Even in San Francisco, a city known for being friendly to life outside the mainstream, indie comics get relegated to the back corners of stores. I come to San Francisco once or twice a year, generally for conventions like WonderCon and APE. These great shows for indies, mostly because San Francisco is home to a population that not only understands but reaches out to the underground comics scene – San Francisco even has some some history in the counterculture comics world. So, I’d hoped/thought/wished and apparently falsely believed that the comic book stores here would at least have some love for the small piece of comics that I hold so dear, indie comics. But no, that is apparently not the case.
Waiting for my friends to get back from the Midwest summer tour so that I could crash on their floor, I began to walk their neighborhood and specifically sought out the local comic book store, Cards and Comics Central at 5424 Geary Blvd, 94121, in what is called The Richmond district. When I walked through the front door of the store, I was excited about the amount of stuff that was everywhere – boxes of books and toys from floor to ceiling and the place was active. There was a card tournament going on and the place was vibrant. Although I was not so happy that all of their books, new and old were bagged, making it hard to preview a book before buying it, I was glad to see that they had a huge selection. I started looking through the books to see if any new indie gems stuck out to me but most of the books were The Big 2 (to be expected) and the middle 3 (you know, IDW, Image and Dark Horse). There were no truly indie comics that I could find on the main shelves. So where were they?
After looking around some, I found a hidden-away alcove of beat up copies of books labeled “Alternative”. There they were. Awesome. Well, not really. Most of them were just the ragged few copies that Diamond distribution seems to include in their boxes to stores as incentives to try something new – these are generally the lesser known titles from relatively mainstream writers or comics associated with novels or video games, etc. And while there were a couple copies of books I’d seen at APE and WonderCon, they were essentially hidden and stuffed away in these 5, very small shelves. It was sad, and a little frustrating to see indie comics in a city where I know they sell till relegated to the “See, we have some alternative comics” section. My friends and I are headed for downtown later today, maybe we’ll see about hitting up another store or two to see if it’s any different.