Documentary filmmaker Anthony Desiato was already looking forward to this week’s debut of his feature, My Comic Shop Country, on Apple TV and iTunes. But with this month’s news that comic book stores won't be getting weekly comics in the near future — and DC are continuing to publish digitally — he’s hoping his film reveals to audiences why physical comic book stores are so important to the future of comic books.
“I've been following all the stories on Newsarama about the current, extremely dire plight of the local comic shop during this pandemic, and I know we all want the shops to endure,” Desiato said. “The movie really shines a light on why shops matter - I think it can help during this time.”
For the documentary, Desiato traveled across the country to interview comic book store owners and well-known comic book editors and writers, like Paul Levitz and Mark Waid.
What emerged was a documentary that explores the business, the fandom and the community of the American comic book shop. In the era of billion-dollar blockbusters about comic book creators, Desiato told Newsarama that this part of the comic book story isn’t known by most people.
“Comic shops are facing an extremely real and pressing threat at the moment,” Desiato said. “Comic shops offer enormous value to customers, creators, and publishers alike in their ability to connect readers with material on the shelf - to make personalized recommendations based not on an algorithm, but because they know their customers and they make the effort to familiarize themselves with the product. I've seen that in action across the country and have an entire segment of the movie devoted to it.
“The benefit to customers is apparent, of course, but for publishers and creators too, to have the person behind the counter telling customer after customer on a Wednesday, ‘Hey, I read this, and you need to check it out’ is invaluable,” he added. “Shops are a critical link in the chain.”
Desiato has been trying to find a home for the documentary since he finished it early last year — even reaching out to audiences for help via Newsarama in the midst of his search in March 2019. Finally, Desiato secured distribution for My Comic Shop Country through First Run Features.
Now the movie is available for rent or purchase digitally on Apple TV/iTunes, beginning this month.
A law student-turned-filmmaker, Desiato gained attention back in 2011 from media outlets like The New York Times and New York Daily News for his acclaimed project, My Comic Shop DocumentARy. The film, which explored his own local comic book store, won awards over the next few years as it was featured in film festivals nationwide.
Eventually, Desiato started a podcast (My Comic Shop History) about comic book retailing, talking with store owners from around the country. That spawned the idea for the My Comic Shop Country film, which was funded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2017.
Desiato hopes the public will continue to support comic book stores, particularly in the current environment, and that his documentary might help them understand why that support is so important to the future of the industry.
“Jermaine Exum of Acme Comics in North Carolina has a line in My Comic Shop Country: ‘The comic shop has a place that cannot be duplicated by add to cart,” Desiato said. “And yes, one of the major ways that plays out is the sense of community they cultivate, which is a driving theme of the movie and reason enough to hope that stores weather this current crisis.”