Monday, June 21, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 115

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 42
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 17
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 12
Ken Carson: a key employee


After our narrow “defeat” for the prestigious “Will Eisner Spirit of Comic Book Retailing Award” in 1996, we were all excited to be nominated again for 1997. Ken Carson, our employee with a talent for dealing with details, worked to refine our application for the judges to review. Not much had changed from the previous year but we placed a bit more emphasis on our successful retailing of “back issue” comic books in the information we sent to the judges.

Many comic book stores around the country had noticed declining sales of back issues and some had even made the decision to stop stocking them as part of their inventory mix. Our sales had actually increased because of efforts to keep as much inventory in stock as possible. We wanted to have at least two copies of every back issue comic book in each store at all times. Obviously, that isn’t always possible, but it was our goal. While many other comic book stores declined to buy most back issues, we’d pay a slight premium to buy any issues on which we were running low and we’d buy every comic book that was offered to us in a collection. We established a good reputation because of our “buying” policies. We didn’t just try to buy the very best of the comics; we wanted everything! As a result, we bought lots of comic books every week and became known for our great selection of back issues and that, in turn, increased our sales of back issues. We had the luxury of our huge retail space rent-free because we owned the building, so we weren’t too concerned about using the space to stock the slower selling titles.

Our successful marketing of vintage and modern comic books apparently impressed some of the panel of judges enough that they invited me to teach a seminar at the San Diego Comic Book Convention the week of the presentation of the “Will Eisner Award.” It was an honor to be invited and I wanted to share my ideas with other comic book retailers. I asked the judges if their invitation was a “hint” that I would be winning “The Eisner” but they refused to confirm it. I explained my reluctance to spend $1000 for airfare, hotel and food, and spend a week away from my family, and then be disappointed by losing the “Eisner” for the second year in a row. The judges wouldn’t give me a clue, so I declined the invitation.

As it turned out, I ended up winning the “Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award” that year and I wasn’t present to accept the award. I missed out on one of the highlights of my business career.

A few weeks later, after I received the beautiful statue and the award certification, I contacted the local newspaper in Worcester expecting they would like to run a story about this award but they just didn’t seem interested. I was surprised. The story could have been an interesting local-success-story. We had been a positive and dedicated local business that had now been recognized internationally for its achievements. This award was our industry’s equivalent to “The Academy Award” but the city editor just wasn’t convinced that this was “newsworthy.”

Next chapter: We go back to Nashville, Tennessee to visit our old friends, Gary and Peggy Walker, owners of “The Great Escape.”


  1. Wait, you won an Eisner?! I had no idea!


    Sorry for the lack of comments...I'm still reading but life has been busy. I'll be a more devoted reader into July, promise.

    Hope things are good with you!

  2. Does the average person, who is not into comics, know who Will Eisner was? At least we know.
    Congratulations! (even though it's a little late)
    You have earned it.