Friday, August 21, 2015

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 198






A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.


The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
Ken: the manager of our comic book/collectibles stores
Dave: comic book expert

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP--Part 198

                        “The first Free Comic Book Day event!”

   Our collectible stores were gearing up for two huge events; the special screening and ticket-giveaway for the Spider-Man movie and the very first “Free Comic Book Day.” Free Comic Book Day was conceived by Joe Fields, a comic book retailer, who thought that it would be beneficial for the comic book industry to band-together to promote the comic book art-form. Since this was going to be the first Free Comic Book Day, we had no idea what to expect but we did the best we could to purchase the kind of comic books that might encourage people to try reading some! (Contrary to what many people think, although we give the comic books away for free, we PAY for them all.)

   Dave and Ken wrote the following text to inform the media about the event:

      That’s Entertainment celebrates an American art-form with free comics for everyone!

      On Saturday, May 4th, That’s Entertainment at 244 Park Avenue in Worcester will be giving everyone who visits a free comic book---with no purchase necessary.

    Why? That’s Entertainment is one of over 2000 comic book shops worldwide participating in “Free Comic Book Day.”

   “The goal of Free Comic Book Day,” said David Hartwell, assistant manager of That’s Entertainment, “is to introduce, or re-introduce everyone to the joys of comic books.”

     “Comic books are an original American art-form created in the depression era as affordable entertainment for the masses,” Hartwell continued. “In the decades since, comics’ unique blend of words and pictures has grown, matured, and changed with the times, while providing us with some of the most enduring characters and stories in our popular culture. Also, comics have been an idea-factory for Hollywood---Superman, Batman, The Crow, Spawn, X-Men, Ghost World, and now Spider-Man.”

      Over the course of Free Comic Book Day, participating stores will give away close to two million comic books, ranging in subject matter from high-flying super-hero adventures to intense slice-of-life to crime noir to kid-friendly humor and more. Visitors to That’s Entertainment on May 4th will find a variety of free comics to choose from, including ‘Star Wars Tales,’ ‘Justice League Adventures,’ ‘Tomb Raider,’ ‘Ultimate Spider-Man,’ and many more.

       Hartwell went on to explain why May 4th was chosen as the date for Free Comic Book Day. “With the Spider-Man movie opening the day before, public awareness of comic books will be high and we think Free Comic Book Day will build on that momentum.”

     “We’re also bringing in some comic artists to the store just to make the day even more special,” said Hartwell. “Paul Ryan, who has drawn the Spider-Man comic strip, as well as dozens of other major characters, will be here to chat with fans and sign copies of his work. We’ll also host creators Andy Fish, Tony Antetomaso, and Scott Hamilton, who will all give demonstrations on how comic books are created. It’s called ‘The Pro-Am Comic Jam.’ The creators will be on hand from 3PM until 6PM.”

     “Along with our fellow comic book retailers around the world, we at That’s Entertainment want to spread the word that comics are alive and well in 2002,” Hartwell continued. “That’s Entertainment is one of the largest comic stores in the country, with about 10,000 square feet of display area and we’ve won the industry’s national retailing award. We invite everyone to come to That’s Entertainment on May 4th and see for themselves how vital, relevant, powerful, and just-plain cool comic books are. Best of all, they’re FREE---and we hope to give away a lot of comics!”

Next Chapter: The Spider-Man movie ticket giveaway.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Life With Comic Books: Part 197






A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.


The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
Ken: the manager of our comic book/collectibles stores
Dave: comic book expert

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 197

   In early 2002 we began to think about how we could make a fun event around the upcoming movie release of Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire. The movie seemed like it could be a fun feature-film so we contacted the theater management of the Worcester Showcase Cinema to see if we could have the Massachusetts premiere in Worcester. We had such a memorable event way back in 1989 when we bought out an entire show for Tim Burton’s Batman movie and gave away 500 tickets to customers of our store and we hoped to do it again with Spider-Man.

   After several frustrating phone calls with the new management, it became clear they didn’t understand how big an event the premiere could be for the city of Worcester. It would be easier for them to let the premiere happen in Boston.

