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Comic-Con bound

Local retailer Comic Book Ink is headed to the San Diego Comic-Con - but will it leave victorious?

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A gangly, bespectacled teenager stares at his hands in disbelief.

"What's happening to me?" he asks himself. "I feel - different!"

So says Peter Parker in Amazing Fantasy #15, and just like that dumbstruck adolescent, the comic book industry finds itself in the midst of a radioactive growth spurt. From the corporate-owned publishers all the way down to the friendly neighborhood retailers nationwide, change is in the air. The San Diego Comic-Con (June July 21-24 this year) - the world's largest and most-publicized geek gathering, known colloquially as the SDCC - is likewise evolving. The smartest comic book retailers, like John Munn of Comic Book Ink (CBI), are innovating and adapting in order to keep up. For the eighth year in a row, Comic Book Ink will be competing for the "Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award." In the hope of increasing the odds of winning the accolade at this year's Eisner Awards ceremony, Comic Book Ink has engineered a secret weapon: a 12-page narrative advertisement in pamphlet form, illustrated by graphic designer James Stowe.

"Wait," you're saying, as bewildered as young Peter Parker was. "Slow down. What the hell are you talking about?"

As with any comic book story, a little exposition is necessary for the average, non-nerd reader.

The Eisners are awards given annually to comic book writers, artists, publishers and more - named after pioneering comics auteur Will Eisner, creator of "The Spirit." Categories range from "Best New Series" to "Best Comics-Related Publication (Periodical or Book)." Think of the Eisners as the Oscars for comics - everybody in the industry does. The awards ceremony is part of the festivities surrounding the teeming, ever-expanding San Diego Comic-Con, which, as Munn notes, has changed dramatically over the seven years he's attended.

"Hollywood has made its mark on Comic-Con," Munn says. "When you have (all these corporations) looking for a footprint on the floor that's big and noisy, the space to move around gets smaller and smaller. You do not want to go into the show hall on Saturday. It's just a sea of humanity rolling through there. Saturday becomes a crushing horde of bodies, B.O. and waning senses of humor."

The gregarious local shop owner is quick to add that on the whole, attending the SDCC is an awe-inspiring experience that he values deeply.

"Going to the Comic-Con is a humbling, inspiring, sense-modifying experience. I get to meet so many creators and publishers and distributors that it's invaluable for the connections that it gives you," he says.

While Munn always enjoys his journeys to the bustling nerd mecca, he was determined not to leave empty-handed this year.

"(John) is like the Susan Lucci of that award," Stowe says. The longtime CBI customer was happy to help Munn with his Eisners "submission book," an obligatory step in the awards process following a nomination by patrons and constituents.

"We got together, he laid out the information he needed in the book and I figured out a way to turn that into a loose narrative. I kind of made a little indie comic out of it," Stowe chuckles into the receiver, fresh from a Dungeons & Dragons gameplay sesh that Munn participated in, with Stowe presiding as Dungeon Master.

When he's not brewing up complications for his D&D brethren, Stowe works for the locally based Lucks Food Decorating Company.

"You know how you can get a photograph silkscreened on a cake? If you go into a Dairy Queen and order a cake with an image on it that is not a licensed character, I more than likely have drawn that cake," Stowe reveals.

Stowe's artistic chops transcend the confectionary world, as evidenced by the cover of Comic Book Ink's promo comic, which any nerd worth their weight in back issues will immediately recognize as an homage to Jim Steranko's King Size Hulk #1 (with Munn in place of Marvel's Green Goliath).

Munn, too, is on top of his game. The SDCC promo comic is just one of CBI's new ventures. While the industry begins to pursue the digital arena more aggressively, his store has started offering digital subscription and purchasing services through their website.

"You always have to look forward for how this business is evolving," Munn explains. "We're in an industry that sells escapism, and right now escapism is a luxury item in this economy. Comic shops are a cultural resource that cannot go away."

When Munn had the chance to meet Will Eisner at a prior SDCC, he recalls the comics legend telling him, "Don't give up."

"So I'm not going to give up," Munn says. "Not just because of Will, but because of everyone who supports the shop."

Comic Book Ink

10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday
2510 S. 84th, Lakewood

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Comments for "Comic-Con bound" (1)

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Reverend Hunt said on Jul. 21, 2011 at 12:03am

Comic Con's July 21-24, mates, not June. June's already passed :P

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