Welcome to another installment of Behind the Counter, our series that showcases the great comic and nerd culture shops around Australia.
Classic Comics was the first comic store I shopped at and had a standing order with so they will always have a special place in my heart. It is a little hidden away, but it is one of the most well loved stores in Melbourne and definitely worthy of a visit. You wont be disappointed.
Instead of emailing the questions, I went to Classic and interviewed Jarrod and Looch. (special thanks to lovely Crystal for transcribing!)
David: I’m here with Jarrod, the man in charge of Classic Comics.
Jarrod: <laugh> Allegedly
David: <laugh> You know it’s true. Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with me.
Jarrod: That’s all right. My pleasure.
David: This series would not be the same without Classic Comics.
David: It seriously wouldn’t. It’s the first Comic Shop I ever came to
Jarrod: Shop 3 or 4?
Jarrod: That’s a long time ago.
David: That was before your time.
David: Yeah-yeah. Jeez I’m old.
Jarrod: It was before my time, you’re right.
David: How time flies. You were just a wee tacker.
Jarrod: I was a shop floor guy. I saw the take over from Shop 7.
David: You would’ve been just 10 years old 🙂
David: So, when did you first open?
Jarrod: Well, Giuseppe opened the store in 1993 which is, if I remember correctly, that is about a year after Superman had died. So I guess technically it’s around the Reign of the Supermen era, which is the first time I would’ve stepped in the shop and bought a comic from him (I don’t know how old I was, I can’t remember how old I was back when then). I remember buying two issues from him and he instantly starting me up on a standing order!
David: <laugh> Of course!
Jarrod: And I’m just an impressionable young kid, you know, getting pocket money.
David: Did he give you the ‘I’ve got mouths to feed’ line?
Jarrod: I don’t know, so many years ago. Probably. I was one of the first customers to his recollection that ever came in and bought anything. Years later he would ask me if I wanted a full time job here & I didn’t take much time to think about it. It was almost like, “Did you wanna. . . .” “Yep”. I didn’t let him finish the sentence almost. I started here. . . uh god. . . I started here in 2000. I think it was about February 2000. So I’ve been here quite a while.
David: And now you practically live here.
Jarrod: I do practically live here! Yeah. I only need a hammock out the back and a shower and I’d be set. I could call this place home.
David: Not taking anything away from Pino, but you are pretty much the face of Classic Comics. I don’t know whether you’re aware of that.
Jarrod: I am known at the hotel around the corner because on a late, late, late nights, I’m too tired to drive home, I will crash at the hotel just around the corner. They know me by face now.
David: That is strangely awesome.
Jarrod: That’s like the sign that you work too many late nights.
David: That is a bad sign 🙂
Jarrod: That the local hotel knows your face.
Jarrod: Well, for me comics was always a hobby & I think Giuseppe is in the same boat. He was a massive Spiderman fan for a very long time. From a kid he loved the animated series. For me it was always a hobby of mine. I’d been reading roughly. . .you could track it back to Batman in 1989, that probably would’ve been the launch pad for me. But my connection to superheros went back even earlier to Super Friends on TV Saturday mornings & other stuff like that. That’s my absolute love. Those five Super Friends can do no wrong.
David: Do you have all the figures?
Jarrod: I used to have the little Super Powers figures but not any more.
David: So, I guess that means you’re a big fan of the new Aquaman comic?
Jarrod: A big fan & I’m a Jeff Johns fan. So that doesn’t hurt either
David: I don’t mind it actually, I think it’s pretty good.
Jarrod: I reckon that first arc read like Aliens to me. When you saw the Alien Queen and all that kind of stuff.
David: What makes your store unique?
Jarrod: We try and make a real point of creating a community. It’s a small store there’s no denying that. You can tell when you walk in here.
David: I prefer to call it ‘compact’.
Jarrod: We call it ‘comfortable’. Cozy.
Looch: Good things come in small packages.
Jarrod: We’re a small, close knit, almost family type of feel amongst the staff. We try, I know Looch & I are very conscious of doing it, we try to push that on to our regular customers. If we see a face popping in more and more and more, we probably start off polite, and we get gradually ruder and ruder like you would to your siblings. <laughs> But you know it’s all in good fun & stuff like that. With our Facebook page and Twitter page we’ve tried to really create a community that people are happy to come in and have a chat or just hang out. I don’t know if that makes us unique but that’s something that we’re very conscious of. We want our customers to come in and feel comfortable and happy to stick around. ‘Oh, shit I’ve been here for an hour!’, or ‘Oh, shit my meter’s about to run out!’ all that kind of stuff.