   Sony Pictures, the studio producing the movie, was clever to release the film on the same day as “Free Comic Book Day,” a brand-new national event celebrating comic books at comic book stores. We knew this could be a huge opportunity to educate consumers about how fun comic books can be. We negotiated with the Showcase Cinema people until we had the best deal we thought we could get. We ended up buying 500 tickets for a 9AM special screening at nearly 2 ½ times what we paid for the Batman tickets! This would NOT be a cheap event but we were excited to offer a “free” fun day as a “thank you” for our loyal customers.

   Ken and David worked out most of the details because I was still living in New Hampshire. They lined up several comic book artists who agreed to create free sketches for customers who attended the Free Comic Book Day store activities after the movie. Ken contacted our friend Hank, a local radio celebrity, and arranged for two of the local Worcester radio stations to get involved in promoting the event. In late April of 2002, Ken sent out the information to the local press and media outlets. This is what he wrote:

“That’s Entertainment of 244 Park Avenue in Worcester will give away 500 tickets to a special free screening of the new Spider-Man movie. Paul Howley, owner of That’s Entertainment sees the event as a way to show his appreciation to the people who have been his customers over the past twenty years. A long-time Spider-Man fan, Howley looks forward to seeing the movie with a whole theater full of Spider-Man enthusiasts.

   “The giveaway will begin at 10:00am on Saturday, April 27, at 244 Park Avenue, and tickets will be given away on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis, one per person aged 13 or older. No purchase is necessary.

   “A week later, on Saturday, May 4th, the lucky ticket-holders will gather for the screening at 9:00am at Showcase Cinemas Worcester North, 135 Brooks St.”

   “Spider-Man was created in 1962, and has always been one of the most recognizable pop-culture icons,” Howley explains. “Right from the start, he was unique among comic heroes, kind of a nerd or book-worm, who suddenly is given amazing powers. Now, on top of high school problems, girlfriend problems, job problems, etc, he has to take on these fantastic criminals! In his first story he learns that ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ That theme resonates as strongly today as forty years ago.”

   “Radio Stations WTAG and WSRS will be promoting the event beginning April 22. They will conduct on-air contests for some of the tickets and they’ll feature interviews with Howley and comic book creators.”

   “In 1989 Howley offered free tickets to a special screening of the Batman movie and was very happy with the response. “I think Spider-Man will be even more fun than the Batman movie.”

   “The day of the screening, May 4th, is also National Free Comic Book Day. That’s Entertainment will participate by offering special edition comic books free to customers, no purchase necessary, from 10:00am-8:00pm. One of these comics is The Ultimate Spider-Man #1.”

Next chapter: I can’t resist driving the 110 miles to be a part of the ticket giveaway!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Life With Comic Books Part 196





A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.


The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 196

                   “The Senior Class Cruise: The Final Chapter.”

  The students in my daughter’s high school senior class were really exceptional young adults. They were polite, considerate, and they cared about each other. For the most part, they obeyed the rules that the school had set. However, one young man struggled with an addiction to cigarettes.

  If any student was observed smoking, they’d be suspended from the school. If my memory serves me correctly, they might be suspended even if they smoked cigarettes at home. The rule was in place so that the students would carefully consider the consequences before they began smoking. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop Cassandra’s classmate from smoking. We spoke with Jake (not his real name) and warned him that if he was caught breaking the rules about smoking while he was on the senior class trip, he could be suspended from school and that could affect his ability to attend the upcoming graduation with his class.

   Jake expressed his serious concern that he couldn’t possibly avoid smoking for the five days of the trip. We told him we understood but we’d still need to enforce the rule. One of the chaperones who had smoked cigarettes for decades before he quit, spent some deep one-on-one time with Jake to help him get through this difficult situation. Jake protested at first but he realized that he needed help. The chaperone taught Jake about the concept of “consequential thinking.” Decisions shouldn’t be made without thinking of the consequences of our actions. For some, this may seem obvious, but for others (especially young people) this isn’t quite as natural.

   Over the course of the trip, there were some tearful moments and some loving encouragement for Jake. As far as we know, he was able to resist the temptation to smoke for the duration of the class trip.

