Dear Lazyweb, what's your favorite online comics shop?

I've been using Midtown Comics for several years now, and they're mostly fine, but there are some annoyances:

  • They have no recommendation or discovery mechanism to speak of.

  • When I read a review of a new series somewhere, it's usually 3+ months before it has been published, and until that happens, there's no magic button for me to press saying "send this to me when it's out." So I usually end up forgetting about it and missing it entirely.

  • If you subscribe to a series when it's at, say, issue 6, there's no way to tell them to start your subscription at issue 1, even if those are all in stock. Sometimes they ship issue 5, sometimes 7, so I either end up with dups or have to wait for two shipping cycles to figure out what I missed.

  • They have no way to subscribe to trades. Sometimes I'm happy waiting until 6 or 10 issues of a series have been bundled up into book form, rather than single issues.

  • For the Big Two / underwear pervert titles, I wish there was a way to say "omit any issues that are in any way a part of an 'event' or 'crossover' because I absolutely do not care and those are always awful." But I know we'll never get that.

Please note: I do not read comics digitally and am not interested in hearing about that. I like paper.

Update: I find myself now forced to delete every comment where, in answer to a question about online subscriptions, responds with "why don't you just go physically into a store, during a plague?" Fucking knock it off. No.


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17 Responses:

  1. I don't understand why comic books are still a thing when trades are right there if you can just have a little patience.

  2. Martin Schröder says:

    Are there no decent comic shops in the Bay area? Why order online when you have some in the same city?

    • jwz says:

      Because I find the experience of shopping for comics at in-person stores inconvenient, frustrating, time-consuming and generally awful, which is why I haven't done it since the 90s.

      Also you may have noticed that THERE IS A PLAGUE GOING ON.

  3. jwz says:

    I am now just deleting every comment responding to a question about buying things online with "why don't you just go into a physical store during a plague instead".

  4. Keith says:

    I use I cannot say if it is better but it is the pain I have grown used to.

  5. ek says:

    One of the reasons I have not set up an online comic shop was the presence of larger sites such as Midtown which I could not possibly compete with, especially with regards to margins (larger accounts get slightly favorable rates from Diamond), a deep back-inventory, and a dedicated shipping staff.

    But if there is genuine interest in paying a premium over sites like Midtown, I am totally game for setting up a bespoke subscription service.

    w/r/t a "don't send me event books" option, this is an interesting problem as depending on the series, you may or may not be in for a narrative hole when they resume normal programming. Typically events usually have an issue checklist though, so from that POV, it should be doable.

    What other wishlist features would folks want from an online shop?

    • jwz says:

      I was mostly joking about the "event books" thing, out of frustration at the most recent few Marvel issues that arrived. I mean, I don't read Doctor Strange because I give a shit about Wolverine or whatever.

      My primary frustration is "here's an upcoming book I just heard about, and nobody will take my money".

      There was some other subscription service I used in the past that did have an option for "wait for the trades", and I miss that.

      • ek says:

        If there's a Diamond code for the upcoming book -- that should be no problem for most retailers -- in fact, it's a convenience for them, as that allows them to get better numbers on their ordering.

        I've never used this store but they take the step of putting the Previews catalog in a searchable format which even Diamond's site doesn't do well. The buttons suggest you can use it to order in advance.

        The bigger problem is often times these books don't ship on time, or at all.

        One thing retailers have been clamoring for is to have returnable books. There's a slight chance this may happen as the comics distribution system is no longer a monopoly. That in turn would allow retailers to take back your Dr. Strange/Wolverine team-ups -- not sure if that would work on a subscription model with postage costs, though.

        Typically, short synopses of issues are released in advance, so it's conceivable someone could add a bit of editorializing warning you an upcoming issue looks dicey.

        With a decent-sized subscription base and pricing, I might be able to credit the cost of some odd dud issues as a courtesy. Can I ask how much you were thinking of spending per month on the comics habit?

        • Deven says:

          Hi EK,

          How would you handle books where the press coverage is in advance of the solicitation? Like Brubaker's upcoming RECKLESS books? Press coverage started on Aug 6 in the Hollywood Reporter, and I can't find it at Diamond or the shop you link to.

          The easy case is when there's an active Diamond code. What about when there's not?

          • ek says:

            For RECKLESS, from a retailer perspective, it might actually be a better deal for us to order it from Ingram or another distributor that might give better margins and terms for books.
            (Ingram does have ISBN/EAN codes listed for it in this case.)

            The dirty truth is often times Amazon will have better prices on trades than even the wholesale terms (especially if it's from Diamond).

            So presumably, we'd have those codes listed. If there's no code anywhere and we know a book is coming out, we'd have to make up our own, and tie it in manually when it does come out.

            For a boutique subscription service though, I'd likely do almost everything by hand at first.

          • Ryan says:

            I've been salivating to build a pull-list database that lets you have expressive "subscriptions" such as: "any book with a cover by Sean Murphy" or "issues of Batman v3 AND written by Tom King" (my solution for excluding event crossovers) or "Dan Watters is involved" or (now) "[some title] collected editions".

            Since DC pulled out of Diamond my local shops are writing pulls on legal pads and it makes me so sad. But I didn't find a reliable way to scrape the new DC Connect issues and don't have a shop to know the ins and outs of data sources (somehow they're still getting final order cutoff dates from DC now, so something is happening somewhere), so I haven't dug in for fear of manually maintaining all the data....

            ek if you want to share any ideas and collaborate on something for your online store, I'd be happy to chat outside JWZ's comments.

  6. ek says:

    I believe Lunar distribution is offering CSVs or some other data format roughly compatible with what Diamond gave to retailers.

    Fundamentally, I think e-comic pirates have better infrastructure and motivation to create a coherent release database of all comics. Scraping from some of those sites is ... actually not that bad!

    There's a real danger for anyone wanting to dive into making a project for this kind of thing is that monthly physical comics from the big three distributors may not be a thing for very long. It seems like that's been the case for years now, but this particular "final crisis" might really be final...

    Indie comics and zines might really be the last ones standing! If someone were to build a database for those...

  7. Captain18 says:

    I'll say a word for Mile High Comics here.

    The owner, Chuck Rozanski, is LGBTQ+ friendly (I believe his drag name is Bettie Pages), he does a lot of work for the homeless in Denver, and has written in his newsletters about gentrification in the warehouse district he bought into years ago.

    Full disclosure, I haven't used their subscription service since it was "here's a broadsheet with everything we know about that's coming up, mark what you want and mail it back". But they are my go-to place if I'm not walking in to a local shop and I've always found their back-issue service to be stellar.

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