Friday, April 29, 2005

So WHY Exactly Did I Post That Story?

Well, other than the fact that I am in the process of cleaning out my office and my files at work and I came across this story, there really is a method to my madness.

One of the main things I am going to do with the store's website is turn it into a destination site that enhances the feeling of community associated with the store. As a friend of mine pointed out there really is no way to differentiate your product in any way from the comic book store across town. Comic books are comic books. Games are games. The only real way to make your store stand out is to sell an experience that people want to be a part of.

And that is where the website comes in. Of course I will be posting the new releases and links to cool comic book related stuff, but anyone can do that. What I am going to do is have my customers write fan fiction like my Wayne Manor story, reviews, commentaries, etc. for the site. While it will be the store's site, I want it to feel like it is owned by the community of people who visit the store.

Ownership of place will invariably lead to loyalty to the store. Of course, that will only remain the case if I create a store that is inviting and fun. Luckily I've got some ideas about that.

Finally, I've decided on what I want the store logo to be...well after a fashion. I want to get an artist to draw a distinctive big monkey for me. Seems pretty straighforward, no? But the idea is that we could then have the monkey dropped into different iconic comic book scenes -- the monkey in the foreground with a "Monkey Signal" shining on the clouds behind him, the monkey swinging on a web (maybe with a thought baloon saying something like "what, haven't you ever heard of a spider monkey?"), etc. While there would only be a single picture of the monkey on the store sign, I could roll out each of these different pictures for flyers, advertising, and the like.

The idea now is to find someone willing to draw the monkey, and if I like their stuff, hire them to draw me 15 to 20 different tableaus.

A Dark Knight at Wayne Manor (Finale)

Joe Nelson — Checkmate Medic, first class — jogged into the mansion’s front door. His gun was drawn and he moved with as much stealth as he could muster. The last thing he wanted was to get caught flatfooted by one of the opposing powers. That would just suck. He entered the main great room of the house and scanned for enemies. He didn’t see anything in the room, but through the large sliding glass door that lead from the room onto a back patio, he saw what looked to be a powers convention. All of them were there, Nightwing, Doc Samson, Hawkman, and it looked like a couple of them had been seriously hurt and were being attended to by some paramedics. Hooray for our team, he thought. With his gun pointed toward the glass doors, he knelt down behind a couch to see what, if anything he might be able to do to help his cause. But being a medic first and a fighter second meant that he had absolutely no intention of taking on that assemblage of power all by himself. Moments later, though, the odds were tipped a bit back in his favor when he saw Dove carry Batman into the room.

Batman took up a position near the medic and growled, "When I make my move, cover me." The medic nodded, fear of the man in black leaving him unable to talk.

The men turned back toward the tableau outside the glass doors and watched as one of the medics helped Nightwing to his feet. A muffled "thank you" could be heard through the door. Suddenly, Nightwing’s head snapped in the direction of the Checkmate Medic and he pointed first into the mansion and then toward Iceman and Doc Samson. "Checkmate agent in the mansion, get in there!" Once again, Iceman did as he was told (but only after mumbling something along the lines of, "what am I, a taxi?") and slid himself and Doc Samson through the glass doors — which he shattered with a few ice darts as they approached — and flew Samson into the room.

"Wait, go that way!" Doc Samson called out as they entered the Mansion. He had seen Dove out of the corner of his eye and he decided that she was a more dangerous opponent than the man in black and gold. Iceman dropped Doc Samson near Dove. As he was about to approach her, who should he now happen to see, but Batman. Suddenly, Dove had moved one notch down the list of targets as well.

"This is for that little gamma bomb trick!" yelled Samson as he pivoted and took a swing at Batman.

In your dreams, thought Batman as he easily parried the blow. "Get me to those medics," Batman said to dove, and the young woman in the bay blue costume picked up her leader, swung him in a wide arc around the enraged Doc Samson and flew out through the broken glass doors. Within seconds, Batman had knocked out one of medics with a vicious blow to the back of the neck and had eliminated the usefulness of another by kicking her medical supplies out of her reach.

"Follow him," said Doc Samson to Iceman who, once again, glided away pulling Doc Samson with him. "Running away from me, little man," asked Doc Samson when he was in arms reach of Batman. "I expected better." Samson took a mighty swing at the Dark Knight who easily ducked the blow.