   Several weeks later, the senior class participated in “Senior Day” at the school. This is a short program for the seniors to impart some of their wisdom to the younger students. The soon-to-be-graduating seniors sat at long tables at the front of the gymnasium and answered questions from the audience of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. When asked, “What was your favorite school event?”, several students declared that the cruise was at the top of their list. They learned about working towards a long-term goal (raising and saving the money needed to pay for the trip) and they learned to enjoy new experiences.

   They were asked all sorts of other questions and all of the seniors seemed to have some good thoughts to share. But for me, the coolest wisdom given to the audience was when Jake shared the importance of consequential thinking.


Friday, March 27, 2015

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 195



A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.


The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 195
  
   After our entire group of Cassandra’s senior classmates and the chaperones boarded the cruise ship, we all met upstairs on the Lido deck to eat at the lunch buffet. We organized a meeting in my stateroom for everyone to get together to go over the “rules” of conduct.

   When we originally booked the cabins for our daughter’s senior class trip cruise, we knew that we needed to keep the expenses low so that all of the students could afford to go on the trip. We booked the most inexpensive cabins available; inside cabins on a lower deck of the ship. Mal and I paid for our own accommodations and we booked a very large suite so that we’d have space to have meetings of the whole class in our room. Once everyone was clear on what was expected of the students as far as behavior goes, we all headed out in small groups to explore the huge ship.
 
   While we knew the students quite well and we knew they were mostly decent, responsible young-adults, we didn’t want the close proximity of alcohol and casino gambling to be too tempting for any of them. One of the rules for the trip was that students must stay together in groups of at least three students. That way, they’d be accountable for each other’s behavior. When our group was on-shore there would always be an adult chaperone with the students, but while on-board the ship, the students could be together without supervision. This worked out nicely. We did, however, need to speak with two of the boys regarding their interest in flirting with some of the non-classmates on the ship.

   As a group, with input from the students and the chaperones, we agreed that all of the students needed to be in their staterooms by 1:00AM. Activities on cruiseships usually end around 3:00AM but we wanted everyone to be rested and eager to start each day. We had quite a lot planned for them.

   On the first night, we all met up in the assigned dining room for dinner where we had several large tables reserved for our group. We decided that we would mix things up by switching the seating each night so that the students would get to spend time with other classmates over the course of the cruise. There are hundreds of choices of food items on cruises and we encouraged the group to experiment by trying foods they’ve never had the chance to try before. Lobster, escargot, filet mignon, duck, vichyssoise, gazpacho, New Zealand spring lamb, sushi, and more. There were also lots of great-tasting deserts including cherries jubilee, baked Alaska, crème brulee, and the most popular desert of all…warm chocolate melting cake! (Did I mention the warm chocolate melting cake?)

   Dinner on a cruise ship can be a long process. If you eat in the main dining room your dinner will consist of several courses. There are appetizers and salads. There are a variety of soups. Then comes the entrée, followed by desserts. (Did I tell you about the warm chocolate melting cake?) It’s not unusual for the entire dinner to take an hour and a half. Of course, there are several other quick service locations around the ship to get other foods if you don’t want to spend a long time in the dining room. But, the purpose of this senior class trip was for the students to get to spend time together as a group, so we opted for dinner in the dining room each night.

   After dinner our exploration of the huge ship continued and at 9:00 PM until one of the chaperones announced that he was going to bed. He was accustomed to getting up very early each morning but he usually went to sleep early at night.

   Um…no. Sorry, I know we’re all tired from a very long day of travel but we all need to do our job as chaperones to ensure the safety of the students. As exhausted as he was, he persevered and was a great help for the rest of the trip.

   Anyway, since this isn’t meant to just be a detailed description of the entire cruise, suffice it to say, we had lots of fun together. Over the next few days we rented motor scooters, toured Key West, snorkeled in Cozumel, Mexico, did some shopping, saw some shows, and relaxed at a warm beach. Through it all, the students were respectful, grateful, and well-behaved. Well…almost all of them.

Next chapter: Consequential thinking.