Beauology 101: Racking My Brain And Comic Books

Beau Smith-Racking His Brain and His Shotgun.

Beau Smith-Racking His Brain and His Shotgun.


by Beau Smith

I’ve been working in the comic book business as a writer and a VP of marketing for 30 years. I’ve seen a lot and have forgotten a lot, sometimes on purpose. In that time I’ve been in a lot of retail comic book stores. I’ve been in mega stores that rival any major chain bookstore in their prime, and I’ve been in hole in the wall comic book shops where even I had second thoughts of entering without a weapon. I’ve seen the best, I’ve seen the worst.

Racking Comics-Wynonna Earp First! (Models Catrina and Lucas provided by The Inner Geek)

Racking Comics-Wynonna Earp First! (Models Catrina and Lucas provided by The Inner Geek)


I was in a local store the other day just browsing through new releases and also to make sure they ordered enough Wynonna Earp: Legends trade paperbacks (IDW Publishing) as well as my other book, Batman/Wildcat trade paperback, (DC Comics) While doing so, it got me looking at the way they racked the comic books. Made me think of all the variations for racking that I’ve seen through the years.

I personally like it when comic books are racked by publisher. Being an insider for 30 years, I know most all of the publishers and what they produce, so it’s easier for me. I also like it when weekly new releases are set and displayed apart from back stock, even recent. It once again cuts out an inconvenience for me. After all, I am a customer, and things should be made to put me in a buying mood.

Walls Of Wonderful Comic Books

Walls Of Wonderful Comic Books


I like graphic novels and trade paperbacks in spine out, if possible. I understand that not all stores have enough space to present books face out, so I don’t mind cocking my head sideways to read the titles. Again, if it’s a new release, I like it to be with just the new releases. I know others that simply shop once a week and only for new releases.

Some stores rack according to genre. This is fine if you carry and sell mainly superhero books, but if you are a well-rounded retailer, then this can be a problem. I know that I don’t always trust the genre opinion of a retailer to make sure that a book is properly placed within the genre that it belongs. Comic books today are not as clear cut as they were in my youth, when a western was a western and a horror comic was just that…one with monsters. You can also find some that really nitpick and you miss The Fantastic Four because some over eager, smarter than me employee has placed them in the Science Fiction section instead of superheroes.

Editors note: In case you’re wondering, the Westfield stores rack comics alphabetically.

Hey Kids! It's a spinner rack!

Hey Kids! It’s a spinner rack!


In my youth, there were no such things as comics only shops. You went to supermarkets, drug stores, newsstands and even gas stations for your comic book fix. There you usually found what were called “Spinner Racks” Where each wire slot could have 10 or so comic books packed in each one. Depending on the traffic, some were stuffed more than others and others looked like wire skeletons. There were put in no particular order for the most part. I was indebt as a kid to Marvel Comics for putting the “Marvel Corner Box” art in the top left hand corner. I could then flip through the corners to find the desired Marvel Comics I was looking for. DC Comics also joined in with their “Go Go Checks”. That went across the top of the comic book covers. Again, it made it easier for me to buy more comics than I should’ve.

Marvel Comics Corner Box Art

Marvel Comics Corner Box Art


I’ve been in a few stores where they practice what I will call a “unique” style of racking. One northern store stacks all comics, old and new, on top of each other, in bags and boards. You—as a customer—must ask a clerk if they have a certain issue, they will then go to the stack and get it for you. If you want to browse, they bring the entire stack to you. This one shocked me. It was fine that I was visiting, but I don’t think I would frequent the store if I lived in the area, too much work and not efficient enough to make me come back. BUT…I must say, the day I was there, I did buy a lot of back issues, because the prices were excellent as well as condition. (Yeah, I know, I’m hot/cold.)

Another odd store of racking was in the southwest, they were called “Unconditionally Yours”. There was a reason, all the comics, old and new were placed on tables, no order, genre, condition, and style. Like a true rummage sale, you had to look through the books, pick out what you wanted, and then had to ask one of the many clerk how much they were. New comic were sold for cover price, but any back issue was all over the place. Condition was all over the place. The comics were all over the place. Once again, this was a bit unsettling for me…BUT….I did buy a lot of books when I was in there. Great prices and as most of you know, condition isn’t a big deal to me. I’m sorry to say that store is out of business, a few years after my visit there, a larger store owner came in there, made an offer to buy all the stock, a deal was made and a week later they were gone. They went out in a blaze of best offer made glory.

DC Comics Go Go Checks!

DC Comics Go Go Checks!


I guess when it comes down to it, there really is no right and wrong way of racking comic books. Some will make you more money than others, but each will give your customer a unique shopping experience, after all, here it is 30 years later, and I’m still talking about it.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

www.flyingfistranch.com

 

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