A Comic-Book Sidekick of Your Very Own?
Brandon Zuern, the affable manager at Austin Books & Comics and its tony pop-art twin Guzu Gallery, says there's no actual partnership between Half-Price Books and ABC's new Sidekick Store.
"No," says Zuern, "we don't have any kind of a deal with them. I think we even had to make sure that it was okay for us to open a used comic-book store near a used book store. But we got clearance on that."
And there it is now, the re-opened Sidekick Store – well, opening on Friday, July 6th, to be precise – selling extremely discounted comics & posters & other pop-cultural merchandise, from its new site in that warren of little storefronts & offices directly behind Half-Price's flagship store there at Koenig & North Lamar.
Frankly, to us, the situation seems like a perfect synergy: We can't imagine visiting one store without visiting the other. But if we're especially jonesing for back issues & old story arcs of our favorite superhero mags, that Sidekick Store is where we're heading first.
Story arcs, did we say? Where certain narratives might extend through several issues of a title & maybe cross over into a few other titles while the plot thickens and the fate of the universe hangs in the balance? Yeah, that epic longforming can be a little tricky to track down through multiple comics and – but, wait! The Sidekick Store's already done that legwork for you, true believer!
"We take some of the hunting work out of back-issue collecting for our customers," says Zuern. "We've made all these bagged sets of story lines, whole narrative arcs, miniseries. In some cases, we've gathered entire runs of comics. We had a complete Strangers in Paradise set last time I checked."
Let's note here that Austin Books & Comics' central store has a certain huge section of back-issue longboxes (in addition to just about every new comic & comics-related program activity in the whole damn world) within their welcoming, well-appointed interior. And that the Guzu Gallery next-door to that shop is – well, the Chronicle's Marc Savlov has already covered that here.
Now let's ask the two questions that we've personally been wanting to know the answer to, regarding all this back-issue business and the collector mentality thereunto pertaining.
Brenner: Brandon, even with all the vast stock y'all have, are there particular issues of comics that you're always looking for – that you'd never turn down the chance to buy?
Zuern: Well, aside from the obvious – although I should say I'd buy Amazing Spider-Man #1 all day long – but for modern comics that there's some quantity of, I'd always buy Wolverine #1 – either the miniseries or the long-running series. I'm always looking for New Mutants #98, which is the first appearance of Deadpool. X-Men #266, the first appearance of Gambit. Amazing Spider-man #252, which was the first appearance of his black costume. And, along with that one, Secret Wars #8 and Web of Spider-Man #1.
Brenner: And why Secret Wars #8?
Zuern: That's the origin of Spidey's black costume. And these are all what I call modern classics, in that there's always someone new to comic-collecting, and these are issues that they're always looking for. And they're not super-valuable like Silver Age comics, they're fairly easy to get, but I'm always running out of them.
Brenner: Ah, okay. And, conversely, are there back issues of comics that people are always trying to sell to you that you won't buy? Things from at least, like, 15 years ago, so maybe there's a certain time-value or rarity or whatever, but you already have enough of the damned things?
Zuern: Uh, Spawn #1? But that's not even true – because it sells, people do buy it. But that's the one I hear about the most and I think, "Ah, I already have it." That, and The Death of Superman. Because that's the one that everybody has multiples of, and they want to sell it, expecting it to be worth some money – but it's one of the most overprinted comics of all time. And, again, the first twenty issues of Spawn – everyone has them and nobody cares. I mean, I do have new collectors who are into it and they're looking for the issues that are hard to find. But that's, like, #30 up through #150. Those didn't have such a high printrun – basically because everybody stopped buying Spawn after the first twenty issues.
Brenner: Ha! *cough*
Such a sad state of affairs for the creation of the celebrated man who first put the gnarly kink in Spider-Man's webbing. But then, we prefer the artwork of that other fellow, the San Antonio-based artist who drew Sidekick Girl, the newly re-opened store's intrepid avatar. (Hell yeah, Paul Maybury!) And, who knows, maybe one day you'll see him or Ernie Cline or Kristin Hogan or Uncle Staple rummaging through the diverse goodnesses of the expanding Austin Books & Comics empire.