Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 202




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 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #202

 

   My daughter’s eighteenth birthday was coming up soon and she wanted to do something special for this “milestone.” We rented a banquet hall in a nearby town and hired our nephew, Jesse, to be the DJ for the event. Cassy invited over fifty of her friends from her high school and almost all of them confirmed that they’d attend. While it was mostly going to be a “dance party” we’d also provide food and beverages.

 

   While the planning for her birthday bash was ongoing, we were still working on the high school musical play that was coming up near the end of the month. “The Truth About Cinderella” was a comedy musical that would feature over thirty-five students as actors and about a dozen students and adults involved in the backstage areas including set design, costuming, choreography, makeup, and vocal preparation. The play would be directed by Brenda Carney, a talented volunteer and the school’s drama teacher. I wasn’t very involved this year but I did coordinate the ticket sales at our new performance location at the Newfound Regional High School in Bristol, New Hampshire.

 

   The play was a success and it was nice to see several “new” actors take on larger roles than they had previously done in the past four years of the drama program.

 

   As Cassy’s last year of high school was nearing the end, our lives were pretty busy. We had lots of details to take care of to wrap up the school year. In late May, the senior students put on the “Senior Banquet.” At this banquet, parents and friends are invited to a dinner prepared and served by the junior class and entertainment including students from both the senior and junior classes. My parents drove up from Massachusetts to be there. I remember it being a nice evening but at the end of the night, representatives of the senior class asked me to be the speaker at their high school graduation ceremony! They must have been crazy! I accepted the invitation but then I was told that I’d have to wear a suit and tie! YIKES! For the past four years, I’ve pretty much worn a white t-shirt and blue jeans every single day.

 

   Cassy had been accepted into the Musical Theatre program of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida for the fall. Mal and I discussed the idea of moving to Florida to be near her, just in case she needed us (or, more likely, we needed her!) We had recently bought a cottage in Alton Bay, New Hampshire that we were renovating and we had a large home in Gilford, New Hampshire. We’d need to try to sell the Gilford home before we could move. We had torn out the main bathroom in the Alton Bay cottage and we were having trouble finding a good carpenter to rebuild it. Everyone we knew in the building business was very busy on other projects and couldn’t help us.

 

   We called several real estate companies and set up appointments with them so they could pitch us their marketing ideas on our home in Gilford. After each representative gave us their plan for selling and marketing our house, we’d say, “Well, while we’re considering all of the potential realtors, if you know of anyone seriously looking for a house like ours, we’d be happy to give you a one-day exclusive right-to-sell agreement.” One realtor snorted, “Oh, we don’t do business like that!” Another pretended that they’d consider it but it was pretty clear that they were not really interested. The fifth realtor, Judy McShane, said, “Hmmm. Let me think for a minute. I might have someone who’d be interested.”

 

Next Chapter: The craziness begins!

 

  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 201


 

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 #201

 

   After Adam’s accident, we began to receive bills from the local community hospital where the paramedics had brought Adam’s body. Adam had died in the car, but at that time, paramedics could not “pronounce” someone dead without a doctor being involved. So, about a month after his death, the hospital began sending the bill to our address. It was upsetting to see Adam’s name on the envelope. I called the hospital billing department and I explained that Adam was an adult so I shouldn’t be responsible for the bills. He had insurance that covered eighty percent and the final balance would not be paid. They apologized and told me to ignore the bill.

 

   The next month we received another bill for the same amount. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt…perhaps this bill was already processed before I had communicated with the billing department. I called them and they told me (again) to disregard the bill and they’d be sure to stop sending the bill to me.

 

   The next month, when I received the bill again, I went down to the hospital to speak to someone “in charge” to settle this. The people I spoke with seemed interested in getting this straightened out and by the time I left the hospital I felt confident that this was settled. But, of course, it wasn’t.

 

   The next month, not only did I get another bill for the exact same amount, I now got a “demand notice” with the threat of the bill being turned over to a collection agency if I didn’t pay the bill right away. I made another trip to the billing department at the hospital and explained that if they didn’t stop billing me, I’d start looking into their outrageously expensive charges, including the charges for two sets of chest x-rays and the charges for TWO doctors to examine the x-rays of my already-dead son. I also made sure to remind them that I have no legal obligation to pay this bill. The head of the department assured me that he understood and he’d personally see to it that I would no longer be billed for these expenses.

 

   Amazingly, I did not get another bill the next month! But I did get a phone call from a lawyer claiming to be representing the hospital and the collection agency. She was demanding that I take care of this bill right away. I explained to her that I have NO legal responsibility for this bill because Adam was an independent adult. She threatened to put a lien against Adam’s estate. I sarcastically laughed at her and told her that Adam’s “estate” consisted of some used music CDs and about six pairs of baggy-jeans. I told her, “If the hospital is that desperate for money, you’re welcome to come over and pick out some things you’re interested in.”

 

   Instantly, her attitude changed. She said, “Would you like me to represent you in a lawsuit against the truck driver and the trucking company who collided with your son’s car?”

  

   I replied, “Why would I sue them? My son collided with them. It wasn’t the truck driver’s fault!”

