Broke and (Ridin’) Nerdy: Comic Books on the Cheap

It’s tough to be a nerd in 2009.   There’s more broke to go around than there has been since the Joads went on a drought-precipitated journey.  And comic books don’t come cheap.  Especially if you, like me, prefer the more substantial reads that trade paperbacks provide.  A trade paperback is anywhere from several to a dozen or more single-issue comic books stuck together into one sizable, respectable-looking (well, -ish) book.  (I can’t stand waiting a month for 25 pages, but I can wait six for 150.)  On average, trades cost twenty bucks.  Well, the economy is still in the shitter, and this has made everyone a little closer to broke (except those rich recession-proof fucks who live in the Upper East Side, Tribeca, etc.). And that, in turn, seems to have also made broke behavior more acceptable and more common.  In the context of comic books, broke behavior means bald-faced “browsing.”

Do you love comic books?  Has your brokeness had you shying away from your local nerd-shop?  Just browse for hours, i.e. read all the comics you want, just don’t leave the store with them.  Depending on where you are, the “this isn’t a library” rule may or may not be enforced.  This works best in comic book stores that are big enough that they won’t even notice you’re there reading graphic novels from open to close.  In NYC, try Midtown Comics and Forbidden Planet.  Just move around occasionally and stay out of the way of paying customers.  As we still live in a capitalist society, they take precedent in the eyes of management.

Really?  Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang as The Watchmen?  Brilliant!  Illustration by Evan Shaner - EvanShaner.com

Really? Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang as The Watchmen? Brilliant! Illustration by Evan Shaner - EvanShaner.com

Often chain bookstores will carry your favorite comics, and seeing as how you shouldn’t spend money there, it seems to me the best thing to do there is NOT spend money.  Also your local library just may surprise you with a sweet collection of “Swamp Thing” or “Transmetropolitan.”  Both of these places are tried and true venues to read anything you want all day and not have to spend money.  Now, I would never, ever advocate broke, jonesing collectors just walking out the door with their beloved comics. Not at the library.  That would make you a jerk.  The library is there for the broke.  Don’t steal from the broke.  (You didn’t hear this from me, but as I understand it, Borders and Barnes & Noble have “no-chase” policies.)

It can work to varying degrees in your smaller, artsier specialty shops that could be referred to as ‘comic book boutiques.’  A few factors are at play.  If the person working (often there is only one) is a friend of yours, they’re not gonna care.  But it is polite to occasionally at least acknowledge their presence, especially if the store is slow. Relatedly, if the store is busy (try Saturday afternoon), the person working is most likely too busy to give a shit.  Also, never sit down in these store while reading.  This will make it supremely obvious what you are doing.  Really, the only place where you can sit while reading is in the big chain stores.  And feel free to bring lunch.  Doesn’t a reading picnic sound nice?

Comic books can be a pricey habit, but they don’t really have to be.  If you can settle for just reading them and not taking them home in bags and boards to your hyperbaric chamber for oxygen proof safekeeping, you can be as nerdy as you want, even in 2009.

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About the author

Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe grew up in South San Francisco, spent a decade in Santa Cruz, and relocated to Brooklyn in late 2008. He has been a waiter, a maintenance man, a record store clerk, a professional radio DJ, an amateur newcaster and a movie theater popcorn-slinger. Being broke is his birthright, as he is from broke stock and has limited prospects. He likes comic books and is obsessed with soul music.

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