Idiot, thought Batman as he pulled another tube from his utility belt. This time, though, rather than toss it, he hit another button and a beam of green light shot out from the end of the tube and struck Doc Samson square in the chest. Samson staggered backward just as Batman let fly with a roundhouse kick. Luckily for Doc Samson, his stagger backward was just enough to throw Batman’s aim off and he missed.

Sensing that this could be the best chance they have had to end this insanity, Nightwing rolled away from the medic that had been tending to him to get a clear line of fire. Once that was achieved, he let fly with another nighterang that thunked solidly into Batman’s arm.

Meanwhile, Harley Quinn, not wanting to be left out of the fun, had run through the mansion and was stepping out onto the patio. Smiling, she pulled out an enormous megaphone from a heretofore unseen backpack and pointed it at Doc Samson. She pulled the trigger and the speaker extended outward on a long retractable arm. The megaphone halted three inches from Doc Samson’s left ear. With a barely suppressed giggle, she screamed into the mouthpiece, "Ehhh, What’s up Doc!"

Startled and annoyed, Doc Samson turned toward the girl in the harlequin makeup who was now rolling on the ground laughing at her own wit.

This loss of focus gave Dove (remember Dove?) an opening to attack the big, green haired man. Her aim was true and she hit the man who was still suffering from the effects of Batman’s gamma ray blast a tremendous martial arts-like blow that knocked the wind out of him.
In the confusion of the moment, Hawkman took the opportunity to attack Batman. Luckily for him, the Dark Knight’s attention was focused on Nightwing. He raised his mace and sent down a thundering blow onto the back of Batman’s head. Sparks flew when the blow connected and Batman crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

Harley immediately stopped laughing and jumped to her feet. "Well," she says, "that was fun. Uhh...ta ta!" And with that she ran back into the mansion and disappeared.

Confronted by superior numbers, and many people she knew, Dove surrendered peacefully and explained that she was only working with Batman because he asked her to. She had no idea until tonight just how out of whack he had gotten.

For their part, the two Checkmate Medics and Man-Bat also slipped away as the heroes went to tie up Bane and tend to Batman.

Batman regained consciousness within a few minutes after the end of the battle. During that time, Nightwing and Doc Samson had been trying to figure out why Hawkman’s blow to the back of Batman’s head had created sparks. The answer was that a small electronic device had been attached to the back of his cowl. Upon reviving, Nightwing handed the remains of the device to Batman.

"So, Batman, can you tell me what’s going on?" asked Nightwing.

Batman studied the device for a few moments, before the answer came to him.

"Somehow the Mad Hatter must have gotten this mind control device onto me the other night when I was stopping a robbery over in The Hill.

"I think I’m going to have to pay a visit on dear old Jervis."

But that is another story for another day.....

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Dark Knight at Wayne Manor (Part 3)

Outside the garage, Batman heard the sounds of battle and knew that for all of his strength, Bane would have a hard time standing up against all four foes that were now moving against him. It was time to even the odds.

"Dove, carry me over to that bench near the garage entrance." Without a word, the young fighter did as she was told.

With his night vision goggles in place, the Gotham Avenger could clearly see the action in the garage. Bane was in trouble, doubled over at the feet of the garishly costumed Doc Samson. Well, if you are going to wear a costume that makes you a target, the least I can do is shoot at that target. Batman reached into his utility belt and pulled out a small, sealed metal tube. He punched a button on its top and tossed it toward Doc Samson. It landed at his feet and sent out a burst of green light. The results were dramatic. Samson seemed to wilt and grow slightly smaller. Thinner. No, I didn’t think you would much care for a dose of concentrated gamma radiation, he thought with some self-satisfaction.

Seizing the opportunity, Batman pulled a batarang and hurled it toward Samson, hitting him square on the temple and staggering the big man. Red blood flowed from the wound and mixed liberally with his cartoonishly green hair.

Nightwing had seen the "gamma grenade" flying through the air just before it had detonated and had managed to shield his eyes before it had detonated, allowing him to preserve much of his night vision. Geez, Bruce must be farther gone that I thought. That kind of radiation could be lethal to everyone in the room who isn’t wearing a lead-lined cape. In other words, everyone but him. We’ve got to end this thing fast before someone really gets hurt.