And we supply and just try and meet that demand. The superhero stuff sells amazingly. So that’s the stuff that’s the focus. To quote Whitney Huston, ‘Children are the future’ so we try and focus on kid titles as well, we try and make sure age appropriate stuff is always on the shelf. Whether it’s in trade paperback or in individual comic form. Which is not easy all the time for parents who are shopping for daughters. Luckily Ape have just done a Strawberry Shortcake that sells amazingly well, believe that or not. IDW are doing My Little Pony soon. So we’ll be stocking that.
David: That’s gonna be huge.
Jarrod: Well we hope it’s huge. Everyone who’s bought the Strawberry Shortcake, I’ve mentioned to them My Little Pony’s coming. Their eyes light up, like an anime character. Boing! They just love it. <laughs>
Like I said, I don’t expect that to make us unique, but that’s what I think the store has to be, I think the store has to do those things to stay around. I think that’s what’s most important.
David: And you definitely do. I’ve been a shopper here for ages and it was a proud moment for me when I came into the store and Pino greeted me with ‘Hey Scumbag’ <Jarrod laughs> and that was the moment where I went from just a customer to one of the gang. I was like, ‘Hey this is pretty cool!’ It’s always a welcoming, warm feeling whenever I come in. And it’s compact.
Jarrod: Cozy, cozy. <laughs>
Jarrod: Look, I’m probably more fortunate than most people in the sense that my job is my hobby. So at a lot of times, it doesn’t feel like work. Like you’re surrounded by Batman and Spiderman & Superman and all the sort of stuff that you love and that makes it less like work than most work. But there is the element of it that is just work, it is just numbers and all the boring stuff that makes work, work and un-enjoyable. But, like I said, I’m probably fortunate that my hobby is this so it’s less like work than work should be I suppose.
Looch: Customer interaction, more than anything. The crazy ideas that people have in terms of comics and everything like that.
David: <laughs> The ideas that don’t gel with yours.
Looch: The looney discussions you can really get into, I think. That and one of the other perks is reading your comics the night that they come out. If it’s not too late by the time we get back home that is.
David: What do you dislike about your job?
Jarrod: Nothing. There’s nothing I don’t like about this job.
Jarrod: Um? No. Con set ups, I guess, um I’m not doing them, the boss is doing them so that’s not that big a deal. But the best thing about Cons here is we found the people, depending on the Con and the guests, we find that the people coming to the Cons are the mums and dads who don’t know where we are. So, we make it a priority to . . . I mean if we see you at a Con, we’ll say ‘Hey man, how are ya?’ but if we see a mum or dad at a Con we’ll say ‘excuse me one second’ and we’ll go over and help them because we need them to come back. You’re coming back anyway, so we know that you’re okay.
David: One of our past interviewees said that the only thing he didn’t like was that he spent all his wages on the stock. He works at Pop Culture Geelong, and they just have so much cool stuff that he spent all his wages on it. <laughs>
Jarrod: I don’t have that problem because I think what it is for me is, I’m surrounded by it so I don’t feel I need to buy it. So my house isn’t filled with all this stuff, it’s filled with other stuff because I feel like I come in and I see Punisher figurines on the wall, I don’t need to see that when I go home.
David: Fair call.
Looch: Late nights and long hours. <laughs>
David: You do work some crazy hours.
Looch: Yeah, I’m usually the weekend guy so being stuck here for a couple of days on your own, you’re sort of like, ‘Ahhh I need to get everything done but customers keep coming in!’ But other than that, it’s fairly good, I like it.
David: What do you think are the future of comics?
Jarrod: Look, I know a lot of people are saying digital download, all that kind of stuff. I think print will always be around. I think the collector. . . I think that there will always be the market where people will always want that tactile experience. And look, you might not have as many titles on a shelf in the future. Some stuff might be exclusively available just for download. And if it sells amazingly well they might reprint that in a print format. But I think print will always be around, in the future it might just be to a lesser degree. Whether that drives the price up, most likely, but I think that audience will always be there.
David: Yeah, I think it will be digital. In 5-10 years time it’ll be digital and special edition books, like the Omnibuses and the Absolutes and stuff like that.
Looch: In the States there’s a big, big thing going on obviously because of the economic climate over there. It’s really like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to continue to do this & blah, blah, blah’. Down here in Australia it’s quite strong. Especially down here in Melbourne, with four comic stores in the city alone. You don’t get that in the States. You usually get one major comic store per area. I think comics will always be around. I hope to god that DC or Marvel don’t go under. And I really don’t think they will. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing recently, obviously with the movie hype and everything that’s been going on at the moment. Batman just recently coming out in cinemas. The Avengers just coming out. Obviously, look, for the next ten years I don’t see interest dying at all. Because the movies will still keep coming out. You got Man of Steel coming out next year. And by the looks of things Justice League is back on the cards. So, I don’t think it’s gonna die any time soon, really, I think there’s always going to be an interest. It’s always going to be what it is, it’s a hobby. It is branching out into a more mature reader market which is great, but as long as they keep those kiddie books coming, you know? You gotta hook ‘em while they’re young, that sort of thing.
