When I first decided to track my purchases to a NoMi connection, the main item I worried about was where I would find comic books, graphic novels, and other geeky paraphernalia. I searched and searched for this connection until, like the Hawkman as he found Shelia Saunders and knew she was the reincarnation of his immortal soulmate Chay-Ara...too nerdy? Blame Wikipedia.
The Hot Comics stores - one in New Hope, another in Burnsville, are owned in part by a fellow active NoMi citizen, Duane Atter. Duane also runs The Warren, an artists' habitat near Victory 44. We've been friends on Facebook for a while, and I saw him check in at Hot Comics several times a week. I just thought he was a huge geek. Up until a few weeks ago, I mainly knew him as the guy who photographed NoMi gatherings, but was not Pat Carney. That all changed when I managed to completely stick my foot in my mouth by...
...inadvertently ruining a promotional attempt. Recently, a member of the Fantastic Four died (Hence the "3" picture above). On the day the fateful issue was released, I saw a Facebook post from Duane asking the question of who it might be.
Assuming he was a fellow nerd, I jumped right in and said that it didn't really matter because comic book characters are routinely brought back to life after a few years in order to protect their trademark. (Here's a NoMi connection to a story along those lines.) So any death of a major character is merely the illusion of permanence and he or she will be back sooner or later. Plus, I pointed out, a quick Google search revealed that the dead character was none other than the Human Torch. Bam! Question answered, problem solved, you're welcome Duane.
That's when he told me he was merely trying to drum up business at his shop. Oops. Now I really had to go and check out his place. I believe the location in New Hope ranks pretty high up there in local comic book stores. Even though the City Pages consistently gives Big Brain comics the best comic shop of the year, my experience is Big Brain is by far the worst. You have to pay at the parking meters, the comic book hipster staff play grating music that makes me want to find my purchases and hightail it out of there. The layout is so cramped that new releases are often hidden, so even when I'm in a hurry I can't find what I'm looking for. When I finally make my way to the counter, the sullen workers react with disdain that somebody has the NERVE to interrupt their hipper-than-thou music because--of all things!--they want BUY SOMETHING. In a STORE. Oh, Heaven forbid.
At the top of my list is The Source over in Roseville. Granted, that place is more of a role-playing game store with comics on the side, but their selection is good, the staff are super-friendly, and since I've been going there for years, they know me and what I like pretty well.
Hot Comics is a close second to the Source in my book, which says a lot since this was my first visit. Their layout is good, they have a variety of older collectible toys (I didn't even KNOW they made Robocop action figures), and the staff was friendly. Best of all, the back issue collection is quite extensive. I finally found Daredevil #1, Vol. 2, one of only two issues from this run that I'm missing.
I also came across easily the strangest Hawkman action figure I'd ever seen.
CAUTION: EVEN NERDIER TANGENT AHEAD!!!
What fascinates me about going back and reading comics from years gone by, though, are the advertisements. I especially enjoy the classics like the Charles Atlas bodybuilding ads.
|Image found here.
|Image found here.
Comic books doubling as arms dealers also sold tripod-mounted automatic machine guns for $1.98 and tanks for less than five bucks. Buyers could even pay using C.O.D. It was a different time, when you needed to be able to bulk up instantly and create a small army for pennies on the dollar to protect yourself against the oncoming swarm of sea monkeys. All that seems oddly more plausible than what I found in my 12-year-old Daredevil book.
|A Hulk Hogan kids movie sequel, direct to VHS...can we just pretend the '90s never happened? Thanks.
The bottom of this ad says the album is "available in stores now." "Yeah, right gramps," the kids will say. "People used to go to STORES to buy music? And I'm still trying to comprehend this thing you call a fax machine."
Despite the fact that the comic book I bought made me feel hopelessly out of touch with this generation as I realized I most certainly will die someday, that's not the fault of Duane or Hot Comics. The store is great, and locally owned. I'm now a regular customer, at least while books are still printed on paper.