By now, Bane was once again standing tall, and while he was no longer wielding the motorcycle as a weapon, in the long run, that didn’t make him any less dangerous. In addition, Samson looked more than a little woozy from the joint gamma flash and batarang attack. Bane needed to be put down and Doc Samson needed medical treatment. And both needed to happen right now.
Like his mentor, Nightwing let fly with two attacks of his own. The first nighterang severed the last of the tubes feeding Bane his venom, while the other struck the big man right across the bridge of his nose. Bane staggered but refused to go down.

"Doc! Finish him," Nightwing called out.

Fighting through a haze that made the world seem indistinct and dreamlike, Doc Samson heard Nightwing’s commands and forced himself to focus. It wasn’t easy, but he was able to gather enough of his wits to throw a weak (for him) punch in the general direction of Bane. Somewhat to his surprise, he felt his punch connect and he saw the big man in the dark blue costume go down. Bane had been defeated. But that final blow had taken a lot out of Doc Samson as well. The world spun before his eyes and he staggered and fell to one knee — an easy target for the still camouflaged Batman.

"Iceman, get Samson back to the medics," Nightwing ordered.

Bobby Drake didn’t need to be told twice. Immediately he grabbed Doc Samson around the waste, created an ice sheet beneath their feet, and whisked Samson away. Nightwing and Hawkman scanned the darkness looking for Batman. For while they could not see him, they knew he was out there and they had to find him.

Suddenly, a bright light flashed on in the driveway just beyond the mouth of the garage. Both Nightwing and Hawkman looked in the direction of the new threat, only to be confronted by the sight of Harley Quinn dancing vigorously, with what appeared to be industrial strength road flares sprouting from her shoes.

"Hellooooo you big studs! Do you like my little dance? Mr. J always said I was light on my feet!"

So distracted was Nightwing by the display that he did not see Batman launch a batarang toward him. Unaware of the attack, and thus unable to roll with it, the batarang caught Nightwing full force in the throat, staggering the erstwhile young leader.

That’s what you get for caring more about your friends than about yourself, Batman thought. If you had sacrificed Samson you would have remained uninjured. You’ll never learn.

Seeing Nightwing stumble, Hawkman moved quickly to pick him up and the two of them flew back to the rear of the mansion, where the paramedics had established a rudimentary MASH unit. As he arrived, he saw one of the medics starting to tend to Doc Samson.

"No wait," called Destiny to one of the you paramedics. Don’t use that needle on him, it is going to break.

"What are you talking about?" asked Juanda, the youngest of the medics.

"Trust me," replied Destiny. "Use that one, third from the right."

"Listen to her!" shouted Hawkman. "She can see the future. She knows what she is talking about!"

"Okay," said Juanda, unsure what else to do. She reached in to her medical bag, pulled out the needle that was third from the right and affixed it to a vial of stimulant and plunged the needle into Doc Samson’s arm. To everyone’s amazement, Doc’s eyes immediately opened and he hopped to his feet.

"I feel MUCH better," he proclaimed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Dark Knight at Wayne Manor (Part 2)

Batman’s smile was cold as ice. It was nice to be home. It was going to be even nicer once he had eliminated that brat Nightwing, though. Dick had long gotten in his way. He never took his responsibilities as seriously as he should. He was too willing to let his friends sway him. Weaknesses. All weakness. Who needs friends so long as you had minions? Friends were a liability in combat. Minions were an asset — they could be deployed and if they didn’t come back, you just got more.

Nightwing was somewhere on the mansion’s grounds and he was going to find him. He was going to find him and...

The smile faded from the Dark Knight’s face.

What exactly am I going to do to Dick? And why am I so mad at him?

Batman looked around him and noted the presence of Bane, Harley, and Man-Bat as well as Dove and the Checkmate agents. They were all looking at him, obviously waiting for orders.

Why am I working with Bane and the others? This doesn’t make any sen—

A shock ran through his skull and all of his reservations about what he was doing vanished. Certainty of cause returned — and with it, his evil smile.

“Here is what we are going to do,” Batman said briskly. “Langstrom, you and Bane will move into the mansion proper and see if there are any surprises waiting for us. The rest of us will work along the west side of the mansion toward the garage. Bane, if there is no reason for you to stay in the mansion, I want you to also head toward the garage. I don’t want to divide our forces any more than I have to. You medics hang back in support and help out where necessary.

