Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Window Blind

Last week a few retail professionals and at least one strip author touched on the window displays of Comic Book stores. While they did it as a gag I wondered about the advertising mindset of the comic shop proprietor myself.

One of my favorite bookstores of the past was Bookstar. I say the past because while they are yet around they have changed. Bookstar always had interesting window displays, changed it frequently and unless I miscalculated the level of corporate oversight involved, the displays were inspired solely by the wit and artistic talent of the staff.

San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy also has cool themed window displays and were usually interesting enough to lead me to check out whatever genre or author they were pushing that week when I visited them to pick up my SF and Repairman Jack fix.

Most comic book store window displays however, have all the attractiveness of a depressed urban area liquor store. Don't misunderstand, I'm not ripping on LCS owners at all. The product they sell can sometimes limits their ability to create attractive displays. Overhead must be high and few stores have the cash to lay out for seasonal window paintings, props and monthly or seasonally-themed art. While shop proprietors undoubtedly want attractive displays bringing in the casual shopper, placing a current copy of a book in a window guarantees it can't be sold later due to sun damage. Other than Joe Q, sunlight is the ultimate nemesis of the local comic book store.

Comikaze, one of my favorite places to get comics and action figures, was brave or foolish enough (can't decide which) to place collector items in the front window. Often I passed by on my way to the Asian restaurant nearby and glanced at the window with regret at the neat stuff bleached of color by the unrelenting assault of UV radiation. Seeing the limited edition Simpson's Monopoly game washed of most color (yet still going for full price, tsk-tsk) was heart-breaking.

The local Comic Gallery, which I patronize the most, has a small window they fill with posters advertising events or popular characters. While the use of posters has the desired effect of shielding the interior from getting damaged by sun the posters are usually bleached out by the time the cross-overs are done with and are just unattractive.

One store in San Diego that does not exist any more still had up for display posters announcing the George Perez Wonder Woman run several years after the comic had changed creative teams a few times over. The guy running the place must have been the lazy type because the posters were nearly white from age and exposure. It was only until you got up close that you could make out the pale image of Wonder Woman. From a distance the store appeared closed and looked like the windows were covered due to construction.

While comic book posters in the window are a friendly sign to the fan peering forlornly across a mall parking lot for a place to buy comics and utilitarian for the shop, haphazard poster placement also has the undesired effect of giving the store the appearance of being amateurish, trashy and cluttered.

I'm a comic book reader so I'll go into a store regardless of how the exterior looks as long as there are no loitering junkies holding lead pipes hanging around outside. How I get treated inside makes me decide if you get my money or not. I doubt comic shops can afford to rely only on loyal fan sales to get people in the door, though. As a consumer I'd like to see a changing window display. They can be fashioned inexpensively, allow people to see in and out and can still protect the interior against heat and damage. The casual shopper and their children will more likely enter a place that doesn't have rows of dust-encrusted, neglected Gundam models and aged Death of Superman posters in the windows.

Tags & Links: Find a Comic Book store


  1. If I had a comic shop, I would invest in a color laser printer, scan a bunch of favorite covers, and fill the windows with cool poster displays. When somethind faded, I'd replace it with another printout, with no valuable comics sun-damaged.

  2. Yeah, I'd do that too. I was going to mention that but I figured they could figure that out for themselves.

  3. What always surprises me is how long it takes for a well-known solution to a problem to propagate out to the people needing it. I see this a lot in my programming job as well, people commonly invent their own (bad, incorrect, needlessly elaborate) fixes for issues that were solved elegantly in the early 70s.

    A quick Google search reveals one possible solution to this one, the first link looks like a good example.

  4. Good find! Doesn't look too expensive but then I'm not a shop owner and couldn't say if it would be worthwhile for those who prefer 'poster-chic' to a more professional presentation, like Bookstar does.

    Case in point: The photo of a comic store with the bop bags out front reveals it has a nice large display area behind the glass suitable for groovy genre-related stuff or cute puppies used as customer-bait. Instead of setting up a cool display to bring in non-comics customers who might otherwise walk by they opt to instead completely cover the glass with crap.


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