Friday, July 20, 2012

Comic Store Heroes: A Look Inside Midtown Comics

Attention National Geographic Channel: You have a mission should you choose to accept it. The mission is to give Comic Store Heroes a pickup for more episodes. Should you choose not to accept, then you will have scores of disappointed fans.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make: I cannot write this without being somewhat biased. Midtown Comics has been my main comic book store for nearly a decade. During a time when it wasn't as acceptable to be a "geek girl," they treated me wonderfully and barring my leaving the state or some bizarre circumstance I can't think of, they have a life-long customer in me. We also happen to know a few of the people who work for Midtown and think they're great. Now, onwards.

Friday, July 13, 2012 saw the premiere of Comic Store Heroes, a hour viewing, that exposed us to the inner workings of the largest comic book retailer in America, Midtown Comics. It followed the adventures of Midtown crew members, Alex "The Negotiator" Roe, Thor "The Marketeer" Parker, and co-owner Gerry "The Boss" Gladston as they prepared for last year's New York Comic Con.

What I liked most about is the feeling of pulling the curtain back and letting us, the viewers, into the world of Midtown. It was fun to see how Thor and Alex related to each other and how they handled their jobs and the people.

Alex was given two missions from Gerry. The first was to get an additional 10,000 back issues for NYCC, and the second, which I found to be the most suspenseful part of the show, was to track down a near mint copy of "Hot Stuff the Little Devil #1." It came out in 1957. This was Gerry's very first comic, and it's what started him down his path towards to creation of Midtown. I can definitely relate to that. I spent years trying to find the very first Nancy Drew book I ever read because it was the book that made me go from a casual reader to hardcore book nerd. I just wish I had a someone like Alex to help me find the book because you can see how good he is at his job.

Thor's big mission was to book the one and only Frank Miller for a signing at the Midtown booth. I wish we could have seen more of what he went through, but instead we were treated to seeing some of the other aspects of his job, such as getting people hyped up for NYCC.

Last year, Midtown threw a "Not at Comic-Con" party for those of us who couldn't make it out west for SDCC. Wilderowens and I went and had tons of fun. I knew there was filming going on, but I didn't know it was for this. You can tell by watching that fun was had by all. I think Thor told me he had downed a few too many energy drinks, so he could get his "swag" on. An extra treat for me while watching this is Wilderowens appears a few times in a "blink and you miss her" kind of way, and I also got to see a few other people I know pop up. Special thanks to Ted and the Midtown Downtown crew for helping make it a great time.

Another aspect of Thor's job is working with new creators. In this case, it's Christopher Notarelli. He is the creator of The Protector. He went to Thor and asked what does he need to do to get on the shelves at Midtown. Thor gives him the info and off he goes.

Christopher is followed as he not only finishes his comic, but also as he creates a short film to help sell Thor on The Protector. I really admired Christopher's drive and determination and ambition. I thought he put everything into the book, but of all the different elements of this show, he was the one element that I found a little off-putting. He was a little intense. It might have been how the show was edited, but he wanted to be in Midtown so badly, he came across as a little desperate, and when that's added to his intensity... well, let's just say I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley. That said I think Thor handled him incredibly well and that, more than anything I've seen Thor do, and if you read us, you know we go to a lot of events Thor's put together, showed me how good he is at his job. It made me appreciate him more. (That's right, Thor. I think you're great. Please don't let that go to your head. ^_^) While I might not have connected with Christopher as a person, I thought his story was handled well. As to whether he made it onto the coveted Midtown shelves, you should watch the encore presentation of Comic Store Heroes.

One other great part of the show was the customers. Geek girl extraordinaire, Jill Pantozzi, was followed and interviewed about what comics meant to her. It also showed how Midtown customers come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. You had males, females, kids, adults, people in costume and others in business attire. Comics appeal to all types of people, and it was great seeing that realized onscreen. On a bittersweet note, at various points in the show, the late C.C. Banana kept popping up. I only got to meet him once at last year's NYCC, but I heard he was a Midtown regular, and he seemed like a really good guy. It was nice to see him again, if only for a few moments.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I liked seeing Alex haggle for comics and getting to meet a few hardcore collectors like Vincent Pei and Don Corrado, who had an evil villain mustache. I"m not saying he's evil, far from it, but he actually twirled his 'stache. That alone should make you want to see it. I enjoyed watching Thor be Thor, and I loved getting to relive some of the great moments from last year's NYCC. Even in the NYCC footage, there were people we knew showing up (I mean non-Midtown people).

I thought the show was well constructed, entertaining, interesting, and my biggest complaint about it is that there wasn't more. I would have liked to learn more about Gerry and seen more of the inner workings of Midtown. One hour was not enough. I don't watch a lot of reality television because it's not appealing to me. It doesn't hold my interest. I've watched the episode on my DVR three times already. I think there's an audience for the gang at Midtown.

If you don't believe me, see it for yourself when NatGeo presents it again today, July 20th, at 4 pm EST. Watch and find out if Christopher 's comic made it into the store or if Thor booked Frank Miller, or more importantly if Alex found "Hot Stuff the Little Devil #1. You can also just watch it because it's a great show. You can find more information about it here.