A Shop of Ideas: Life at A Comic Shop

A Shop of Ideas: Life at A Comic Shop

Newsarama Note - today, we proudly debut "Shop of Ideas" a retailing chronicle about A Comic Shop, an Orlando, FL based comic shop noted for its creative marketing (not to mention great sales).

Hey fandom, my name is Aaron Haaland, co-owner of A Comic Shop. Yes, that’s really the name—I didn’t come up with the idea, I just said it succinctly.

We’ve been voted best comic shop in Orlando two years running.

When I decided to start my comic shop two and a half years ago, I was on a mission to connect with fellow fans and passionately share my love of comics with the world (or at least the greater Orlando area). Our goal was to market and sell comics as creatively as the people creating them, and to unite current fans and creators with awesome events. Most importantly, we wanted to discard all the old clichés associated with comic stores so that we could welcome new people to the comic experience. A Comic Shop focuses on comics only as entertainment and completely rejects the ideas of collecting for investment. People seek out new entertainment all the time, but the collecting stigma associated with comic books alienates most people from viewing comics as an entertainment medium. Reading a comic is way more fun than reading a price guide. You want an investment from collecting? Play the stock market.

Since we began, our sales have more than doubled and continue to grow – people want this kind of store. I want to encourage others to help revitalize this industry by showing everyone how and what we’ve done. I hope this column will inspire other comic shops, fans, and creators to get involved in the comics community. This grassroots movement will drive promotion that people will rally behind. As proof there will be video of our events, interviews with creators, and some how-to/behind the curtain stuff to show you how we do.

I want to improve this industry and help other local comic shops and comic fans have more fun.

Why should anyone listen to me? To answer that question I’ve made the first column a “greatest hits” of A Comic Shop. Here are some examples of what we’ve done:


Our store is located across the street from Full Sail University, one of the largest new media schools in the US. My business partner, Jason, teaches film there. This puts us at the epicenter of a lot of skilled, creative people – overwhelmingly male. With this in mind, we started Girls of A Comic Shop, glamour photography of local models in the shop. This blew up on the web with many people criticizing us for using sex to sell comics (including Jim Valentino, who then published Bomb Queen through his Shadowline imprint). Fangirl Model, Ruby Rocket, became our poster girl posing in her own comic accurate costumes, like Thrillkiller Batgirl.

The program fully realized its potential when Ruby posed for a set promoting the reprinting of Amanda Connor's the Pro. We used the photos and a custom-made statue of the PRO (with Amanda Connor’s permission), to sell hundreds of copies of the reprinting. It sold as if it were new because to the people we were marketing it to, it was new! Admittedly, this program got off to a shaky start, but when promoting the right kind of comic (The PRO) it worked great!

You want video of the photo shoots? Check here and here.


One of the best things about being a comic fan is meeting comic creators. A Comic Shop promotes a new comic or graphic novel by having a release party, much like a CD or movie would, with the creator as the guest of honor. I feel store signings better promote a creator’s work in a more casual and personal way than conventions. Expect a whole column in the near future on the creators we’ve had, how we promoted them, and the outcomes. Today, I’ll mention Ethan Van Shiver and the Sinestro Corps one-shot release.

At the time Ethan wasn’t interested in doing another local store signing, I personally guaranteed an amazing turn out, and he agreed. I’m sure I sounded Guy-Gardner-level cocky to him, but I was willing to go balls to the wall promoting this event. I bought a .com to promote the signing. I got fans involved in promotion by offering art pages from Green Lantern: Rebirth as prizes. Next, we got 5,000 postcard flyers about the event out in the local area. We even had a guy in a Green Lantern suit out by the side of the road. The signing was a crazy success; we sold hundreds of copies of his book that day. Even the friends and roommates of comic fans got caught up in the excitement and got into the book. Ethan was pleased with the turnout and said it was the biggest he’d had at a store signing.


Z.E.D. stands for Zombie Emergency Defense. It spawned from my love of The Walking Dead and my desire to connect non-comic fans to what I feel is the best zombie story ever. We train people to defend themselves against a zombie apocalypse and survive the desolate world left behind. From the start this program sparked huge interest, and the program evolved into its own entity with its own manager. We’ve rented out a local gun range for firearms training against custom zombie targets. We also run missions at a local laser combat gaming facility, complete with zombie actors wearing sensors on their heads.

