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Monday, January 23, 2006

Scenes From a Counter

A guy came into the store today and asked if we had any issues of Deathmate in stock. As surprising as this may be to some of you, that doesn't exactly happen every day. In fact, I've been working at the Wiz for three and a half years now, and I'm reasonably certain that that's the only time it's ever happened.

So unusual was the request that I felt I had to clarify.

"Deathmate?" I asked. "The Image/Valiant Crossover?"

Dude's eyes lit up. And as it so happened, we did have some, and I knew exactly where they were, having a distinct memory of dropping them into the box last week and thinking: "Man, we will never sell these." But, as rare as it happens, I am occasionally proven wrong. This was not one of those times. He ended up buying twenty bucks worth of back issues, and not a single copy of Deathmate. I guess he was just curious.

Not that there was anything particularly annoying about him; just an unusual request that made him stick out from the rest of the crowd. But it served as a nice warm-up to the strapping young lad who came in an hour later smelling of old hot dogs. He wandered up to the counter, eyeballed the picture of Brandon Routh on the cover of Wizard, and said something I've heard at least five times in the past three weeks:

"So that's the new Superman, huh?"

People have started latching onto this as an introduction to a conversation about upcoming comic book movies, which unfortunately is a subject I could not care less about. They seem to be under the impression that the people who work the counter at comic book stores are somehow plugged in to the movies, but, sadly, Bryan Singer just isn't calling up with daily updates like he used to. I have access to exactly the same information that you do, but I just don't care.

That's not to say I wasn't happy to chat with customers about, say, Batman Begins after I saw it, but really: I'm not ticking off the days. The whole thing makes me wonder if people who work in bookstores get this kind of nonsense whenever a novel adaptation comes out.

The exception to this, of course, was the incredibly charming guy who came in today with the most awesome British accent ever, who talked for a few minutes about V For Vendetta. Smashing Terrif!

Anyway, I answered the guy with something between a noncommital grunt and an actual sentence, because my customer service is ne plus ultra. And that's when he dropped the bomb:

"The new Superman. I thought that guy was dead."

The amount of things wrong with that statement is staggering. I mean, I don't know if you guys have noticed, but they make movies about dead people all the time. Even if they're fictional characters. So I mentioned that while Superman was dead at one time, he eventually got over it after a few months and was still having his adventures published on a regular basis. Which led to, of course, this guy telling me all about how he found a copy of "that one where he died" at a flea market, and asking how much it was worth.

"If it's complete and in the bag, about ten bucks," I said.

"Ten bucks?" He said it with the same sigh of disappointment that the last guy I'd told had given me before he explained he was hoping to use that issue to pay off his mortgage. This guy had a much more pragmatic view, however, shaking his head and spontaneously repeating the amount a few seconds later, apropos of nothing, while giving whatever passes for a wry chuckle when one of your teeth has attained an inky blackness, presumably from feeling lonely.

He wandered a few feet away to look at magazines, and I struck up a conversation with Tug about Tom Nguyen's inks look a lot better in Batman than they did in JLA.

The guy snapped his head up. "Who's in jail?!"

If it wasn't for ISB Man of the Hour Ted Long, he'd probably be my new role model.


Blogger Dorian said...

I had that exact same conversation at least once a week when I worked at the comic shop.
My least favorite variation is when they come in first thing in the morning on the day the latest comic-to-film adaptation opened and asked me if I'd seen it yet.
"Uh, no, I have a job. I don't get to see movies in the middle of the day."

And if they're not asking about a Wildstorm comic they don't intend to buy, it's a Valiant comic they don't intend to buy.

1/24/2006 9:43 PM

Anonymous carla said...

wow. We keep our Deathmates in the 25-Cent Comics bin. Or propping up that one faulty chair. I'm sure it certainyl left that feeling of 'Was that a 'test'?' or maybe 'perhaps he didn't realize what a piece of junk it was and needed a reminder'.

Otherwise, never trust anyone smelling like old hot dogs, I guess.

1/25/2006 12:19 AM

Anonymous Lorene said...

Re: Death of Superman comic.

Ah! AH! I knew it wasn’t just me. I share your pain, Chris, and in fact, shared my pain with you back in December. The other question I get at least once a week (and I’m puzzled as to why that question in particular would be asked so much) is, “Do you have that issue of Batman where that dude breaks his back?” (Batman #497) Death and suffering. These comic people are nutcases.

1/25/2006 7:43 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

I've actually never been asked for Knightfall, except by Phil when he was putting together a run for eBay. I have, however, had people come in bragging that they had the one where Batman got his back broken, to which my standard replies are:

1) "It wasn't actually broken, it was just spinal shock."

2) "Yeah, it's in the dollar books."

Alas, to be a Batman fan and a misanthrope!

(From now on, call me... Mr. Xqqgq!)

1/25/2006 10:12 PM

Anonymous Lorene said...

I've actually never been asked for Knightfall, except by Phil when he was putting together a run for eBay.

If you get a phone call tomorrow from someone who says, "So I hear Batman got his back broken, eh? Do you have that comic?"... followed by a giggle... that is SO not me. Honest.

1/25/2006 11:24 PM


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