Shop Owner Interview
with Jesse James of Jesse James Comics
Name: Jesse James
Shop: Jesse James Comics
City: Glendale, AZ
Year Established: 2009, August 28th
QRD – What is the first comic you ever bought?
Jesse – Jan. 25th 1982 Friendly Neighborhood Comic Book Las Vegas. Avengers #129. Read it over 34+ years now about 500+ times page by page. It’s in the centerpiece of the store & part of my culture & history.
QRD – What the one comic book that would be the crown jewel in your collection... the comic equivalent of the holy grail for you?
Jesse – I have three Amazing Fantasy 15s… though cool to have... My Holy Grail is my Avengers #172. I bought it the day I met Jack Kirby.
QRD – What is currently your favorite comic on the market & why?
Jesse – I’m a HUGE Lazurus fan. Rucka & his team has hit this out of the park on every issue. Forever is just a strong character & really growing both in the obligation to her family & she is coming to a sense of reality of what’s really happening. It’s the only comic I have circled on the calendar for its release date every month.
QRD – When did you first start working at a comic shop?
Jesse – March 25th 1982 Friendly Neighborhood Comic Book Las Vegas. I worked for comic book bags & boards & of course comics. I was 12 years old & running the store by myself by 13 years old.
QRD – How did you come to own your own shop & what do you wish you’d known beforehand?
Jesse – I was pretty much in the retail business for a long time. Always management jobs at every level. When I left I had two choices & comics beat out the other choice. My background allowed me to come into this business ready to roll.
QRD – Have there been any particular trends in the comic book market that you’ve found especially exciting &/or troubling since opening your shop?
Jesse – I don’t really follow trends. We create lifestyles with all comic book genres or titles. We pretty much steer away from anything deemed “the comic book way”… everything is based on consumer behavior status or anything we can sell a good portion of the inventory both online & in the store.
QRD – Have you always focused on comics exclusively or do you find it a necessity to stock toys, games, etc. as well?
Jesse – We are a Lifestyle store. So Harley Quinn should have socks, perfume, keychains. However Transformer comic books don’t really have to have the toys. We pretty much stock up on Walking Dead, Deadpool, & Harley Quinn & stay consistent regardless of what else is hot. We don’t chase short term hot product.
QRD – Would you be interested in diversifying your inventory or do you think your store has successfully developed a personality that needs preserving?
Jesse – Comic book store are run by the fans wallets. They pretty much dictate our success or failure. Our job is to maintain the culture & tradition of comics & also be great ambassadors to all the publishers.
QRD – How much of a factor do you think the personality or atmosphere of a shop plays in establishing a customer base?
Jesse – Most customers shop because they like the store or the team. However a true comic book fan goes wherever to complete their collections. I hope customers shop everywhere in our city, not just our store. Though we have a strong culture & tradition at our store. We know we still have to work harder at giving a better experience each time. WE did however win best customer service in the industry last year in NYCC with the Diamond BPAs. This has made us a better store but we still have a lot of work to do.
QRD – How active of a role does your shop take in social events like release parties, movie outings, etc.?
Jesse – We are tremendous social wise. We have over 49,600+ fans that follow us on Facebook. WE have hosted two huge Kickstarter parties over the last two months. We have doodle nights & host all national comic book events. Of course we have one of the Biggest FCBD which last 72 hours.
QRD – Do you do in store events with local comic creators or ones doing a book promotion tour? What do you feel has to be done for those events to be worth it to you?
Jesse – I’m not sure “worth it to me” matters. If it’s good for the fans, that’s what matters. Fans are our #1 priority & nothing else. In 6 years we have had over 500+ people sign at our store all knowing their sole purpose to is to take care of the fans.
QRD – Do you believe these types of events create new readers?
Jesse – No, new readers are created by inviting them to a new issue day. They have tons of options, not just one. We don’t want our fans’ future based on a store signing they happen to come to. We would rather have them come to the convention every Wednesday & see new great product from 100s of different writers & artist.
QRD – Have the comic book summer movie blockbusters & Free Comic Book Day been a boon to your store?
