Filmmaker Turns Eye Towards Challenges of Comic Book Retailing

Anthony Desiato
Credit: Anthony Desiato
Credit: Anthony Desiato

As filmmaker Anthony Desiato travels the country interviewing comic book retailers for his podcast My Comic Shop History, he's been surprised by the innovative marketing techniques shop owners are using to face today's retailing challenges.

And there are plenty of challenges. From the growth of digital and online retailing to the changing audience for comic books, owners are having to keep up with the times or get left behind.

Now the filmmaker wants to document the state of the comic book industry and the changes the industry is facing in My Comic Shop Country, a new film he's attempting to crowdfund on Kickstarter. The feature-length film will explore the culture, business, and fandom of comic book stores across the country.

Desiato first became interested in comic book retailing when he created the award-winning documentary My Comic Shop DocumentARy about the camaraderie at his own local comic book store.

After the store began the process of closing its doors, Desiato began recording a podcast to commemorate the store, but the podcast evolved into an exploration of how other stores are succeeding.

Now Desiato has found enough material to create another documentary, this time focusing on stores across the nation.

With a Kickstarter goal of $15,000, the filmmaker is offering various tiers and awards for donors on his Kickstarter page, from copies of the DVD to artist sketches to T-shirts. With under a month to go on his campaign, Newsarama talked to the filmmaker to find out more about My Comic Shop Country.

Newsarama: Anthony, why do you think the local comic shop in America should be documented this way?

Anthony Desiato: The local comic shop is an institution that doesn't always get its due. Retailers are on the front lines in this industry and bear more risk than most customers probably realize. Stores are part of a weekly ritual that can connect people in meaningful ways. The sense of community I found at "my" store, Alternate Realities - that what I wanted to capture on a larger level. To really do it right, it needs to be a cross-section of stores in terms of history, geography, and specialty.

Credit: Anthony Desiato

Nrama: Your last documentary had a lot of humor because of the owner you followed. Are you hoping to find humor as you do this film as well? It seems like there are a lot of interesting characters at comic book stores...

Desiato: I've yet to find anyone who refers to himself or herself in the third person (a la Steve at Alternate Realities), but yes, colorful personalities abound. I've found some passionate, outspoken folks, and we've shared a lot of laughs in the podcasts.

Credit: Anthony Desiato

Nrama: This film is also sort of spinning out of the podcast you've been doing, called My Comic Shop History. As you've been traveling to different shops for your podcast, what are some of the surprises you've found along the way?

Desiato: It seems people are often to quick to predict the demise of the industry - and it certainly has its challenges - but I find it far more interesting to show how retailers are responding to these challenges, whether it's the floor displays at Acme Comics in North Carolina, the events at the Comic Book Shop in Delaware, or the high-end back issue selection at Zapp! Comics in New Jersey. Perhaps that's been my biggest surprise: to not hear gloom and doom from the people behind the counter.

Nrama: As you start researching comic book stores for your film, is there anything you think will surprise viewers?

Desiato: I take it for granted because I worked at a store, but I think the behind-the-scenes aspect will be of particular interest to viewers. I think viewers will be surprised by just how much goes into the running of a comic book store.

Nrama: Why did you decide to seek funding via Kickstarter?

Desiato: On a practical, financial level, I'm utilizing Kickstarter to pay for filmmaking equipment. On a deeper level, though, I'm looking to rally my comic book brethren and prove just how strong this community really is.

Nrama: If your Kickstarter is successful and you're able to make the film, what are your hopes for the documentary?

Desiato: To celebrate the local comic shop, take viewers into these stores, and offer a look at comic shop-goers beyond the stereotype that continues to be perpetuated in pop culture.

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