Welcome back, Indie effendis, to another of our interviews with members of the Los Angeles comics scene. This week, retailer Henry Mardiroussian chats with us about that greatest of non-denominational holidays, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Henry is the Manager extraordinaire at my local comic shop, Legacy Comics & Cards, conveniently located in scenic downtown Glendale, right next to the Americana mall.
Full disclosure time again: Henry’s been my friend and drinking buddy for the past decade, and we’ve gotten into some pretty crazy shit together. In fact, Legacy was the first comic shop I discovered when I moved to LA.
Okay, with that personal aside aside, let’s dive into some talk about FCBD, Valiant Comics and, of course, beer…
FAT: Henry, let’s start at the beginning. How long have you been a retailer? What drew you to comics in the first place?
HM: I have been a retailer for 20 years. As a kid, I loved reading MAD magazine, but once I found out about superhero comics, I was hooked to their story lines. It was great reading Spider-Man and Green Lantern every month and seeing them defeat their nemeses.
FAT: Moving from the Bronze Age to today, what is your take on the current comics reader? From your perspective inside the store, what are the average age, background, and interests of your readers? What are the current “hot” books that your customers enjoy currently?
HM: I think current comic readers now a days only read main titles and don’t divert from them. Average age of my customers are young adults. Most of them are interested in big events that happen in the Marvel or DC universes. Currently, the hot books are the DC New 52. They have had a huge impact on old and new readers.
FAT: I have noticed several indie comics on your shelves (among those mine, I’m happy to say). As a retailer, how do you determine which indie books to take on and devote shelf space? How do you balance that against “sure sellers” like X-Men or Batman? Basically, what do you look for in an indie book to make it good enough to be displayed at your store?
HM: Sometimes we look into Indie books that our customers have pre-ordered but, most of the time, it is the fame of the writer or the artist.
FAT: Is there anything else indie comics creators can do to improve the chances that their books will get picked up in a store like Legacy? In-store signings, personal phone calls to retailers, etc.
HM: Coming in personally works. For example, we did not know about Nonplayer the comic, but the father of the artist came in and let us know about it, and we decided to carry it after we looked at it.
Anyway, moving on to the raison d’etre of this interview, can you please describe, from the retailer perspective, Free Comic Book Day? How do you order the books? When do you get them in the store? How do you promote the event within and around your shop?
HM: Free comic book day is a great way to get new customers interested in comics they might have otherwise never considered.
We order the comics months in advance, and pick about 20 titles that we think people would enjoy reading. The store receives the free comic book day books about a month in advance. We use posters, bags, book marks, and the local libraries to promote this event.
Every year since this event started, we have donated a good amount of free comic book day books to the libraries to give out. We also advertise with Facebook.
FAT: Do you notice any increase in sales either on Free Comic Book Day or immediately thereafter? If so, what kind of “bump” do you experience?
HM: On FCBD, we usually have an increase in sales. Unfortunately, there is no increase in sale after that day.
FAT: Then why keep doing FCBD? Is it a big enough one-day boost to justify all of the work that goes into promoting and then running the day in your store?
HM: It is a fun way to promote the store, we have been doing it for a decade now and, yes, the one day boost in sales is really good.
FAT: I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you – what’s your take on digital comics? Do you see them eroding any of your business? Would you ever consider selling digital comics through your store’s website or Facebook page?
HM: I don’t like the idea. Most comic book fans like to go to the store and pick up the actual comic book. That said, we actually are selling digital comics through the store at this time. A lot of Marvel and DC and even some Dark Horse comics come in digital format.
FAT: I know you have many, but what is your craziest retailer story?
HM: It’s 7:55 Thursday night, I am getting ready to close the store and leave, and a Toyota Camry rammed into the store through the window. I am just glad I was not at the register.
FAT: Good lord. To think that we almost lost you… so, try any good beers lately?
HM: On Friday, my brother and I bought some beers from Mission and one of them was amazing. Firestone Stout.
FAT: Thank you for that recommendation. Now, what are YOU reading and enjoying right now?
HM: Now a days I love reading Indie comics, such as The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Thief of Thieves, Whispers, Nancy in Hell, but my favored book is Punishermax, if it ever comes back.
FAT: Totally agree about Luther Strode, Henry. I just got the trade a couple of weeks ago, and it’s probably one of the best books I’ve read in the last two years.
Finally, Henry, I know that you are a fellow Valiant Comics fan from back in the day. So much so, that the vanity plate on your car still reads ETRNLWR. What do you think of the relaunch? I have to say I’m pretty excited to get my hands on X-O Manowar #1 and the FCBD Valiant Issue!
HM: I am looking forward to the relaunch. I hope they don’t let us down.
FAT: Truer words were never spoken, my friend…
Thank you, Henry, for your time and answers and, of course, for supporting Indie comics at your store and with your own purchases. Folks, please make it a point to visit Legacy Cards & Comics at 123 W. Wilson Ave., Glendale, CA 91203 during your next visit to gorgeous Glendale. They really do stock an amazing assortment of indie comics, as well as the full complement of mainstream books, too. Be sure to tell Henry that Richard sent ya, but do keep an eye out for runaway Toyota Camrys. Until next time…
Richard A. Hamilton is a Los Angeles resident for 12 years running and the writer/publisher of Return of the Super Pimps and Miserable Dastards. On his free time, he seeks out new Indie comics, local beers, and –on good days — both.