Editor’s note: The Joe Shuster Awards are a supporter of brick and mortar retail comic outlets, creating the Harry Kremer Award to recognize the efforts of excellent comic retailers across the country. Our goal is to help customers find a local comic retailing business to support.
Manager’s Name: Jeff Moss
Number of Employees: 1
Years in Business: 1
Physical Address: 940 St Jeans Blvd, Unit 18, Pointe-Claire PQ, H9R 5N8
Telephone Number: 514-505-1015
“Breaking the 4th wall” is a term used in stage plays, movies and comic books and it refers to when a character turns and speaks directly to the audience. For example, Deadpool uses this technique all the time. So we decided that we wanted to “break the 4th wall” so to speak, and tear down the barriers between the comics and new readers who might have been interested but intimidated by the traditional comic store set up. We want to cater to the reader, while satisfying the collector. We want to make comics a accessible as possible to as many people as possible, and in doing so “break the walls” of the comics world.
How many sq ft is your store?
Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:
Geoff Johns’ BLACKEST NIGHT has been the best thing coming out of Mainstream comics since Issue #1 dropped last year. It’s a masterfully executed story, and the GREEN LANTERN and GREEN LANTERN CORPS tie-ins have been just as good as the “main” series. DC has timed the releases of everything perfectly so the whole story flows seamlessly into each issue and Ivan Reiss’ art has been absolutely stellar. BLACKEST NIGHT is a perfect example and execution of what a big-scale “event” book should be.
In more independent comics, CHEW as been the biggest surprise of the last few months. The story is brilliant and witty, and the art is as fresh and unique as the story itself. It’s a great book for new people to get into, and for long-time comic fans as well.
Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs
Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy, Blankets, Strangers In Paradise, Kingdom Come
This year we are really excited to see THE BRIGHTEST DAY and THE HEROIC AGE take over superhero comics. These are both great jumping-on points for new readers, and will hopefully be great payoffs for long-time fans. Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Over the next few months we plan to roll out a few new strategies that will differ from the traditional comic store. (>) Our store events will strive to bring new people into the world of comics by featuring signings and appearances by the best in webcomics and independent comics. We also plan to have events centering around female readers (a Ladies Night or Afternoon as it were) and discussion groups focused on getting started in comics. We will also be striving to present guests that are different from the traditional writer/artist. An example is pop star LIGHTS, who is a huge comic book fan. We are talking with her management about having her come into the store, sign CDs and talk comics with customers. It’s our hope that by offering different types of guests, we will be able to bring in new readers who might not know about all the great things comics have to offer.
What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?
The most rewarding part of this business has been seeing the surprise on the faces of those who had never considered comics as an “adult” form of literature when they come into our store. Most times they assume that everything we have is just for kids, but when we show them the variety of titles and stories available, they usually end up walking away with a book to try out. That’s very satisfying to us as a retailer, and as fans of comics ourselves. A secondary part of that has been getting Kids into comics. We work hard to provide a variety of all-ages titles so that we can prepare the next generation of comic reader.
The biggest challenge we have faced so far has been promotion. Getting our name out there, and letting people know what we’re about in a unique manner has been difficult. Once people know about us, they seem to like us, and enjoy visiting the store. Letting them know we’re here is the hardest part. Also, learning to work within the distribution system. It can be a confusing thing at first, but once we got the hang of it, we managed to get everything in the right amount of time.
Why are you a comics retailer?
Because we love comics. It’s really as simple as that. We love comics and want to share the medium that we enjoy so much with as many people as possible. We want to show that a store dedicated to service, the stories, and the customer can still work in this rapidly shrinking market of ours, and hopefully do our part to slow down and stop said shrinking.
Product Lines Carried:
- Comics (single issues)
- Comics (Hard and Softcover collections)
- Comics (Graphic novels)
- Comics related art and instruction books
- Comic Strip collections
- Comics related history/biography books
- Limited Figurines
- Webcomics merchandise/books
- Supplies (bags/boards/boxes)
Best selling floppy/monthly books (and Best selling manga if you sell manga)
DC – Blackest Night
Marvel – the Ultimate Comics titles
Other – Archie and Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Between 90%-95% of everything we stock is comics. We wanted to really focus the store on the books and stories themselves as opposed to cluttering the floor of the store with countless action figures, statues, and other “culture” peripherals that in all honesty, don’t sell well. If a customer is looking for those items we can easily order them in for them on a per-customer basis, but the vast majority of our floor space is dedicated solely to comics.
What are your Best selling graphic novel books?
The Walking Dead Volumes 1-11
Y: The Last Man Volumes 1-10
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
The Walking Dead, Preacher, Y: The Last Man, Astonishing X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ex Machina, Identity Crisis
Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s more than just a super-hero book, and is one of the most accessible and consistently good titles on the shelves today.
What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics?
Superhero: Identity Crisis. It’s a great mystery, set in the world of the Justice League that’s easy to jump into, and will leave you hungry for more!
Non-Superhero: Y: The Last Man. It’s a compelling and fresh take on the “end-of-the-world” story that’s brilliantly written, with stunning art.
Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique?
(<) The 4th Wall has arguably the biggest retail selection of webcomics in North America. We have collected and print editions of all the top webcomics, and also many smaller ones. Webcomics are the new “indie” comics, and many of the people making them have no distribution or retail outlets. We are proud that we give them a place to sell their wares, and hopefully bring about new fans to their web-based creations.
Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?
(This will be their first FCBD) We are avid supporters of Free Comic Book Day, and are really excited for this year’s event! We’re going to have some guests on hand to do signings, costumed folks, and more surprises geared to getting people reading comics!
What aspect of your store are you most proud?