“Oh, and remember this. You have a free hand to eliminate whoever you find. But Nightwing is mine!

“Dove fly me over to the garage.”

Dove did as she was told, depositing her leader near some elaborate topiary where he promptly vanished into the shadows.

“Let’s go you winged freak,” Bane snarled at Man-bat.

“Skree!” responded Man-Bat as he took to the air, grabbed Bane by the shoulders and flew toward the Mansion’s front door. He slowed only once to allow Bane to kick the heavy oaken doors off their hinges and then the two darted inside. Man-bat flew rapidly through the dark corridors, quickly reaching the main great room. He put Bane down. Nothing moved. There were no sounds of any kind. The house appeared empty.

“Well, that’s that,” growled Bane. “I’m not hanging around in here while all the fun is taking place outside. I’m...hey, look at this!”

A motorcycle stood near one wall, spare parts and tools littering the ground around it.

“Must be nice to be so rich you can work on your motorcycle in the TV room and not have to worry about the mess. Someone else will clean up after you, so what do you care?”

“Skree!”

“Well, since I’m heading for the garage anyway...” Bane punched a button on the back of his mask and Venom pumped into his blood. “Ah...what a rush.” His muscles bulged and he felt his inhuman strength return. He picked up the motorcycle in one hand and ran down a wide hallway to the west. Without stopping, he swung the motorcycle against the door at the end, shattering it, ran across the thin grassy path next to the mansion, and entered the garage.

“This is where a motorcycle belongs,” Bane said, holding the vehicle like a weapon.

# # #

“I can see them moving up toward the garage,” Hawkman called down to the team, “Bane ran in there and I saw Dove fly Batman forward, but I’ve lost sight of him now.”

“I’m not surprised,” responded Nightwing. “Get down here. I want you to get me into that garage. Iceman, you bring Doc. We know where they are. No sense in hiding from them.”

Hawkman dove down and grabbed Nightwing under the shoulders. In seconds, he was flying into the darkened garage through the rear doorway. Iceman and Doc Samson were only seconds behind, borne forward by one Iceman’s ice sheets. Hawkman dropped Nightwing and the team’s young leader appraised the situation. Bane stood just to one side of the doorway, a motorcycle in hand. He didn’t see Batman anywhere, but he knew that meant next to nothing. Oh well, if Bruce won’t come out and play, at least we can have fun with one of his lackeys.

“Bane, you look so tough standing there, a veritable pillar of testosterone and strength! Let’s see how you feel after a little bit of this!”

Nightwing pulled, unfolded, and threw one of his trademark nighterangs all in one fluid motion. The razor sharp weapon whizzed past Bane’s head and thunked solidly into the wall behind him. Bane counted his lucky stars. The kid seldom missed with those things and he knew he had just dodged a bullet. But just a second later, Bane’s elation changed to shock as he realized that, in fact, his luck may have just run out. The motorcycle, which until then had felt as light as paper began to grow heavy. Nightwing had severed some of the tubes that transmitted the venom into his blood. He was growing weaker...fast.

Doc Samson seized upon the opportunity that Nightwing had provided him. Using his knowledge of biology from years as a medical researcher, he targeted a particularly vulnerable spot on Bane’s torso and unleashed a mighty roundhouse right. The blow doubled over the killer from the Carribean, causing him to drop the motorcycle to the ground with a crash.

# # #

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Dark Knight at Wayne Manor

Okay, this is a little creative qriting assignment I gave myself after a night of playing Hero Clix with some friends. If you have ever played Clix, there are several things you will notice. 1) This is a mixed Marvel/DC game. 2) This game took place a couple of years ago, so what happens here is governed by the original rules (in other words, "taxi-ing" is still an important part of the game). 3) Some powers are hard to translate into prose (Outwit, I'm looking at you!), but I think I did a decent job.

Finally, this was a rather long battle, so I will be breaking it up over 4 or 5 posts. Hope you like it!

========

Nightwing chuckled ruefully as Bobby Drake formed an ice sculpture in the shape of the Bat-signal. "Unless we’re able to bring Batman back to his senses, that may be the closest anyone comes to seeing that signal again."

"I know," Bobby responded. "It’s really sad to see such a great hero and leader like Batman acting like this."