Last October 30th we had a Zombie Dance at a popular downtown nightclub and filled the place to maximum occupancy at 300 people in zombie make-up. The dance was a blast and introduced people to Z.E.D. and The Walking Dead comic. It also raised money for the training needed to ensure the survival of the human race. Currently we are working on formalizing membership and helping fans start other Z.E.D. chapters around the country. This program gets more new comic fans than any other single thing we do. Horror movie buffs try The Walking Dead, and then get involved with either more horror comics like stuff by Steve Niles or Rick Remender, or more Robert Kirkman comics like Invincible and Marvel Zombies, which leads them to the capes stuff.

Video here, and the ZED web page here and MySpace over here.


Newsarama readers may remember this from Joe Quesada’s “Joe Friday’s”. As Marvel Comics’ characters fought amongst each other over who supported registration and who was against it, we rallied fans to become a part of the story. Outside the shop we organized a real life superhero registration protest. To many people driving by the event looked like a pro and anti Iraq war demonstration… but with super hero costumes. We got plenty of local news coverage, and combined with the national news Marvel was making with Civil War, it resulted in a ton of new and returning readers. This was proof to us that there’s an easy way to get non-comic readers into comics—even if it’s a little crazy.

Video here.


After the Civil War protest was so well received, we decided to step it up a notch. Luckily, Marvel felt the same way and gave us Secret Invasion! Riffing off the paranoia of “Who do you trust?” we had an illegal alien protest. We sent out press releases stating that we’ve been invaded by illegal aliens, and we weren’t going to be silent about it anymore.

Illegal immigration is a hot button issue here in Florida, so this got people’s attention. We used the controversy to get press and the public to check us out, but at the protest itself the signs were clearly anti space aliens. Again we had picketing on both side of the issue, some with Skrull make-up. The protest got the blessing of both Bendis and Quesada, and after the event Joey Q said A Comic Shop is “one of the most creative marketers on the retail side of comics”.

Video here, and websites here and here.


Operation Sequential Art is the brain-child of my business partner, Jason who was unable to get comics when he was overseas in the military. Now in a position to help other soldiers, he started this charitable program which sends donated comics to troops abroad. I see it as comic fans helping fight the war on boredom—regardless of their politics. The project started with Jason sending the shop’s own overstock and back issues to soldiers who posted on anysoldier.com looking for new reading material. We received local press coverage when the mother of a soldier who got a package called The Orlando Sentinel. Soon, we were running out of our own inventory, so Jason gave the program a name and held a donation drive. This received tons of press including radio and television spots. Chuck Dixon was at the shop signing comics, and by the end of the day 15,000 comics had been donated. We organized a follow-up drive and store signing with Billy Tucci on November 5th, close to Veteran’s Day and the release day of Tucci’s Sgt. Rock #1. Other comic shops have begun joining us in this effort.

Website here.


With great books like The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies, October was our Z.E.D. month. There was a Z.E.D. presence at local horror convention, Spooky Empire, where we put on live zombie take down demonstrations, with techniques learned from The Walking Dead. Then on October 30th we held Zombie Dance with a Marvel Zombie themed costume contest! Look for the next “Shop of Ideas” for what the hell happened and how you can make it happen in your town. This is something a group of comic fans can do themselves even without a comic shop.

In November, instead of just having a sale on Black Friday this year, we’re turning it into an event with live music! But, the real big fun for the season is our December 5th “Last Christmas Party” with Rick Remender, the artist of Image’s The Last Christmas! Remender is an awesome up and coming writer/artist. He’s about to have the biggest release of his career, Dark Reign’s Punisher #1! I know firsthand that the guy likes being the life of a party, so I expect this to get out of hand! We’re planning Pictionary (which Rick should dominate at), dice games, and free beer. We’ll have bail money in our savings account…

A Comic Shop is located at 114 S Semoran Blvd Winter Park, FL 32792 (407) 332-9636

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