The fact that it’s a bright, well-organized, friendly and welcoming place. There are a lot of traditional stores that are intimidating and unwelcoming to new customers. We have taken great strides to make our store into an Apple-Store-Meets-Comic-Store that
Do you have special event nights/days at the store? What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?
Events and special promotions are a key part of our business, and we are able to keep customers apprised of new sales, upcoming events and special items via our website. This allows us to have “instant” sales and offer up web exclusive sales as well. For example we recently had a special offer on our website for a discount on the graphic biography Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness to coincide with the legendary singer’s birthday. We have plans for many signings and special events in the store to come this year, but the best event we’ve had so far was a signing with webcomic creator Danielle Coresetto (Girls With Slingshots). We were able to expose many new fans to the webcomics medium, as well as give them a chance to meet one of the premiere female creators in the business.
The explosion of comic book movies in the last few years has been huge for us, as it has for the comics industry in general. It brings in slews of people that have never been into a comic store before. Now that Hollywood is treating the stories and characters with more respect, the movies have been much better, and people have been falling in love with the characters all over again. It’s great to sit down with someone who really liked The Dark Knight and show them the books that influenced the movie. Conversely, it’s great to be able to use a high-profile movie like Wanted to introduce people to the graphic novel. We have many promotions and tie-ins with local theatres planned for the release of Kick-Ass and Iron Man 2 this summer.
Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does this affect your customer base or business?
Actually, it turned out to be the opposite. We are located near a large “big box” bookstore, and within 3 months of our opening, they had reduced their Graphic Novel section by half because we had taken over their business. Having comics available in these stores is great for the medium because it makes the books more readily available for the customers. However, these larger stores are generally more expensive, and don’t have the expertise that a store like ours does. We can provide a much better experience for the reader looking for comics than any larger bookstore.
With the increasing popularity of GN’s/TPB’s do you find yourself stocking these more or less than you expected. There are a lot of upfront cost in a large TPB inventory, are you focusing on a publisher or specific series? Do you intend to carry a wider range of publisher in the future or would these books be special orders only?
At The 4th Wall, 95% of our stock is TP’s and GN’s. We did this deliberately because we feel that the majority of comic readers are moving towards these collections as the preferred way of reading. In the case of a book like The Walking Dead, many of our customers refer to the TPB’s as “issues” because that’s the only way they know the book comes out. We carry books by any and every publisher that we can get our hands on. From the latest Marvel and DC books, to independent Komikeros from the Philippines, we stock the newest, best-selling and most interesting books, with an option to special order whatever the customer needs. If it’s in print, we’ll get it.
Are you located near any schools? Is there a college nearby? What percentage of your business would be students? Did the presence or lack of presence influence your decision to open at your current location?
There are several high schools and colleges nearby our location, and they have contributed heavily to our regular customer base. By advertising in school papers, and donating books as prizes to school events, we have gotten our name out to many of these students. In the future, we plan to participate in comics classes and seminars with these schools, as well as become accredited to sell to libraries and schools.
We chose our current location because it is an area that hasn’t had a comic store in a very long time, forcing fans to go into a downtown area. We are in a plaza with several recognizable restaurants and directly across from the biggest mall in the area. We are also located a stones throw from major highways and bus lines. The location we’ve chosen is highly accessible and with large, eye-catching front displays, our store is hard to miss.
Do you consider your store woman and kid friendly? What percentage of your business is female/child? Do you have plans to grow these groups? Do you have a kids comics section? Do you stock comics that are considered kids friendly/age appropriate reading?
We consider our store both women and kid friendly, and have worked hard form inception to follow through on that. The store is bright, welcoming and friendly with plenty of lighting and comfortable chairs for waiting while someone is browsing. We stock a wide variety of kid-friendly, and all-ages titles, and we try and spotlight female-friendly books and creators whenever possible. There is so much more to this medium than just tights and big muscles, and we want to make sure everyone knows that in hopes of breaking down some of the stereotypes sometimes associated with comics, comic stores, and comic readers.
Do you consider your store a collector store, where you can find high grade books, or long runs of older back issues? Do you find that back issues are a focus for your customers?
We consider our store to be a “reader” store. While we don’t carry back issues or graded books in the store, we can easily refer customers to websites and dealers that can accurately handle their needs. We get a few requests for back issues here and there, but for the most part our customer base is looking for the newest product, which we can easily provide. If there is a recent issue that we can re-order for the customer, we absolutely do that, but for the most part it’s all new releases at The 4th Wall.
What form of advertising do you use? (city newspaper, small/free papers, TV, radio, flyers, word of mouth?)
We have done extensive advertising in newspapers and magazines, as well as a large amount of web advertising through Google, Facebook, and other internet sources. We’ve done flyering campaigns at local events and some radio advertising and interviews. Word of mouth and social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc) seem to yield the biggest return in terms of word-of-mouth advertising. We also have highly stylized tote bags that we give to customers to use in their grocery shopping and such that have our name and logo on them, and people seem to really respond to that.
Pull lists: good or bad? Do you have free pull list? Minimum number of titles? Do you offer a discount on everything for a pull list customer? Do you have them pay a yearly membership fee to get a discount?
Pull lists are a great thing. We think that getting the customer what they want in the more efficient way possible without incurring huge costs to the store is the key to this business. (<) There is no yearly membership required, and the response to this system has been excellent.
Do you use a computerized point of sale and inventory system? Do you track sales of items to adjust orders up or down? Do you have a system to ensure a restocking of a sold book?
We use Checkout software for Mac that allows us to track inventory, print reports on stock and performance and keep track of what titles and books we’re low on. The system works with barcode scanners and gives the customer a complete breakdown of their items in the receipt.