Jesse – Movies absolutely not. Comic book movie fans are much different from comic book fans. Movie fans are more the Hot Topic fan, not really comic book driven but merch driven. Though we might see a 2% bump, it’s not sustained enough to matter. Now when Harley & Deadpool movies come out, we can rehash the conversation. FCBD is a great day to foster back to your community & we get a nice 6 month bump from it.
QRD – What advice do you have for publishers, writers, artists, & distributors that you think would create more sales?
Jesse – More handshakes via phone, email, text, or in person. We sell more when we know the people of the industry, not the brand. I know most of the people in this industry. They are great & their sales soar in our store weekly. Image is our #1 selling publisher in the store. They are true leaders & are passionate about helping my store be just as successful as their brand.
QRD – Do you do things to try to cultivate local comic talent?
Jesse – We use to. I challenge the community to be relevant everyday. If they are just relevant at conventions or store signings, they are not working the business. We open our store to them to do as they will to be successful. Our Doodle Nights have been a 6 year success. I’m willing to sit down with those that understand business, not just the comic book world.
QRD – When a new customer comes into the store with little experience in comics or having left comics for a decade, what do you to cultivate their interest in comics in general & your store in particular?
Jesse – Listen. Listen & then when you’re done, listen. Your customer will tell you what to show them. We spend way too much time telling customers what not to buy instead of selling them what they want. Our business isn’t about the “fish of the day”.
QRD – When people walk away from buying comics, what do you usually here as their complaint for leaving the hobby?
Jesse – Comic book fans don’t leave, they just get rebooted down the road.
QRD – What are your thoughts (as a business & as a fan) on digital comics?
Jesse – LOVE IT!!! Greatest thing since baxter paper! This is great for our industry. We make a lot of money off of digital & can foster younger new fans to floppies because of it. Anybody who owns a store that hates it probably should go sell stamps or coins. It’s not going away, so you need to find a way to make it part of your business.
QRD – Can you tell us your opinion on Diamond Comics Distributors in regards to their exclusive deals with some of the bigger publishers... is it a monopoly?
Jesse – Be the store they do the deals with. Diamond is only a monopoly if you run your business “the comic book way”. I think Diamond is a great company, but not the only company. I deal with over 15+ warehouse & 25+ dealers a month. Diamond is about 60% of my over all floor inventory. Work your business, shake hands, kiss babies, & try not to take too many lollipops from your competitors. You will need them somewhere down the road.
QRD – Do you feel like the quality of service Diamond provides would keep you from trying a legitimate competitor if one were to spring up?
Jesse – I work with everybody. Like a comic book fan I have to go wherever I have to to get the books for our customers. I don’t have time to wait. Our next convention is next Wednesday every Wednesday.
QRD – With the rise in Kickstarter comic projects, do you look for comics for the store on Kickstarter?
Jesse – Not a fan of Kickstarter. For a long time they were a great group fund to help out new creators on their projects. Now it’s just a money grab for Kickstarter & their company has no integrity in protecting the fans or the hard working creators anymore.
Now for Kickstarter Projects I will support as many creators as I can that are showing they are going to produce a great product & something my fans will like.
QRD – When customers say they can get something for a better deal on Amazon, how do you react?
Jesse – Beat Amazon. Take care of your customers. This business is about turn rates & margins. If it helps your bottom line, sell that customer everything. I price match everybody on anything. I sell comics & service. I’m not here to worry about a couple of dollars. We pretty much are lower than Amazon on just about every book, so it doesn’t affect us too much. Amazon in my mind over charges for their product.
QRD – What do you think about CGC & the other professional grading companies? Are they a benefit or detriment to the hobby?
Jesse – Awesome part of our industry. Anything to protect our fans comics is a great thing. We are facilitators & believe every customer should have options. Keep in mind CGC fans are 2% of the industry, but spend more per book versus the 98% that don’t grade their comics. The best way, not to be detrimental in this business is to be the business in every aspect of it.