David: Strawberry Shortcake & My Little Pony!
Looch: Yeah, that sort of thing.
Jarrod: I have plenty of favourite comics.
David: I should rephrase that, what are your favourite comics?
Jarrod: What are the least favourite comics would be a quicker question. Like I said, I grew up watching Super Friends, so my heart is with DC. There are other things that I do enjoy that aren’t DC and stuff like Mark Waid‘s Daredevil is amazing. Axe Cop is always a fun book to read. I love the Buffy and Angel comics, especially Angel & Faith I think that’s amazing. But my heart is primarily DC.
David: Fair enough. Any particular DC titles?
Jarrod: Always been Batman & Superman. Currently Batman is probably the most amazing book they’re bringing out at the moment. If you’re buying Batman but your not buying Batman & Robin, I think that’s a big mistake. I think Tamasi’s run on that is just unbelievable.
David: It just smoothly follows on, from what I’ve seen.
Jarrod: Yep, yep, it’s a really well constructed book. That should be the second highest selling Batman book there is. For us I don’t think that’s the case.
David: Dark Knight is it?
Jarrod: I think it’s Detective. It just tips Dark Knight.
David: God I hate Dark Knight.
Jarrod: I don’t mind Dark Knight. I think if you look at Dark Knight in the right eyes, it’s okay. I like to think of it as the Michael Bay version of Batman and if you look at it like that it is kind of just enjoyable.
David: What if you hate Michael Bay?
Jarrod: If you hate Michael Bay? Michael Bay makes good action movies, so if you say you hate Michael Bay, I think you hate action movies.
Jarrod: He makes good action movies!
David: Would you really class them as good?
Jarrod: I would class them as good. I think Paramount would class him as good with the millions of dollars he’s made for them as well.
David: Well, yeah you can’t argue with the numbers I suppose.
Jarrod: I just read Batman #13. Terrified to the point where I was looking over my shoulder while I was reading it. But the books I look forward to reading every week are Batman, Batman & Robin, Justice League, Aquaman and Green Lantern. They’re probably the books I can’t go to sleep without having read. It’s that important that I read them. Other stuff I’m just happy to put off and say I’ll get to that later in the week.
David: Walking Dead?
Jarrod: I’ve never actually read Walking Dead. I don’t like zombies. So I’ve never found the motivation to want to read Walking Dead. I can appreciate that it’s popular and people like it, but no, it’s not for me.
Looch: Me? Basically the same as Jaz. I’m a DC man too, through & through. I try to dive a little bit into other stuff like some Image stuff as well like Chew. The Rocketeer stuff’s been brilliant. I’m so glad they brought him back.
David: Did you get the Artist Edition Rocketeer?
David: They’ve re-released it.
Looch: Yeah, I know. I got the other one that they did, ah the first one with the oversized slip case.
Looch: So that’s really, really nice.
David: Hells yeah.
Looch: Punk Rock Jesus I’m reading at the moment as well.
David: That’s gold!
Looch: Vertigo stuff, I’m usually quite in to. And Nightwing. Really big on Nightwing. Jarrod’s already covered the Batman stuff. I think that’s about the crux of it at the moment. I’m sort of cutting back myself recently .
David: Any future plans that you want your shoppers to know about?
Jarrod: How immediate is future? Because Halloween is coming up at the end of the month and the publishers are doing what Looch and I like to refer to as a ‘soft’ Free Comic Book Day. We are in the very, very early stages of planning that, to the point where Looch and I will be in costume & looking like we might be a pair. Which hopefully pans out.
David: Is that going to be as creepy as it just sounded?
Jarrod: No, well every other we’ve ever done, we’ve always themed it. We’re either not dressed the same, but we’re companions. Does that make sense? Kirk & Spock we did this year for free comic book day. What else have we done?
Looch: Doctor Horrible & Captain Hammer.
David: Ahhh! Who was Hammer?
David: That’s awesome.
Jarrod: So that’s coming up in the end of the month, because that’s a delivery day, the actual Halloween, we’ll probably push that back to the Saturday so we can get more people in through the door. Most importantly the kids so they can get their hands on the free stuff. We’ll be at Supanova Adelaide, with a booth. The boss will be floating that to see if that takes off.
David: Will you guys be going too?
Jarrod: No, no, we’re full steam ahead on the shop, making sure the shop’s still here. But he’s gonna trial it on Adelaide and see how we go. And, if that’s a success you know, we might look into doing stuff like Perth and the Gold Coast and stuff like that. Which might be fun. And then it’s Christmas. Christmas is always nuts, so hopefully I can squeeze in a weeks holiday, hopefully between now and Christmas.
Name: Classic Comics
Address: Shop 7/50 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC (Google Maps)
Phone: +61 3 9663 7210
Ebay Store: Classic-Comics-Melbourne