Top Shops Features Paradise Comics, Toronto, Ontario
Retailers are the bricks and mortar of the comic book industry and deserve ongoing support and patronage. Our “Top Shops” interview segment is designed to help readers get acquainted with the owners of some of the best comic book stores around the world.
Sequential Highway is happy to introduce you to Peter Dixon, owner of Paradise Comics located in Toronto, Ontario.
Peter Howard: Why comic books? What led you to being a comic book retailer?
Peter Dixon: I collected comics for about fifteen years before I went into retail. I had about fifty long boxes of books and, basically, I ran out of room.
PH: How would you describe the type of environment you have created for your customers?
PD: Very casual and friendly. Both male and females are comfortable hanging out and chatting about comic books.
PH: What incentives do you offer your customers?
PD: We have memberships that give you twenty percent off the modern comics and graphic novels. We also have weekly pull files so you don’t have to worry about your favourite books selling out if you can’t get in right away. Finally, we have a great layaway program to help people buy books that can sometimes run thousands of dollars.
PH: Would you point to something in particular that sets Paradise Comics apart from other retail stores?
PD: We specialize in the Silver and Golden Age of Comics, which are books from before 1970. We sell more than any store in Canada. I have been told many times in the past few years by customers that we have the best selection of graphic novels in Toronto.
PH: What’s your customer demographic? Young, old, male, female, and so on?
PD: We have a little of everything, that is why the comic industry is so strong right now.
Twenty years ago there were mostly just spandex superheroes – which, obviously, doesn’t cater to everybody. Now Marvel and DC are doing a great job of bringing out a children’s line and, with the movies becoming more mainstream, we are seeing many more father-and-son or father-and-daughter teams collecting comics. More females are reading comics more regularly thanks in part to Joss Whedon’s Buffy comics and Bill Willingham’s Fables, to name a few of many. DC’s Vertigo line has a wide variety of non-superhero stories; has something that almost everyone will enjoy.
The majority of my customer base is male in their teens to twenties, while the largest monetary base comes from males in their forties. But with the great variety available these days the gap is closing.
PH: Does your shop support and/or promote independent comics and small press?
PD: Definitely! We ran the Paradise Toronto Comic-Con from 2003 to 2009 before selling it to Wizard Entertainment. We had a great artist alley and all those creators supported us, so it’s the least we can do to return the favour. We regularly sell independent books on consignment and often have store signings.
PH: Are your customers attracted to alternative comic books and graphic novels? Are they primarily fans of Marvel and DC?
PD: We have a decent mix of people enjoying different things but the bulk of books sold are still Marvel and DC.
PH: Do you sell equal numbers of comics and graphic novels or a greater volume of one category than the other?
PD: Graphic novels have been our strongest growth area over the past five years. Now we are selling about the same dollar amount of new comics and graphic novels.
PH: Are any titles favoured among your staff?
PD: There is a large number of titles my staff enjoys regularly, they all have a wide interest in different titles – which helps when finding titles the customer would enjoy. Though, if I had to pick one title it would have to be Fables by Bill Willingham.
PH: What are your best sellers?
PD: Walking Dead and Fables are definitely our best sellers when it comes to Graphic Novels. Spider-Man and Batman tend to be very consistent for new releases, and Spider-Man and X-Men tend to dominate the Silver Age market.
PH: What is important for you to offer your customers?
PD: Confidence in our product. If we recommend a graphic novel and you don’t like it you are welcome to return it. This way, people know we are trying to find them something they will like and not just trying to make a sale.
PH: Does your business currently embrace digital comics? Do you see digital as a threat or a business opportunity?
PD: We don’t embrace digital comics yet, although I definitely see a need for them and they are only going to become more popular. I think they will be more of an opportunity. Anything that helps get the product out to the general public is positive.
PH: If you were magically granted the power, would you change anything about the comic book industry and retailing in general?
PD: I would like to see the big companies actually get their comics out on time. We have a six- issue miniseries that is supposed to come out monthly [that is] taking eighteen months to finish. How can anyone expect people to buy that product and follow it?
PH: Who are your top five favourite comic book creators of the past twenty years?
PD: Wow, tough question, there are so many. I would have to have Bill Willingham and Robert Kirkman in there. Others would have to be Brian Michael Bendis, Warren Ellis and Mark Miller.
PH: Do you have a favourite Canadian comic book creator?
PD: I really like what Dave Sim has done for comic books and graphic novels with his title Cerebus.
PH: What writers, artists and publishers do you believe have made particularly strong contributions to the comic book industry?
PD: Geoff Johns and Brian Michael Bendis are basically steering DC and Marvel in the directions they are currently headed. Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Mark Miller, Robert Kirkman, Matt Fraction, and Ed Brubaker are all shaping our comic environment. If we are talking about past contributors there would just be too many to name, but a few of my favourites are Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita, Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg and L. B. Cole; but I could name literally dozens more.
PH: What types of products and titles are currently absent from the market that you would like to see a publisher producing for you to sell?
PD: Superhero wrapping paper! I get asked for that all the time.
PH: Is there something that you would like potential customers to know about Paradise Comics that has not been covered in this interview?
PD: Hmmm…good question. I guess what I would like is for them to come into the store at least once and check it out. Once we get someone to our store, they will usually make us their main comic store.