"I’m still convinced that there is something wrong. He has to be under someone’s control or there has to be some other explanation. I’ve known Batman a long time and this is totally out of character for him." Nightwing frowned. "I can only hope that once we’ve captured him we can find out what’s going on." He tossed a rock out into the pool behind Wayne Manor.

There was a rustle of feathers and Nightwing looked up.

"They’re here," said a gruff voice.

"Thanks, Hawkman. Who’s with him?"

"Best as I could tell, Dove, Harley Quinn, two Checkmate agents, Man-Bat...and Bane."

"Wow." Nightwing sighed. "Well, at least he hasn’t started teaming up with the Joker."

"Hmph," replied Hawkman, non-plussed.

"Okay folks, let’s do it." Nightwing turned to his makeshift team. With a dramatic flourish, Bobby transformed into Iceman. Doc Samson smiled slightly and cracked his knuckles. Destiny remained inscrutable behind her golden mask. The three paramedics that had agreed to work with the team looked at each other nervously. They were not used to working around powers and the prospect of getting caught in the crossfire of a major showdown such as this had them on edge.

"Ladies, I know that you are nervous, but your agreeing to be here is much appreciated. We will do everything we can to keep you out of harm’s way by moving the battle as far from you as possible. But you will need to remain on guard and be ready to help out at a moment’s notice. Every second is going to count. Okay?"

They each nodded.

"Great." Nightwing smiled his best pretty-boy smile and touched each of them on their shoulder. "You’ll do great.

"Destiny, I want you, Sheila, Amy, and Juanda to take up a position along the back wall of the mansion. It’ll provide you with cover and allow you to move quickly to help out where needed."

# # #

Time Sure Flies....

Welcome back! Sorry for not posting on Friday – I really do feel lousy about that since I have only been doing this blog for about two weeks, and I already missed my first installment. If you were paying me for this, I could understand you issuing me a warning for my personnel file. As it is, I hope you will forgive me and accept my humble apologies.

Now that I have dispensed with that little bit of bootlicking, let me get on to the meat of today’s installment.

For those of you that don’t know, while I live in Richmond, I am still working at my old job in Washington, DC. This means that I go home on the weekends to spend time with my family and do house projects. I then drive back to DC on Sunday night, crash at a friend’s place during the week, and then repeat the process.

As you can imagine, ths whole thing is a bit of a drag. On the upside, however, my last day at my grownup job is coming on May 6, I will be reunited with my family full time, and I will be able to hit the ground running on my quest. On the down side, the last day of my grownup job is coming on May 6 and my steady employment (and the paycheck and the health insurance that comes with it) stops for the first time since 1992. A bit scary that.

I mention all of this to let you know that things will probably really start to heat up after the first week in May. Until then, I will continue to post my thoughts and plans, but it will only be after May 6 that the concrete steps are really going to start taking place.

The Distinguished Competition

I have been researching exactly who will be my competition in the Richmond market, and it appears that there are (basically) nine stores in the greater Richmond area. I have yet to visit any of these stores, so I am looking forward to seeing what they are like. Heck, even if my store ends up never opening, I at least need to find a place to get my weekly fix, so I HAVE to check these places out. I’ll begin visiting these stores this coming weekend, and I’ll let you know what I’ve seen.

On the whole, though, this does make one question whether the Richmond market is already saturated with comic book stores. I guess it is possible, but having come from the DC area, I have seen that if properly marketed and differentiated, then a lot of stores can coexist without cannibalizing each other’s clientele. In fact, the store I buy all of my comics — Beyond Comics 2 on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown — is literally right around the corner from another store. I don’t want to have a repeat of that situation when I get Big Monkey up and running, but it does make me feel that it is possible for several stores to coexist with one another.

In Closing

Okay, I think that today’s installment was a little dry. But to make it up to you, I am going to post the first part of a three part Hero Clix adventure on the site tomorrow, so hopefully that will bring you back. Trust me, this little experiment in creative writing is well worth reading!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What’s In a Name?

Well, it has finally happened. I have settled on a name. And I want to thank my good friends Dustin Brown and Scipio Garling (of Absorbascon fame) for all of their help in making this possible.

Going into this adventure, I had thought I would name my place "Otherworlds" – hence the name of the ol’ blog. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the sound of it, especially as the focus of the store moved from games to comics. Otherworlds made more sense when I was selling a gaming experience, a chance to visit myriad new worlds and visit, explore, and/or conquer them. But it seemed too...obtuse, too erudite, for a comic store that also will be selling games.

