Selling dreams during the plague
Infinite Realities opened in December 2018 in a former auto repair shop right across from Tucker High School. It quickly became a gathering place for other comic book geeks and Magic Card nerds, where young patrons could play Pokemon tournaments and older patrons could sit down for The Settlers of Catan marathons. .
Then came the supervillain, COVID-19, who snapped his fingers and decimated their world. The pandemic not only ended in-store shopping at Infinite Realities, it actually brought the comic book industry to a halt.
In March, giant Diamond Comics Distributors suspended operations and for the first time since before World War II, no new comics were delivered to stores.
It got worse. Free Comic Book Day, an annual giveaway that draws newbies to stores and serves as a sort of Black Friday for the industry, was scheduled to take place on May 2. This is not the case. Comic book conventions, including Comic-Con in San Diego and MomoCon in Atlanta, have been canceled.
As stores closed and resorted to online sales, Infinite Realities jumped into action. It could no longer host tournaments, so it adopted a sidewalk service model. “It was kind of like a touchless food pickup,” said client Marie Sumner-Lott, a professor of music history at Georgia State University and fan of the Image ‘Saga’ comic book series.
Store owners Brennaman, Jones, and Brandon Mealor worked on phones, “curated” choices for customers, and tried to stay open with in-car business.
They also entered the void left by the absence of big idiots. “We were in convention season and no one was getting a convention solution this year,” Brennaman said. So the store created an online scam, running 30-minute interviews with artists and writers twice a day, including luminaries such as Brian Michael Bendis, principal architect of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, creator of Jessica Jones. , Miles Morales and many other Marvel characters.
They also took inspiration from Atlanta’s thriving comic book artist community, interviewing locals such as Tom Feister, who has worked on “GI Joe”, “Iron Man” and “Witchblade”.
This month, as shipments resume, Infinite Realities took small steps towards reopening the store. There are still no Pokémon tournaments, but customers wearing masks can enter, 10 at a time, and surfaces are thoroughly sanitized several times a day.
“The only thing we don’t offer before is events,” Jones said, “and it breaks our hearts because we love the community so much.”
A small ray of hope: Families trapped at home are looking for games to play with their children. They call the store and say, “Hey, I’m in a monopoly. Can you help me? “Brennaman looks after you.” Board game companies have some cool kids’ games that you won’t find at Walmart, “he said,” like Aquicorn Cove and Fox. in the Forest Parents are excited to find out ‘I don’t need to play Candyland anymore.’ “
Will Comic Book Stores Survive? Joe Field, notable owner of Flying Color Comics in California, who invented Free Comic Book Day, thinks the answer is yes. He told Fortune magazine, “Comic book retailers are the cockroaches of pop culture.
One thing that helps stores like Infinite Realities is the intergenerational appeal of their inventory, which goes way beyond Superheroes and Spandex.
Matt Miller, 42, of the unincorporated county of DeKalb, loves that his 11-year-old daughter can find Raina Telgemeier books there. Telgemeier’s graphic memoir “Smile,” about a sixth-year girl who damages her front teeth in a fall and faces painful orthodontics as well as a painful adolescence, is a favorite. in the pre-adolescent demographics.
Finally, comics, games, magic cards, all offer a bit of respite from a bizarre world of social upheaval and a global scourge.
“It’s hard to talk about comics; it seems almost superficial at the moment, ”Jones said. “But we have to be aware that, yes, it’s escape, but these days it’s good to have a minute to yourself.”