  

   The lawyer explained, “Very few trucking companies properly maintain their vehicles so they COULD be found liable.”

  

   “You’re a disgusting weasel,” I exclaimed. “How do you live with yourself?!”

 

   That was the last I heard from the hospital and their legal representatives. Now, I’m sure that there are a few nice, competent people working at that hospital. I personally know two doctors and a few nurses who work there and they seem professional and courteous. But for me, after three terrible experiences with incompetent and rude employees, I’m DONE with this local hospital.

 

   Since Adam had no legal will prepared, I needed to hire a lawyer to “settle” his estate. Adam had no money and he didn’t own any property but it still took nearly a year to go through probate court. It was a relief to have that unpleasant part of this over.

 

 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Life With Comic Books Part # 200





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 #200

   I’ve never had a dream that I believed to be any more than just a dream. I know that many cultures and religions believe that some dreams are inspired by God and I’m certainly not disputing that belief. It’s just that, for me, most of my dreams seem to be the result of thoughts that have been going through my head before I fall asleep. But I did have one time that my dream seemed very real.

   I feel the need to explain something first. When Adam went off to college, there were times when I would barely think about him for several days. I knew he had started his new life away from us and our lives were quite busy. But after his accident, I really haven’t had ten minutes in a row without thinking of Adam. It’s not an obsession. I’m not haunted by the memories of him. It’s just that so many things remind me of Adam. Television, clothing, music, foods…the list seems endless. Anyway, I had this dream about a year after Adam’s accident.

   It was a very cold winter day and Adam and I were on a long wooden toboggan getting ready to slide down a huge hilly road ( to be specific, it was Kent Drive in Hudson, Massachusetts). Even though, in reality, the steep part of Kent Drive is only about a mile long, in my dream it seemed as if it was several miles long. I was holding on tightly to the edges of the toboggan and Adam was holding onto my shoulders. For some reason, Adam wasn’t the twenty-one year old Adam... he was twelve years-old and I could hear his typical stuffed-up nose while he said to me, “Dad, don’t worry, there’s no reason to cry…I’m fine.”

   We spent the rest of our ride together laughing and enjoying the thrill of the steep hill. When I woke up, I knew it was just a dream. Even though it wasn’t real, I felt relieved….Adam was safe and happy.

 

  


Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Life With Comic Books Part # 199




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
Hank: former owner of the comic book store we bought in Fitchburg, and current Worcester radio celebrity

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP--Part 199

“The Spider-Man movie ticket giveaway”

   Even though Ken and Dave had everything under control and all of the details were worked out well in advance, I was excited enough about the ticket giveaway event to drive the 110 mile trip from Laconia, New Hampshire to the store in Worcester, Massachusetts. I wanted to be a part of this fun event.

   Ken had designed an attractive commemorative movie ticket that featured a vintage illustration of Spider-Man on it. It looked great! That’s Entertainment in Worcester would be giving these tickets away to the first 500 people who came to the store on April 27th, 2002. While there was no purchase necessary to get one of these tickets, we obviously hoped that while people were at the store, they’d look around and find something to buy. This event was going to cost us thousands of dollars so it would be nice if our sales increased a bit to help cover the expense.

   Hank Stoltz, a Worcester radio celebrity and former owner of the Fitchburg comic book store we purchased thirteen years previous, arranged to do a live broadcast on the radio during the ticket giveaway.

   When I arrived at the store I was pleased that the store and the staff were ready to welcome the customers who would come to get their free ticket. A long line of people were already waiting outside. Hank was waiting for me at the table that Ken had set up at the far end of the store. We reminisced about Hank’s former store and we talked about current comic books while we waited for the doors to open at 10:00A.M.

   When the doors finally opened, the customers came to our table and we were surprised at the excitement of everyone who got a ticket. While most people understood that we could only give one ticket per person, there were a few people who tried to get us to give them five or six tickets for family members who weren’t there with them. We explained that we could only give them away to people who actually came, in person, to get the tickets. The line remained steady for a few hours until the final ticket was given away.

   At the end of the busy day, sales were very good and everyone seemed to have a fun time. I knew that the following Saturday (the day of the movie screening) would be even more fun!

   I drove back to New Hampshire that night, thinking about the long drive back the following week. You see, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I REALLY don’t like driving long distances. I drive a lot. It usually seems like a waste of time being stuck in a car for hours. Driving isn’t fun, but for me, it’s better than flying. It’s probably because I think I’m more “in control” if I drive.

   So, on Saturday morning on May 4th, I left New Hampshire again to drive the two hours to get to the theater in time for our special showing of the Spider-Man movie. After the theater filled with people I took the opportunity to welcome everyone and explained that after the movie, we hoped everyone would go back to our Worcester store to have fun during “Free Comic Book Day.” Apparently, I didn’t need to worry. When the movie ended I quickly drove to the store and was pleasantly surprised that the store was already packed with customers. We gave away thousands of comic books to eager customers and it seemed like everyone was enjoying the festivities. (Just a side-note: We give away thousands of comic books but we PAY for these!)

   Next chapter: I dreamed a dream of days gone by.

  

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!