Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grey Friday (Slightly Imperfect - May Contain Lead)

You won't find any comic book fans/collectors/hoarders camped outside their favorite/loathsome/middling/mediocre/so-so neighborhood comic shop on Black Friday. If you do see any, feel free to let me know, because it's an unheard of new development.

Some shops might offer a discount on Friday - emphasis on the word some. That's a shame, since I am convinced they would like nothing more than than to actually see stuff move. There are holiday sales, but not  obvious sales. No President's Day sale, but a Memorial Day sale. No Fourth of July sale, but a Veterans Day sale. No 24 Days 'til Xmas sale, but a ChrismaHanuKwanzaRamukah sale during that week leading up to New Year's  Day. No Back-To-School sale (because comics fit nicely in-between the pages of textbooks) but there might be a sale for Back-To-Comicon...(don't-forget-we're-still-here) in neighborhoods within close proximity to any events.

There was a time when I got my hopes up and thought change was in the air. Not Obama-style Change, but a chance for comics to be sold in a new venue - 99 cent stores. It turned out to be just one big fever dream.

The U.S. Government is enforcing tighter regulations banning the sale of any products containing lead. Lead - the manufacturer's friend, used in anything from electronic devices, herbal supplements, dinnerware, paint and, most important, children's toys and printed media. Could it be that all those old toys and books sold in comic shops were going to have to be rid of at bargain prices? Well...no, because technically, that's all grey market merchandise now. Grey Market merchandise consists of items that are sold anywhere but here, because they don't meet government quality control standards, yet they can be sold here in mom-and-pop discount stores, though not necessarily bargain prices. You can buy screwdrivers with handles apparently made of papier mache, wire and cables that do not fit in any of your electronic devices without a bit of give and take, toilet seats made from cardboard or shower curtains as durable as tissue paper.

Ever buy tubes of Colgate toothpaste with Chinese characters stamped all over? How about off-brand wet wipes/shampoo/detergent with Spider-Man on the packaging? It's all stuff you wouldn't find in your local CVS or Walgreens, but they've got it, along with brands of food you've never heard of, or discontinued candy (Fruitzee Rolls, anyone?). How about Flomo stationary? A Yogi Bear coloring book from 2010?
A High School Musical pencil case? Foam stickers of Spongebob Bluepants? Half-finished coffee mugs with Disney characters missing spots of color? A Hannah Montana sticker set, featuring badly scanned photos of a barely recognizable Miley Cyrus? How about some weird Winnie the Pooh robot toys? A large robot toy with the head shaped like the Ben10 character? Cars crayons? How about a CD case featuring Conan Edogawa and Harley Hartwell from Case Closed, but in pink, because the sweatshop that put the thing together had no clue that this was not a show aimed exclusively at girls, let alone young children. There's no such thing as flawed merchandise, so why not flawed comics? Never mind the high content of lead - how about comics from failed companies? Virgin Comics (Richard Branson and Gotham Chopra's attempt at launching comics as potential movie franchises), Crossgen Comics (Mark Alessi's love note to Roger Zelazaney, purchased by Disney before they decided to go for the real deal and stop being cheap), Topps Comics (The Kirbyverse, Jurassic Park, Duckman, X-Files) and Dark Hors - oops! Um..heh, sorry.

What about back issues? That's a tough one, but I would love to buy a copy of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1 for a dollar - wait, I can actually do that now if I wanted... Actually, if this was 1982, there would still be 88cent stores (with tax, all items added up to 99cents). Most of the clothing in these shops come with a sticker tag that cautions that the item is "Slightly Imperfect" - just like most back issues! It's so easy!

What about direct market "exclusive" toys? The kind of toys that actually look dull out of the box, so we leave them in? That's a tricky one...how about behind the counter? That's usually where the cashier keeps the batteries and off-brand DVD-R/+R/pi-R/(x+y=2x)R discs...and the deodorant. 

There we are ... a socially acceptable venue ripe for exploitation!...and while I keep dreaming, I'll see if the comic shop is offering another 15% off sale. I hope they're not charging tax again...

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