Photo by Hans Isaacson on Unsplash

It was 1978, I was 26yrs old, living in Kent, WA. and working at JC Penney. My roommate and I threw a party. A female guest commented on the comics I had left out on the coffee table. She surprised me when she mentioned her boyfriend had a ‘Comicbook Store’. My response was, ‘What the hell is a comicbook store?’ Up to this point in my comic collecting life I’d gotten my comics from 7-11 spin racks. It amazed me that there was a store that sold comics, just like a furniture store only sold couches and recliners. She told me where this comic store was, it was in the heart of Seattle. Up to this point in my life I’d gone into the city only a few times. The weekend couldn’t get here fast enough. I wasn’t really familiar with downtown, but I soon learned to navigate the hills and streets of Seattle.

Walking into the store I was gobsmacked by all the comics. Not just the usual Marvel and DC comics but also there were underground comix (as underground comics were spelled), and what would become a growing part of the comic industry, independent comics. I was shocked to learn Marvel and DC weren’t the only game in town. To this day some of those early independents survived but the majority disappeared over the years.

The store owner was cool, and I would buy comics from him over the next ten or more years until I would go to work for him. I managed one of his stores in the 90s. But that’s another story for another time.

Working and living with a roommate I had disposable income. Granted some of that extra income went to booze and “ahem” drugs(no real excuse other than it was the 80s) but the majority I invested into comics. For the first three years after my discovery of the comicbook store I was one of the store’s best customers. In the comics industry, comics arrive every week—except the week between Christmas and New Years when there was a break for the holidays—and in those weeks there could be thirty-forty titles to choose from.

And if you didn’t want to visit your comicbook store every week, so you didn’t miss your fave title, stores have a system in place where customers ask the store owner to put aside a specific title when that title arrives. It’s call a “pull” file or subscription. My “pull” file was crammed every week. I was introduced to many artists, writers, and comic titles I’d never have experienced if I’d never discovered the comicbook store.

Changing jobs, my childhood dream of being a radio DJ became a reality, but the pay was miniscule compared to my earlier job. My pull file took a big hit when that happened, but I still couldn’t let go of my comic obsession. That obsession did provide a small investment savings for a future endeavor called The Comicbook Detective.

I became pickier when it came to my comic purchases. I went from buying almost every title in a given week to some weeks where I walked out of the comic store with one comic. Not that that happened very often. Actually, to be honest it never happened. If it was a week where none of my favorite titles shipped, I still couldn’t help failing to avoid my comic obsession.

When my radio job went away—something quite common in the radio industry—I started looking for another job. This time though I had a little help. My preferred comic store where I discovered weekly comics recommended me to a local comic distributor out of Portland, Ore. So, for the next couple of years, I was immersed in the wholesale side of comics. I became the manager of the Seattle distribution warehouse.

Because of that work connection I met quite a few comic creators. In that time I went to lunch with Peter David during his Incredible Hulk run, I saw the movie, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, with Tom DeFalco when he was editor-in-chief at Marvel—it felt weird that I was leaving work in the middle of the day but he was the EIC of Marvel so…and I also met a lot of cool local comic creators.

As a distributor we were wined and dined by Marvel with a paid trip to Disney World in February. I walked on the plane in rainy, cold, Seattle and walked off the plane in 85 degrees and 100 per cent humidity in Florida. That was a trip to remember that would only be bypassed a few years later when I attended a DC Comics retreat in St. Louis. For fifteen years I had a good run in the wholesale/retail side of comics.

In 1989 I went to work for Zanadu Comics. One of the premier comic stores in Seattle. The store that introduced me to comicbook stores. The owner of Zanadu Comics, Perry Plush, turned the perception of comic stores, being dark and crowded with a bunch of sweaty nerds, who were socially awkward, on its head.

Gone was the Simpson’s Comicbook guy. He replaced comic character T-shirts with clean button down shirts and personal hygiene that included showers every day. It was a business that happened to also be a hobby. And I was hired as the manager of his second store in the University District (so called due to the University of Washington being a half a block away from the business district the store resided in). The U-district location quickly became a popular destination for not just college students but also all comic collectors. But the main location in downtown Seattle was still the go-to for many collectors. Even collectors visiting Seattle soon discovered the two stores and sang praises for our diversity and excellent customer service.

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