Shop Interview with Jason Young of Mavericks
October 11, 2017
Name: Jason Young
Shop: Mavericks Cards & Comics
City: Dayton, Ohio
Year Established: 1983
QRD – What is the first comic you ever bought?
Jason – Superfriends #46.
QRD – What the one comic book that would be the crown jewel in your collection... the comic equivalent of the holy grail for you?
Jason – I have a silver age issue of Captain America signed by Jack Kirby. Probably would have to be that one.
QRD – What is currently your favorite comic on the market & why?
Jason – Paper Girls published by Image. It’s fun & smart & well drawn & always goes someplace unexpected.
QRD – When did you first start working at a comic shop?
Jason – 1991 when I was about to start high school.
QRD – How did you come to own your own shop & what do you wish you’d known beforehand?
Jason – I don’t own it, just the second in command.
QRD – Have there been any particular trends in the comic book market that you’ve found especially exciting &/or troubling since opening your shop?
Jason – When customers start investing in new comics it’s never good. The comics market is healthier when people are buying them to read.
QRD – Have you always focused on comics exclusively or do you find it a necessity to stock toys, games, etc. as well?
Jason – We have had to follow many trends like Pokemon, Pogs, Beanie Babies, etc. to help keep the store profitable. But we’ve always sold comics too.
QRD – Would you be interested in diversifying your inventory or do you think your store has successfully developed a personality that needs preserving?
Jason – We have just about every square inch of the store filled, but would always consider other inventory options.
QRD – How much of a factor do you think the personality or atmosphere of a shop plays in establishing a customer base?
Jason – I think it’s a reciprocal thing. When you start a shop your tastes & personality obviously come out in some ways like how messy or organized the store is & also in what kind of things you stock. I stock a lot of small press things even though they’re not the fastest sellers. But then, if you’re attentive, you start to evolve things to fit the needs of who walks in the door. Our store has sold sports cards alongside comic books for thirty plus years, but as the sports customers gradually started disappearing so began the natural slimming down of our sports card section. What used to be half the space in our 1,500 square feet store is now just a couple of showcases displaying key rookie cards. & the more demands we got for Pokemon items the more we started stocking. You have to be willing to evolve with the needs of your customers sometimes.
QRD – How active of a role does your shop take in social events like release parties, movie outings, etc.?
Jason – We almost never do any of those. We have done midnight release things on rare occasions, but otherwise we stick to just special events on holidays or if we get a local artist in to do a signing or something like that.
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?
Jason – We have done a couple of in store signings for local creators but never for traveling professionals. Our lack of extra room in the store is a big factor in that decision. Our events with local creators releasing their books or doing free sketches on Free Comic Book Day have always been good though.
QRD – Do you believe these types of events create new readers?
Jason – I think it stirs up excitement especially in the younger readers to realize that someone actually draws these comics they like. I know that was a big eureka moment for me when I was a kid.
QRD – Have the comic book summer movie blockbusters & Free Comic Book Day been a boon to your store?
Jason – Definitely. Every time a movie comes out we notice a short boost in sales of that monthly title & especially the trade paperbacks. Once the hype dies down so do usually the sales of the monthlies, but we notice the trades are more active after exposure like that for a character.
QRD – What advice do you have for publishers, writers, artists, & distributors that you think would create more sales?
Jason – Create a better product.
QRD – Do you do things to try to cultivate local comic talent?
Jason – We carry lots of local comics & we take zero profit on those titles. If a book sells for $3 we give the creator the full $3. Also the events I mentioned earlier to give them public exposure.
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?
Jason – We try to show them some of the more exciting titles that are currently being published & of course make sure to find out what their favorite books were & get their nostalgia burning to revisit those books again!
QRD – When people walk away from buying comics, what do you usually hear as their complaint for leaving the hobby?
Jason – Bills. College. Wife. Anything that costs time & money seems to be a likely culprit.
QRD – What are your thoughts (as a business & as a fan) on digital comics?
Jason – Personally I can only read a comic strip or two before I am disinterested. I have always preferred the printed medium. I like turning pages, smelling the paper of older comics; the design of a completed book is a thing of beauty. Of course independent creators can build an online following exponentially faster than they can through print so that certainly seems to be working out favorably for some. Just personally, I’m not a fan.
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?
Jason – Of course it’s not a monopoly. Who would ever think that?
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?
Jason – I would try a competitor the instant one reared its glorious head.
QRD – With the rise in Kickstarter comic projects, do you look for comics for the store on Kickstarter?
