Monday, January 7, 2013

Mail Order Comics and Politics

I am fortunate enough that I am making enough money that I can put my money where my mouth is and pay a little extra to support people and things that agree with my general political leanings. A quick example, I will gladly pay an extra dollar to buy a gallon of milk that comes from local cows instead of from a conglomerate of loosely associated dairies that may or may not be in the state.

When it comes to buying comic books I've always wanted to buy from a local shop and reward the local guys, but after attempting to make monthly treks down to my LCS for a few months I realized that it wasn't going to be worth the gas and time it took when my monthly shipment of comics can easily be sent on a UPS truck for less than $10.

I had a great experience getting a few issues from Diamond with the guy who ran Boom Panda Comics, but sadly he closed up shop on his online store after losing money on just about every order that was placed.

I don't know how I ran across Heavy Ink, but it was some time after Boom Panda closed up shop. They run the same basic business model of selling anything that they can get direct from Diamond and running a store with as little inventory as possible. The few people they have on support staff are fairly friendly and knowledgeable, but it is clear they have other things on their plate. Their servers always seem to run a little slow during normal day-to-day operations. The one really great hook that Heavy Ink has going for it is a Bag of Crap style free for all for variant and incentive covers. If you can hit the server first and it doesn't melt you can land an issue that other sites might charge as much as $50 for cover price.

As cool as the incentive covers hook is, it has moments of being dumb. On more than one occasion I ordered an inventive cover and ended up getting a standard cover substituted without notification. I have also paid full cover price for a variant on Heavy Ink that other sites sell for a discount off cover price. The worst part of the incentives scheme is that I have wasted hours mashing refresh on the incentives page to eventually buy a cool cover, getting excited, then finding out days later that somebody else clicked it first or it was never available in the first place. To top it all off, I often find myself buying covers for series I have no interest in because I know that the actual "value" of the comic is more than what they are selling it for.

A few days ago I happened to type "heavyink" into my address bar and since it doubles as a Google search form it auto completed to "heavy ink controversy" and I had to see what that was about. The most succinct recap of the initial volley was posted by Warren Ellis titled Heavy Ink. You can go dig through all the archives if you want, but If I'm going to be willing to pay an extra dollar for locally sourced milk I am more that willing to pay an extra dollar so a coo-coo bird gun nut won't see any cent of profit from me.

I went looking for suitable alternatives. Tracked down Midtown Comics, DCBService, and Westfield as all great possibilities. I had a problem with a canceled order from Westfield previously so it wasn't going to make the top of my list even though it was geographically the closest.

The first stop was to try and see what I could find out about the guys from Midtown Comics. It wasn't too difficult to track down the origin story of a couple of friends who started a video store and decided to sell more comics and now are pretty much at the top of their game. I found a news blurb pretty quickly about a gay couple getting married at Midtown and one of the founders talking about equality and tolerance. Yes. These are my people. So I signed up for an account and started to see about moving my subscriptions to Midtown. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that unless you have 10 subscriptions that Midtown would rather you take your ball and go home. Shucks.

Well next up is DCBService. Again it wasn't too difficult to track down a couple articles about how the business got started in a basement and exactly who runs it. A couple google searches turn up a couple Facebook pages for the people who run DCBService and nothing that they posted publicly would lead a person to believe they had any political opinions at all. So I started up an account and created a pull list only to find out that even though you create a pull list you still have to login every week to pull the issues you want when they are added to the system. I'm terrible at doing things on a regular schedule. I have one credit card that isn't automatically paid and I have 4 different alerts to remind me to pay it. So DCBService is out unfortunately.

That leaves Westfield. When it comes to your last resort you can't be too picky. They offer subscriptions of any size as long as you give them a credit card and have a good selection of back issues as well. I spent an hour canceling my subscriptions at Heavy Ink and starting them at Westfield. I still have one monthly shipment pending from Heavy Ink and I'll be a Westfield man.

You want to be a good chap? Buy a Warren Ellis book from somebody who isn't Heavy Ink.