This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on March 15, 2017 at ComicBook.Com.
The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.
This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.
Today there are a total of 8 New England Comics locations scattered across the Boston area, including nearby towns like Quincy, Brookline, Cambridge, and Brockton. It might be a bit of an overstatement to call this collection of stores an empire, but in the industry of American comics there are few retailers with as many shops primarily dedicated to the medium. The success of New England Comics is not a recent achievement either. They have been in business for more than 30 years and have no worries about slowing down. In spite of the markets many bumps, this is one name that has continued to foster a growing audience as long as they have been in business.
It’s that long history which Nathan Machado, senior manager at New England Comics and manager of the Brockton store, finds most interesting. The Brockton location has been open for more than 25 years and Machado proudly points out that neither economic disasters or industry implosions have derailed it. “We are here and we aren’t going anywhere” says Machado.
Speaking with the manager it’s clear that this can do, positive attitude infuses everything he and his staff do at the store. Responding to questions about the success of New England Comics and what makes the chain special, he delivers answers with an animated zeal comparable to Stan Lee during the early explosion of Marvel Comics. Machado is a true believer in what the store does for its customers and community. When asked about the goal of New England Comics as a brand he says, “The goal is to put as much fine four color entertainment in the hands of anyone who comes through our front door. Always was…always will be!”
New England Comics isn’t solely defined by its longevity and energized staff. Go to their website or any of their social media outlets and you’re bound to recognize a familiar cartoon face. The store has been involved with publishing a newsletter and comics in addition to selling comics, and they provided the start point for one of the most beloved superheroes to ever appear outside of Marvel and DC Comics.
It was in New England Comics Newsletter #14 in 1986 that 18-year-old Ben Edlund debuted his satirical superhero The Tick. For anyone unfamiliar with the character, The Tick is a super strong, invulnerable, and not particularly bright hero who charges forward attempting to do good deeds with little regard for the repercussions, all to the battlecry of “Spoon!” New England Comics provided a place for Edlund to first draw the character and create the first comics featuring him in subsequent issues. Recognizing both Edlund’s passion and the positive response from customers, New England Comics funded the first black-and-white issues to feature the character in 1988. In the decades to come The Tick would garner multiple series, a cartoon, and two live-action series including an upcoming one on Amazon. It’s an amazing success story and its based upon the support of New England Comics.
The attitude that led New England Comics to sponsor Edlund’s dream is a guiding force behind the stores. When they recognize something that people care about, they support it. Machado is enthusiastic about carrying whatever customers crave, ranging from a shift towards trade paperbacks in comics to more diverse offerings of games and posters. His attitude as a manager is that “Pretty much, we try and do it all. Why? ‘Cause we can!”
Machado notes that the willingness of New England Comics to cater to the changing needs of customers has allowed them to grow their customer base, especially in the last decade. He points out that the stores have always encouraged customers who are “intelligent, fun loving, open minded”, but that the number of women purchasing comics from the stores has increased to previously unseen levels. The open attitude and positivity on display in Machado’s responses clearly carries forward to new faces exploring comics stores, perhaps for the very first time.
It’s a lesson that Machado encourages among his staff as well. He says the key to growing a successful store is “Getting your butt from out behind the counter, interacting, and figuring out what the customers want.” That might seem simple, but it’s a lot of hard work and has to be followed every day that the doors are open. The results of engaging with this lesson are obvious though. All you have to do is look around the New England area at the many New England Comics locations to know that the hard work pays off, both for store owners and the many comics fans who rely on them.
Machado phrases New England Comics’ philosophy towards selling comics simply, “Learn it. Love it. It’s the real deal!” That devout enthusiasm is the cornerstone of all 8 store’s success.
Name: New England Comics
Address: East Crossing Plaza
716A Crescent Street
Brockton, MA 02302
Phone: (508) 559-5068
Website: New England Comics
Twitter: New England Comics
Facebook: New England Comics