Jason – We do not. I have ordered some personally that end up on our small press rack once I’ve read them, but usually in order to get a retailer discount we would have to order many more copies than our mostly Marvel/DC-centric crowd would support.
QRD – When customers say they can get something for a better deal on Amazon, how do you react?
Jason – I get it. It comes down to dollars for most people. But once their local comic book shops have all went under they might start to miss the luxury of being able to look at something in person before they buy it. The experience of shopping at a comic book store is something I’ve always enjoyed & would deeply miss if it was no longer an option.
QRD – What do you think about CGC & the other professional grading companies? Are they a benefit or detriment to the hobby?
Jason – They definitely take the guesswork out of purchasing books sight unseen or online. As long as you agree with whoever graded that book a 9.6 then you can rest assured that book is a 9.6. Except when it isn’t.
QRD – Do you think the drastic overhauls like DC’s New 52 are fundamental for the big two to stay relevant?
Jason – I think as long as they told compelling stories with quality artwork they would have a good product. The drastic rise & fall of sales numbers for each event is like a tide. Stores scramble to keep up with the right order quantities at first & inevitably watch them take a nosedive once readers become disinterested. It has happened with literally every Marvel or DC event I’ve ordered in the last ten years. It’s trying to stay on top of it & cut the orders at just the right time that is the guesswork. Cut them too early & you have annoyed customers who want their Secret Empire or Rebirth or whatever it is... cut them too late & you have a backroom full of unsold copies.
QRD – How well do small press & local comics sell at your store?
Jason – They don’t sell great, but they trickle out & we will always support the local comics scene whether we profit from it or not. I just think that’s an important thing for stores to do for the comics community.
QRD – What do you think of the “wait for the trade” mentality?
Jason – I don’t mind as long as customers let us know they will be looking for the trades. Many trades (main Marvel & DC titles included) we only sell a copy of the trade so our orders reflect that. I would say let your local store know what you are looking for so they can order them properly. Diamond orders are due two months before publication date most times so it helps to know that kind of thing as early as possible.
QRD – In the coming years do you see monthly comics or the trade paperback/graphic novel format being the dominant form of comics?
Jason – Trades are certainly becoming quite popular. I think we’ll always see both from here on though. But trades will definitely increase in numbers. The price point & ease of finding a complete story are both popular factors.
QRD – What “extra” content do readers look for in “deluxe” edition collections that actually makes them buy a book for the second time?
Jason – Story content seems to be the most popular from my vantage point. The sketches & script pages seem to excite only the most die hard of fans.
QRD – Do you buy high-end stock (e.g. hardcover deluxe editions & statues) on speculation for your store or only by special order?
Jason – We like to stock just enough of that stuff to give people something interesting to look at & to let them know they can order that stuff from us. It used to be big business in the ‘90s for us, but now it’s a small slice of our sales pie.
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?
Jason – Definitely & definitely. There are lots of places to spend your money these days. It’s good to remind people you are still one of them. It also gives you the chance to show off what might make your store worth visiting over the others.
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?
Jason – If that happens I bet all comics will be sold online too. Man, what a sad day that would be. Now I’m depressed...
QRD – If you weren’t operating a comic book shop what would you be doing instead?
Jason – Working somewhere I like a lot less.
QRD – Do you have bargain bins & what are the prices of things in them if so & where do the books in them come from?
Jason – We have dollar boxes that we usually only haul out of storage for special events & conventions but we do have tons of discounted trade paperbacks & a couple of dollar back issue boxes in the store.
QRD – What makes your store special to your community that another store transplanted from another city wouldn’t have going for it?
Jason – We have been in the same location for over thirty years so we know our customer base pretty well. We have people who came in as kids bringing their kids in today. It’s definitely become part of the local community that people appreciate.
QRD – What do you think is your store’s all time bestseller & why?
Jason – Hmmm.... we have sold a ton of the Watchmen trade. But I can tell you we have sold well over a thousand copies of Spawn #1 over the years, so probably that.
QRD – How has owning a store effected your own fandom?
Jason – Well, being at the store for 25 years has given me a better understanding of fandom in general. I’ve been a rabid fan since I was wee, but I guess it’s helped me not lose sight of a hobby that I deeply love. It’s perpetuated my love of comics to be around them every day... but I’m betting I’d still love them whether I worked with them or not.
QRD – Would you ever sell the store?
Jason – Well, I’d have to buy it first. I’m the manager. My boss is a fella in his late sixties that will hopefully be there for another 20 years.
QRD – Anything else?
Jason – Keep reading comics! They’re good for you!