Here we are, another London, ON comic book shop being profiled. London has a great comic scene, with 6 stores in the area. There is a real sense of community amongst these shops, as 5 of the 6 participate in a city-wide Free Comic Book Day event, working together to put on a unique event. Can you imagine something like that in Toronto? No? Me neither.
Brahm Wiseman is the owner/operator of Heroes Comics in London, Ontario. Heroes has long been a staple of the downtown core, but always moving around. Over a period of 8 years in the 90’s the previous owners moved the store 3 times. Brahm has recently done the same, but with a twist: last year Brahm purchased a building in the downtown core. This new space is fantastic! Spacious, deep, insanely high ceilings, the store now occupies two stories with a loft. Next time you’re in London, take the time to visit.
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Owner’s Name: Brahm Wiseman
Manager’s Name: Brahm Wiseman
Number of Employees: 4
Years in Business: 19 as a store, 10 under my ownership
Physical Address: 186 Dundas St, London, Ontario, N6A 1G7
Telephone Number: 519-439-4955
How did you choose your store name?
It was already named before I owned it. I kept the name because it was already a well known, established and successful business.
Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:
I always hate this question because there are way too many great comics published every month to just narrow it down to one. I guess I’ll pick Scalped published by Vertigo. I could also have picked Goon, Acme Novelty Library, Criminal, Batman and Robin, and tons more.
Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs:
Some of my favorites are:
Ennis and Dillon’s Preacher
Dan Clowes’ Eightball
Will Eisner’s the Spirit
Jeff Smith’s Bone
Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland
Ed note: Two fantastic reprint editions of McCay’s work are available through your local comic retailer.
Sunday Press released two volumes of select reprints: Volume 1: So Many Splendid Sundays (Diamond Order Code: JUL058326) and Volume 2: Many More Splendid Sundays (Diamond Order Code: MAY084115). These are gigantic in size, 16″ x 21″, just like the original full page newpaper comic and while stunning, they are pricey. Checker Publishing also released two volumes, and these two books contain the entire Little Nemo in Slumberland run, every comic ever published (plus lots of great extras from McCay’s career). Volume 1 order code FEB073290 and Volume 2 order code AUG073471. I adore the work of Winsor McCay and I own all 4 books.
What are you excited about for this coming year? What are your plans for the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months, I plan on still improving the store by getting new stock out and setting up new displays. I plan on creating a giant comic book awareness campaign in April in preparation for Free Comic Book Day.
The plan is to give away 10 000 – 20 000 comics across the city. I plan on dropping off boxes of books to local libraries, hospitals, shelters, schools, and any other public places that will welcome these books. My intention in doing this is in raising awareness to comics, picking up new readers, promoting FCBD and the store, and hopefully, getting some good PR and media.
What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?
Buying and renovating an old eyesore of a building in downtown London. Moving into this custom built comic book shop was a dream as it gave me a big beautiful space to showcase a love for all things comic books, and helped improve the downtown landscape.
What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Overcoming stupid comic book store stereotypes: for example, comics are only for kids, are only of interest to boys or men, are “nerdy”, and are only about superheroes. I sure hope that anybody who walks into my store realizes this is not the case at all, but for some reason, I still get this reaction from some people who have never been to the store before.
Why are you a comics retailer?
To promote and work everyday with a medium that I love.
Product Lines Carried:
- all kinds of comics (old, new, manga, independent),
- GNs and TPs
- new and classic toys and action figures
- Statues and busts
- Trading cards (CGCs, non-sport and sports cards).
Best selling floppy/monthly books:
all Avengers, Blackest Night, Batman and Robin, Buffy, most X-men, and Kickass.
What percentage of your business is comics compared to the peripherals of a ‘culture store’?
What are your Best selling graphic novel books?
Watchmen, Batman: Dark Knight Returns, Blankets, Maus, Y: the Last Man, Walking Dead, Bone and Fables.
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
It really depends on what the customer is in to. I pride myself on being able to find a comic for anybody: for a woman like my mother or grandmother, I would recommend something like Persepolis or Fun Home. For a teenage girl, something like Wet Moon or Ghost World. For a fan of over-the-top blockbuster movies, maybe Authority or Wolverine: Old Man Logan. For a fan of horror, Walking Dead or Black Hole. For someone looking for something different, Scott Pilgrim or Louis Riel, and so on.
What great comic/manga should everyone under 14 be reading?
Bone, Owly, Spiral Bound, Runaways, Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, Little Lulu, Ultimate Spider-Man
What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics?
For superheroes, I’d recommend something that reinvents or reintroduces an iconic character like All-Star Superman, Ultimates or Batman: Year One. I’d try and hook them using a book that is not too dependent on past continuity, and honors the characters as well as making them fresh.
For Non-Superheroes, the possibilities are endless. Some of the big watermark books in the last decade have been: Fun Home, Stitches, Asterios Polyp, Persepolis, Walking Dead, Hellboy, Fables, Y:the Last Man, Jimmy Corrigan, Blankets, George Sprott, Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea, the Goon, etc.
How important is the web to your business?
Not very important at all. We have a website, but other than that we don’t use the internet to promote the store. Ebay, Facebook, Twitter and the like are all valuable tools to promote a business and make sales, but right now my focus is strictly on the local bricks and mortar store. I spend all my time and energy on the shop and the community that supports it.
Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique?
We have many, many areas of expertise and I believe that this is what makes the store so unique. What makes us special is the vast amount of pop culture and comic related merchandise that we do carry: from an old EC comic book, to a Darth Vader action figure, to a Mickey Mantle baseball card, to a Mr. T bobblehead, to an Archie t-shirt. We have it all.
Describe the comic book scene within your community?
London has a very active comics scene. We support all local comic artists by selling there comics, mini-comics and zines. Some local talent that has come through London in the last 20 years are Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers), Kathryn Immonen (Runaways), Brian Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Seth (George Sprott), and Marc Bell (Nog a Dod). We have been fortunate to have many different comic/manga clubs and comic jams happen in the last decade.
Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?
What aspect of your store are you most proud?
The fact that I believe we were able to create a friendly environment that is inviting to long time comic book fans and dedicated hobbyists as well as novices, lapsed comic book readers, and people who have never stepped into a comic store in their life.
What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?
FCBD and other comic book giveaways, our annual sales. Also, working with libraries, the Thames Valley School Board, and the University of Western Ontario to promote comics being read and taught in schools.
Have the last few years of Hollywood film releases changed your customer base?
Hollywood has had a huge impact on the store. With each big superhero blockbuster, we generally see an increase in interest in those superheroes whether it be Iron Man, Spider-man or the Dark Knight, but where we see it making its biggest impact is when the comic related film is based on an original graphic novel or on a comic book property that people did not generally recognize before it was a movie. Some recent genre related movies that brought in a lot of foot traffic are Watchmen, 300, Wanted, Hellboy, V for Vendetta and Sin City. Some of the great movies that really introduced viewers to the diversity in comics are American Splendor, Road to Perdition, From Hell, Crumb, and History of Violence.
Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does this affect your customer base or business?
This can only affect business in a positive way. It is nice to see bookstores as well as libraries and schools recognizing comics. Anything that gets more comics into the hands of new readers is a good thing for the medium.