-This is clearly Harlan Ellison's fault. (Link via the Beat.) UPDATE: Paul O'Brien beats me to the joke. Foiled again.
-Hey, since there's so much discussion of what we want to see in a comics shop here lately, let me share my thoughts with you: I just want to see comics I don't own and want to purchase. Preferably comics I've wanted to buy for a long while but haven't been able to due to a variety of circumstances. Other things are less important to me--the music being played, the cleanliness of the store, the odor emanating from behind the counter--I just want a place where I can buy desirable comics. Of course, I don't want the store's myriad odors to transfer to the pages of the books I've bought, but I haven't had that happen yet.
But now that I think about it....
When I lived in Columbia, SC, one of the better record stores in town was a tiny, tiny store about three or four blocks from campus called Papa Jazz. It was owned and operated by two old hippies who were really into free jazz. So the store was constantly filled with the overwhelming scent of patchouli and the overwhelming sounds of Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler or whoever.* Meanwhile, browsing the store's stock required a great deal of maneuvering between bodies, which almost always entailed some unpleasant flesh-to-flesh contact. To shop in this store was to subject oneself to complete sensory overload. That's probably why I only went to it once a month, for a marathon perusal of their stock. (Later, when I got into old surf and garage, I went there much more frequently. But those were quick, in-and-out trips.)
The other big record store in town (Manifest), the one situated next to the big comic store in town (Heroes and Dragons), was more like my every week store. Manifest actually had greater breadth and depth of stock than Papa Jazz, plus it was spacious, well-lit, and generally odor-neutral. The music was frequently bad, but that's just kind of the way it goes in a record store. And, unlike Papa Jazz' loud, incessant free jazz, the bad music which played in Manifest didn't cause parts of my brain to glitch out. Papa Jazz had an extensive used section, so that alone would have encouraged us to go there occasionally; it also had a much larger selection of shady-looking bootlegs, reisssues, and compilations. But Manifest was much more pleasant, even though it was much less convenient to my dorm (and later my apartment).
So yes, when faced with a choice between a smelly, cramped, loud store and an odor-free, spacious, loud store, I chose the latter. That all would have changed, however, had Manifest's stock been less impressive than Papa Jazz'. In fact, now that I'm an old man no longer interested in the latest offerings from Lookout! (or their 2007 equivalent), I'm much more likely to go into Papa Jazz when visiting Columbia; Manifest seems to cater to a different kind of consumer than the 30-year-old version of Dick Hyacinth. But if I were still living there, facing the reality of Papa Jazz being the best record store in town, I'd probably buy more of my records by mail order.**
*I actually kind of like free jazz now, but I didn't at the time. Plus, it's a genre of music I want to control when I listen to it; it's not so fun to have it thumping your medulla oblongata while you're trying to decide if you really want to buy that OOP Milkshakes album that's going for $15 used.
**Hypothetically speaking. Do they still make compact discs?
-Thanks to everyone who suggested places to buy mini-comics and small press comics online, both here and at the Beat (special thanks to Heidi for circulating my request). The good news is that I've found several sites with tons of comics I want to buy. The bad news is that I can't possibly afford them all. At least I know where to go should I discover a bag of money on the side of the road.