Friday, 7 September 2007

Life in the geek lane...

By Andrew Hawnt

It may come as no surprise that my day usually starts much in the same way as Dante’s in Clerks. In fact, that whole film (and its wonderful sequel) pretty much sum up my whole life, apart from the fact I’ve never painted Rosario Dawson’s toenails in the back of a fast food joint. Ah well, life can be cruel.

The shutters come up, the lights go on, we set up the front of the store (as our store in the Meadowhall Centre is open fronted. Come visit us- 38-39 The Lanes, Meadowhall Centre, Sheffield), warm up the computer, and set upon a new day like a pack of wolves. Okay, maybe not wolves. Maybe a pack of comic geeks whose caffeine fix is yet to kick in for the day.

Okay, so I am pretty much the epitomy of the archetypal comic shop employee- balding, late twenties, wearing a Judge Dredd t-shirt, jeans and army boots. My head is full of X-men and my innards are full of Dr Pepper. I can reel off a bunch of Doctor Who trivia, but I can’t remember my National Insurance number (I know it has some numbers and some letters in it, but it doesn’t fly a spaceship so I pay no attention). Why am I telling you this? Well, because I love what I do, and stressful as it gets, I’m still enjoying bringing you cool stuff after seven years of working with comics and toys, and even in my most jaded moments I get excited when something great comes out.

Me and this place go back much further than my employment here. I was a regular customer here from the age of 12 and always wanted to work here. The place has changed a hell of a lot since then (it is now bigger, has a completely different stock and a completely different cast of demented characters erm, staff), but some things stay the same, namely the enthusiasm the guys (and both gals) that work here have for the goodies we have on offer. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that we are, in effect, our own target audience.

The day continues. Deliveries arrive and are checked off. Goodies are priced and displayed. Our ever growing clan of regulars pop in to say hi and pick up their comics. We talk folks through new stuff as well as the classics. Kids come in with their parents and want to know about Doctor Who. The staff pint at me and I spent ten minutes telling them about Sontarans or the Melkur or some such gubbins. Orders are made. The phone rings. Orders are packed up. Our Manga crowd come in to adnmire Rich’s hair and ask about the latest Yaoi. Repeat until hometime.

It is never dull here. There is a bit of a preconception that comic shops are a tad dreary, that many of them consist of large fellows comparing BO and talking about the merits of Shazam’s little cape. Not here! Oh dearie me no. This is a hive of activity populated by some of the most unique characters you’ll come across. And Rich’s hair. There’s always something new on the shelves, and usually there’s a member of staff who is more than happy to chat endlessly about any item you wish to know more about.

As I mentioned, the store is in a shopping centre. There’s a multiplex upstairs from us, and thus there is a regular pilgrimage down to our hallowed ground after folks check out the latest blockbusters, which is always cool as there’s nothing quite like seeing that sparkle in people’s eyes when they’ve just had their asses kicked in front of a giant screen. Most notably of late that has happened with TRANSFORMERS, where people have dived down here afterwards for posters and stuff and have been bursting with glee at the giant robot action.

People do tend to use us as a sounding board for things they want to check out, be it movies, merchandise, anime, manga, whatever. Man, that’s what we’re here for, to answer questions just like that. Occasionally we do get the odd dumb question (‘Do you sell comics here?’ being a particular doozy we’ve been asked a couple of times), but for those with real questions we’re more than happy to try and help. Hell, we love this stuff. Who wouldn’t want to talk about it?

Its cool that we all have our own particular niche in the store, subjects we know the most about, which lead to us being dubbed ‘the gamer’ or whatever. I’m the Doctor Who/Horror movies/Classic SF/books/Indie comics guy, for example.

Being in a shopping centre also has another advantage. We’re open til 9pm on weeknights, 7pm on Saturdays and 5pm on Sundays. Plenty of time to get in and check out the latest releases or to come chat about Witchblade’s slinky costume, or whether Gabrielle in Xena was cuter with long or short hair. Around the Christmas period we’re even open til 10pm, and of course you can find us all over the internet. We’re only human, despite the rumours of various cybernetic augmentation, and we do get tired and stressed, but we’re here to get cool stuff into your hands until we drop. Which happens, but meh, what a way to go.

Now that the blog is up and running, I’ll be offering a regular glimpse into the caffeinated, busy world of a comic shop employee. I promise you we are for the most part sane, but I do keep seeing people’s words in floating speech bubbles…



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