Brave New Worlds: Comic Books 101

June 2, 2008 7:28:58 AM PDT sat down with a local comic book store owner to discuss the comic industry, its history, and answer some questions even the casual comic reader wants answered. George Stasky is the owner of Brave New Worlds in Willow Grove, PA. Brave New Worlds recently opened a second location in Olde City. Why do people read comic books?

George: It's escape. It's fantasy. It's serialized. Most titles come out monthly, but there's so many titles that come out that people have stacks. They get 14 or 15 titles every week so they're following all those storylines at the same time. It's serialized fiction, escapist material. It's mostly for males, although, there's a ton of great comics for all ages and good reads for females, as well. With regards to female readership, is that different from years ago?

George: Absolutely. As the comic audience, what we call grade, has gotten older from the 1960s, 70s, and into the 80s, the material has matured as well. There're books about politics. There're books about science fiction. There're some westerns coming back. Virtually, all of the genres have been refilled. There're a lot of horror books, interesting relationship books, and things like that. Roughly, how many new comic books come out every week?

George: Though, we're a full line comic store, we don't carry everything, because I don't think anybody can. Here, we'll literally get between 500 to 800 titles a week, depending on how big the week is. For the most part, do you see most of your customers are coming in as readers or collectors?

George: For the most part, everyone is reading everything that comes out now. There's no point in sticking something in a bag and putting it aside. In order for it to have value down the road, it has to be desirable, and how can you even know what's desirable? It has to be desirable at later point in time; there has to be a short supply of it, and everything's collected these days, anyway, in trade paperback, graphic novel format. Anything that is worth reading is always collected and always in print. We have always catered to readers. We do carry old comics that do make good investments, but, generally, it's things that are old, pre-1970, and only in very high condition, which actually the rarity. The books themselves are not rare pre-1970, it's the fact when they are high condition that is difficult to find. Well, one of the most talked about collectable comic ever was The Death of Superman in 1992. Is that worth anything these days?

George: We always sell out of them when we get them back in, but we only sell them for $10 to $15. A buddy of mine who runs a store, he sells them pretty regularly for $20. It does have some value; I don't know how with the amount of copies out there and the amount people who are always trying to sell them, but I don't see people coming in regularly to buy it. Now, that's the key when you're trying to resell something, there always has to be somebody trying to buy it. Honestly, other than the new material that comes out, and the pre-1970s material, everything in between is kind of caught in no man's land. In the comic industry, there are two big players ? DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Is there a huge difference between these two titans, creativity wise or other?

George: DC and Marvel are totally different companies, run totally different ways. DC is owned by Time Warner, and DC has the big iconic characters, for the most part, that most people would know around the world ? Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. Time Warner has been using DC Comics, basically, as a very inexpensive Research and Development department for all their animated projects, some of their publishing, and expanding into different things. Every time, they want to do a new animated project, they already have a wealth of material to go down, dig into, and pull up a bunch of ideas for it. And over at Marvel?

George: Marvel is kind of the opposite. Comics drive the Marvel ship. Even though Marvel now makes movies, they're still primarily driven by their comics and their comic sales.

The characters are different. They came through a different era. The DC characters all started in the 30s and 40s, and they had rebirths in the 1950s. Whereas, all the Marvel characters started in the atomic age, where you had the Red Scare, the atomic energy, and all the original origins of all those characters are tied into those prevailing paradigms at the time. Such as Spider-Man and the radioactive spider?

George: Right, and the Hulk with the gamma bomb, the Fantastic 4 with the cosmic rays and they were in the space race. The X-Men were more of the racial analogy of the racial unrest that occurred in the 60s, where people that were different were treated differently and shunned and kept outside of society.

Everything's kind of redone these days anyway. Whenever a good writer comes along, they take the character and make them fit into the story they want to tell. Over at DC, Batman's origin came out of tragedy, would you say most DC characters were brought upon by tragedy?

George: Not all DC's characters. DC is more set up where it's everything is good and right and heroes are revered and respected, for the most part, versus, another big difference at Marvel, their characters are generally not trusted. The only characters in the Marvel universe that kind of fit the DC mold are the Fantastic 4 and Captain America.

Part 2 is now up to you! Go to a comic book store and learn the vast history of the industry and its characters!