is a barrage of other subject matter as well. Many cartoon series have their own comics. For example, you can find Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time, Clarence, and even My Little Pony. Television series, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, that have ended, find new life in the comics that continue their stories. There are horror comics like Wytches, and The Walking Dead. There are even genres for suspense and noir. Comics are now a place where the creative storytelling that we find in novels and art marry and take narratives to a new level.
Having always had an interest in comics when I was young, I knew very little about how to get started with what to read, how to care for them and how to store them. I took the opportunity to ask Katz some of these questions. One of the most important questions anyone new to comics needs to know is how to take care of their comics when they bring them home. Caren said, “No attics. No basements. They should be bagged and boarded, standing in comic boxes. They should never be lying down. You can actually store them on a bookshelf if you want, as long as they’re kept standing.”
Next, I took the opportunity to ask Katz how she would recommend a new collector should go about choosing a series. She said, “Well, I think it’s more important to read. I don’t like to think of comics as an investment. When it comes to bringing in new people and people coming in to buy new stuff, these people should be readers. I always tell people buy what you like and if it’s worth something later, consider it a bonus.” With the affirmation that patrons should enjoy the stories, I revised my question and asked what information the staff would need to make a recommendation of which series a new customer might like. Katz replied, “All we need to know is what type of T.V. shows they watch and what type of books they read.”
To test this theory, I asked for recommendations for myself. I made it through two authors…Katz had given me four suggestions. Two of which only cost one dollar. “We have a large selection of dollar books. The publishers have gotten really smart and took their bestsellers and they reprinted the number ones for $1.00.” This makes things more economical for people who are looking to try a new series to see if they’re interested in it, without spending anywhere between $8.00 and $14.00 for the first book in the series.
For my first trip to The Joker’s Child I took all four of my suggestions home with me. It was a Friday. I read all of them before the weekend was over.