So I began pondering a new name. And Dustin and Scip moved me away from my initial idea of naming the store after the region of Richmond in which I wanted to place it, The Fan. I was gravitating towards Fanboy comics, or Fantom Comix, or some such thing. They pointed out some faults with those names. Then Scip noted the branding potential of placing a crazy adjective alongside an unexpected noun — say Fat Moose, or Sexy Pigeon — and the doors opened.

So, what is the name of the store?

(Dramatic music swells!)

Big Monkey Comics.

I’m just tickled by the chance to answer a ringing phone and say, "Thanks for calling the Big Monkey. Can I help you?"

And the logo possibilities are limitless....

Monday, April 18, 2005

Comics Per Square Foot and Other Stuff

Okay, since my last post a few people — okay, a couple...alright, one — have asked me how I came up with my "number of comic books needed to pay my rent" computation. Allow me to explain, but before I do, let me state flat out that this is a back of the envelope type of computation that really bears only a passing resemblance to reality.

First, I assumed that each comic book I sold would cost $3.00. Most books range from $2.00 to $3.00, but I figured if I factored in trade paperback sales, I would not be totally out of my gourd to suggest that the average cover price of each book is around $3.00.

Next, I assumed that I would get a 50% discount on each book when I bought it from Diamond (the main (only) comic book distributor). This percentage is probably a bit high for the amount of volume I will be moving at the beginning, but it was a good round number to work with.

Therefor, if I sold each comic for $3.00, I would have to use $1.50 of each sale to cover the cost of the product, and I could then use the other $1.50 to pay expenses. Hence, I took the rent of each example and divided it by $1.50 to give me the number of books I would need to sell to pay for my lease.

Of course, there are many other expenses associated with this enterprise — utilities, taxes, insurance, etc. However, there are also additional revenue streams — games, toys, T-shirts, etc. — that would also be thrown in to the computational mix. With the proper level of promotion and luck, one would hope that I could make ends meet.

New Stuff...

I’ve been kicking around on eBay lately trying to get a feel for the costs associated with a point of sale system. As you’d expect, the prices vary wildly depending on what exactly I want to buy (and from whom).

The actual software to run the system looks like it might be relatively inexpensive, about $25 or so. This was actually a lot less expensive than I had thought it would be and the programs would give me more functionality than I could likely ever use. Which is a good thing.

Prices start going up, though, when you try to figure out what exactly you want in terms of the cash register/bar code scanner/credit card machine. I’m inclined to buy everything in a single bundle rather than try to mesh the pieces together on my own. I know this is actually going to cost me more, but if I know going in that on the day I open the store all of the sales hardware and software are actually going to talk to one another, then I look at the extra cost as a piece of mind tax. Of course, if we are talking about a difference in price of over $1,000, then I have to ask myself exactly how much my piece of mind is worth....

On the flip side, I have a computer guru friend who is showing some interest in helping me put all of the pieces together, so that may influence my decisions as well.

I’m pretty sure that regardless of which way I go I will be looking at a PC attached to all of the peripherals as opposed to a more traditional cash register. Since I’m a small store, I just think this will make more sense because I’m not looking for multiple registers feeding information into a central hub. Most likely I’ll have a single computer handling all of the transactions (and transmitting the information to...somewhere else...to keep me from losing all of my data in case someone breaks in and steals the thing).

Furthermore, this would maintain a unified look with the second computer I would have on the sales counter. This computer would have Internet access and be on at all times so that I can show customers important and cool websites that might help to drive up their excitement for a new and existing product. Upcoming movie trailers, websites and forums for particular books and games, comic book news sites are just some of the kinds of information I’d like to be able to show to customers.

Anything you can do to demonstrate to a niche market consumer that they are not the only person enjoying their particular hobby will heighten their own excitement and may very well translate to increased sales.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Square Footage

Okay, not many concrete steps taken this week, but even a baby step forward is still a step forward.

Began pricing out some store fronts. The going rate for the type of locations I’m looking for seem to be in the $10.00 to $15.00 a square foot range. On the whole, that ain’t bad. Especially when you compare it to the square foot cost in Washington, DC where I just left. There it is easy to find $20.00 to $25.00 a square foot costs in the city and in the close in suburbs. And let’s not even talk about the high rent locales where the costs can get just down right scary.