QRD – Do you think the drastic overhauls like DC’s New 52 are fundamental for the big two to stay relevant?
Jesse – Relevance is only dictated by the fans. They will determine who is successful. Since Image is my number #1 selling publisher in the store. We don’t look at overhauls, we look at how many books are on the shelves every Convention Wednesday & are they relevant to those fans that day or whatever day those fans get the new release.
QRD – How well do small press & local comics sell at your store?
Jesse – We don’t look at any comic as small press or local comics, they are all comics. They go in the proper genre area based on the book itself. Why have a local section? You will only sell to a smaller amount of our business. Several of our top books are in the DC/Marvel section because their theme matches something of theirs. We turn our local & indie books just as well as the known books.
QRD – What do you think of the “wait for the trade” mentality?
Jesse – Cool, I have to worry about everybody buying floppies or the trade, it all evens out. If I’m worried about the trade buyer, then I’m losing business. All fans are the same no matter how or what they buy.
QRD – In the coming years do you see monthly comics or the trade paperback/graphic novel format being the dominant form of comics?
Jesse – After 34+ years, I see whatever format a customer wants it to be is what we will sell.
QRD – What “extra” content do readers look for in “deluxe” edition collections that actually makes them buy a book for the second time?
Jesse – Your staff should be there to help them make that decision by listening to them & seeing if this is something they would even like. Every Convention Wednesday new product comes out & we have to figure out what is relevant to their likes & needs.
QRD – Do you buy high-end stock (e.g. hardcover deluxe editions & statues) on speculation for your store or only by special order?
Jesse – The best sale is a customer with a bag in their hands when they leave the store. Now that bag could be heavy or light or multiple bags. But if you are buying just for special orders, you’re looking at a lot of half filled bags or no bags at all. We buy everything & make sure we can sell to the secondary market if it doesn’t sell before the next Convention Wednesday.
QRD – Does your store exhibit at comic book conventions? Do you think having a presence there is a crucial part of bringing in new customers?
Jesse – We used to a lot. Now we buy sponsorship & ad space. Shaking new people hands & speaking on panels is more important. Cons are only relevant the 3 to 4 days they are open. We have to be relevant on Monday after they leave. So what type of imprint we leave is more important to us than selling a comic at a booth.
QRD – If fifty years from now all comics are digital, do you think there will still be shops where people go to buy the physical relics that we all read today?
Jesse – I’m not understanding the question. This business is built on back issues & people like searching for a book & feeling them in their hands. There will be more comic book stores than ever & all will sell the heck out of back issues.
QRD – If you weren’t operating a comic book shop what would you be doing instead?
Jesse – Reading comics & traveling to stores across the nation. Filling my holes in my comic book series that are not completed yet.
QRD – Do you have bargain bins & what are the prices of things in them if so & where do the books in them come from?
Jesse – We have 50,000 + comics in our $1.00 store. We buy out stores, lot sales & liquidations. I don’t wait for collections to come to me I go out anywhere & buy everything. I don’t cherry pick, we buy EVERYTHING they have.
QRD – What makes your store special to your community that another store transplanted from another city wouldn’t have going for it?
Jesse – We just sell comics. We aren’t special, we just sell what comic book fans want.
QRD – What do you think is your store’s all time bestseller & why?
Jesse – Readable comics are our greatest. I’m not about one title or character. I think we would insult someone by not picking their character or comics as the greatest.
QRD – How has owning a store effected your own fandom?
Jesse – It hasn’t, I have a separate life from the store as comic book fan. I buy from the store & pay the store with my own money. I’m still a comic book fan first before a store owner.
QRD – Would you ever sell the store?
Jesse – Yes, of course. Anybody that says no, doesn’t understand business. Sell it & use the money to make a better one.
QRD – Anything else?
Jesse – If you took away the movies, cosplay, TV shows, podcasts, & web pages. We would just have comics books left. That’s the greatest thing we can have -- a comic. Everything else is a plus, but not needed to enjoy your comic book collection.
Finally, there is nothing you can’t do in this industry unless you listen to someone tell you that you can’t.