Life plays out differently for everyone. Some people have had twenty-three different jobs. Or more. The way I see it, that’s a lot of work experience! I’ve only had two jobs in my life. That’s just how it worked out for me and the rarity of that isn’t lost on me.
I’ve been with Acme Comics officially for twenty three years as of September 23rd. Considering that the store opened in 1983, I could be the longest continuous Acme Comics employee, I have no idea. In some ways it seems like I’ve always been here. Thing have been so busy I thought about not writing up anything at all this year, but then I decided that I did have something to say.
I was recently reminded by someone who played a direct role in my involvement with Acme Comics that despite my in ability to see it, and bouts of Imposter Syndrome, I have had a consistent vision for what I wanted this business to be. As of this writing a second figure from the past told me as much, also without prompting. I’d never heard that articulated before, but thinking about it now, it may be true. It certainly wasn’t any sort of directive or vision or multi-year plan back when I began volunteering here just coming out of my teen years.
It was always important to me to display our comics and graphic novels in a way that made sense and showcased it in the best way possible. I can’t remember the first display I built here. I’m sure it likely that featured something new with pertinent back issues. Graphic novels were not as common and all encompassing then as they are now, so featuring the actual back issue comic book was the thing to do. Back issues were and still are my specialty! As I look around the store right now, most of the displays I see were not arranged by me personally. I may have refined one or two, but the aesthetic is there! The display for the House of X and Powers of X (Ten) features not only all of the first printing mini series issues, but pertinent graphic novels. X-men Grand Design for those wanting to do a concise yet deep dive into the history of Marvel’s Mutants, X-men Second Genesis and Deadly Genesis for new readers who want to see how long Krakoa the Living Island has been tied to the destiny of Charles Xavier’s teams, and more. This goes beyond cold and clinical terms such as genre racking. This speaks to an intentional attempt to connect comics’ past and present in an eye catching and informative. At this point, I think it is hard wired into the DNA of Acme Comics and will always be something visitors can expect to see here in some form or another.
Another thing that was important to me then and still is today, is the idea that Acme Comics could be the “THIRD PLACE” in people’s lives. The First Place being the home and the Second Place being work. This goes beyond retail basics such as simply greeting and interacting with customers. Before I ever knew the terminology for the Third Place, I knew there was something special about Acme Comics. I didn’t know what it was, but it was. It is literally what led me to volunteer my time after my actual paying job here until a position came open and here we are twenty three years later. It is the thing that causes people who have traveled out of state or even out of the country to visit us as soon as they arrive back at Piedmont Triad International Airport. Before they go home, they visit here. The frequency at which that happens as always amazed me! The prevailing sentiment is that everyone, no matter their knowledge level of comic books or pop culture, feel welcome here. Welcome may not be the right word. Let me amend “welcome” to “comfortable.” I can’t speak from direct experience because of my long history with comics on both sides of the counter, but I have heard that comic book stores can be intimidating. I can believe that. If I were to visit an auto parts store, bad example because most people know what they are looking for there and are not browsing, I would likely be somewhat out of sorts. I may not know exactly what I needed or where to find the item I needed in the sea of inventory. Again, this is a bad example because I do know more than nothing about auto parts, but hopefully you get the analogy. I love answering questions and, though I may not impart the sentiment, all of my decades of accumulated comic book knowledge is at the our clientele’s disposal. If I knew auto parts to that degree, that is the way it would be. And if we don’t know something then we try to use out powers to to get answers. The world of comic books can indeed be noisy with bold images, decades of history, and the appearance that everyone already knows everything instantly. If we do our job correctly, if being ambassadors to the world of comics is paramount in what we do here, then the potential for everyone to feel like Acme Comics can be one of their Third Places will endure.
SIDEBAR: On Wednesday September 25th, The Acme Comics Graphic Novel Book Club will celebrate its third anniversary! The book club concept was entirely new ground for us, but we took a chance and it is now a clear evolution of the Third Place idea. Ours is not the first graphic novel book club, nor is it the only graphic novel book club, but ours always impresses me with their insights. Meetings take place once per month after close and anyone can attend to discuss the graphic novel being spotlighted. Hearing from experienced and entirely new readers for material from Watchmen to Deadly Class has been both fascinating and illuminating. If you are interested in participating search for Acme Comics Book Club on Facebook for more information.
I haven’t had any formal marketing classes so to speak, but I have learned through active trial and error, successes and failures. Although this award was recently produced from the archives of my Junior year at Grimsley High School. I have no memory of this at all, but maybe it is some sort of proof that I am on some sort of retail Determinist destiny. If so, I’m still excited about it!
All that rambling was said in preface of saying this. During my time with Acme Comics, whether I knew it was happening or not, a certain core principal was set that became permanently bonded to this place. I believe that principal still endures twenty three years later and continues to set us apart from any other store. That is the foundation from which we launch new initiatives and objectives. With this in mind, the potential for the growth of Acme Comics remains strong. Necessity requires vagueness, but I have ideas to reaffirm our core principals and brand new concepts that I am curious to experiment with. The senior staff here has amazing plans beyond anything I would have considered that I am genuinely excited to be a part of.
To say that 2017-2018 were trying times is an understatement. We have endured and here in 2019 we are galvanized. I’ve said it for twenty three years and I will say it again: Acme Comics isn’t going anywhere. You can count on us. With your support through Twitter retweets, Facebook shares, Google reviews, new people constantly find Acme Comics. We remain a Greensboro institution since 1983 and a destination for comic book fans as near as Burlington NC and as far as Germany and South America. That means a lot to me and all of us here. That lets us know that we are on the right track.
Something else that lets us know we are on the right track is when supporters like Cameron here let us know what Acme Comics means to them. The plan is to continue to grow while living up to the high standard that he’s set for us.