So let’s do the math, shall we?

For a store front Christine — my beautiful and supportive wife — found about 6 blocks from my home and about 6 blocks from the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, the rent is $12.50 per square foot. The store is 2400 square feet. This is a bit larger a space than I am looking for. My guess is that I would probably need about 1,500 square feet to give the store the openness I want while still remaining economically viable at the beginning. But let’s work with this store for purposes of our initial analysis.

$12.50 X 2,400 = $30,000 in rent per year/12 months = $2,500 per month in rent.

In order to pay my rent, I would need to sell at least 1,667 comic books a month. That’s a lot of comics.

Okay, let’s look at this a different way. Let’s say I find a store front that is 1,500 square feet and still charges $12.50 per square foot.

$12.50 X 1,500 = $18,750 per year/12 months = $1,562.50 per month in rent.

1,042 comic books.

(*Deep breath*) That’s a little better.

Did I mention that opening a comic book store was not a widely accepted path toward financial independence? And did I mention that there are a lot of things in life more important than money?

On another note, I’ve decided that I will be updating this site every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday unless events dictate that I update it more frequently. So check back on Monday to see what’s going on!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

And So It Begins...

This is the beginning of my story.

Over the course of the next year or more, I will chronicle the ups and downs associated with my potentially Quixotic quest to open my own comic book store. Hopefully you will find my trials and tribulations to be nothing if not entertaining. In the end, though, I hope that those of you who read this little story are able to enjoy the ride as much as I will.

But first, a little introduction.

I have been reading comic books since 1982 when I bought The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #2 at the Dover Newsstand in Dover, Delaware. From then on I was hooked.

A few months later I discovered the first comic book series that I was totally into (i.e., I rushed to the store each month to buy), Alpha Flight. I loved that book, and it was issue 12, the one where Dr. James McDonald Hudson dies when his power pack overheated/exploded, that I realized comic books could do more than simply tell small stories about crazy people dressed in bright costumes. The art form's unique combination of pictures, words, and pacing could tell tales with true emotional impact.

Furthermore, as I learned over the years, the sheer breadth of the kinds of stories that could be told (superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, porn, crime, mystery) -- as well as the style of story (heroic, dramatic, tragic, comedic, epic, intimate) -- made the art form so much more than an expression of the "adolescent wish fulfilment" into which popular culture and the intellectual establishment wanted to pigeohole comic books.

Fast forward to today (don't worry, I'll talk more about the intervening 23 years as time goes by) and I am beginning to take that deep love of comic books and do something more concrete with it than just buying, bagging, and boarding them.

In just the past three months, I have moved my family to a new town -- Richmond, Virginia -- given notice at my current job -- Director of Marketing for a DC law firm -- and have begun the concrete work of getting a brick and mortar store up and running. My goal is to research the project for the next three months and decide at that point whether I will go forward with it now or wait a year. Why wait a year? Well, at that point my beautiful and supportive wife will likely be going back in to the work force after staying home and raising our two children (now nearly 5 and 2). Given that owning and operating a comic store is not normally the path to great wealth, it might make some sense to have at least one steady income.

But if I was worried about doing the "smart" thing, I would still be the Director of Marketing for a DC law firm. And I've reached a point in my life where I want to succeed or fail with a venture that is all my own. I can always go back to a job that has me sitting behind a desk for 9 hours a day. This is something that I may not have a chance to do later in my life, so I need to grab this opportunity by the horns and ride it for all it is worth.

Either way, you will get a chance to see how it all pans out.

Okay, I think that may be enough for now. But before I go, let me tell you what I have and don't have at this moment with regard to this quest:
  1. Personal enthusiasm for the task ahead -- Got It
  2. An idea of how much storefront leases in Richmond cost -- Don't Got It
  3. Nearly 5,000 comic books to form the back issue section of the store -- Got It
  4. A concrete idea of how to handle the accounting associated wth a store (P.O.S. system, sales and payroll taxes, etc.) -- Don't Got It
  5. An idea of where I am going to get and how much I am going to spend on fixtures and the like -- Got It
  6. An account with Diamond -- Don't Got It
  7. And last but not least, the support of my family -- Got It