Monday, May 31, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 104

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 41
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 16
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 12


In our pursuit of the “Will Eisner Spirit of Comic Retailing Award,” the comic book industry’s equivalent of the “Academy Award,” we needed to have visual evidence of many of our claims of excellence. Luckily for us, we had two customers, Memo Salazar and Aaron Banyai, who were talented filmmakers.

I had been involved in minor parts of two previous film projects of Memo’s; one was a very funny look at a local county fair and the other was a low budget, full-length movie in which I portrayed the owner of a comic book store (what a stretch!) My “big” scene was filmed in my Fitchburg store one night after we closed and although the finished scene was only about four minutes long, it took almost an hour to film. Although I was apparently snubbed by the Academy of Motion Pictures (and didn’t even get an Oscar nomination) it was still fun to be part of the movie-making process.

Memo offered his creative gifts to make a short video about our store. He filmed the store building, the displays of new product, back issues, and collectibles. He interviewed customers who were willing to give “testimonials” about our service and vast inventory. He filmed some of our key employees as they described their function in the “That’s Entertainment” hierarchy. In this video, Ken explained about our commitment to creating a pleasant shopping environment while David explained our philosophy of ordering new comic books and related products. I was filmed describing our combined decades of experience in the comic book hobby and business and our commitment to expanding the community awareness of both the comic book industry and our store.

Memo used a clever technique to try to convey the huge size of our store to the viewers. He placed himself on a wheeled cart and filmed while Aaron moved the cart up the aisles so the whole length of our retail space was apparent.

When Memo was finished editing, Ken packaged the videotape, all of the pictures, testimonial letters and documentation needed for the panel of judges. I was confident that this package would convince the judges that we were worthy of this award. A few weeks later I was contacted by one of the judges and he asked me if I’d be interested in organizing a retailer seminar at the San Diego Comic Book Convention (where the Eisner Award is given out) on successful retailing of back issue comic books. I was honored that they thought I could offer sound advice to my fellow retailers and I thought that, perhaps, this invitation was a hint that I was to receive the Eisner Award. I told the judge that I’d be interested in attending if I knew I was the winner but he wasn’t able to confirm anything for me. I wasn’t thrilled about spending almost $1000 for plane tickets, hotel, rental cars, and food, only to be embarrassed by the Eisner Award being given to another retailer. Since the panel judge couldn’t give me any confirmation, I felt I had to decline the offer to attend the award ceremony. In my opinion, it really isn’t “an honor to be nominated.” It’s only an honor if you actually “win.”

I’m glad I didn’t go. We didn’t win the “Eisner.” A comic book store in Australia beat us. I’m quite sure that they’re out of business now.

Next chapter: Ken runs a great new event: The Pro-Am Comic Jam.
Picture: Paul with Mr. T

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