At 24 years old, OC native Kenny Jacobs acquired a small business loan, enabling him to buy the barebones of a local comic shop. It hasn't been an easy journey, selling comics over the last two decades. The first year and a half that he owned the store, he worked at Trader Joes and when the economy crashed in 2009 he began working there again to keep the store alive. Despite the ups and downs, Jacobs still lives and breathes comics. Feel like having a stimulating conversation about characters, plot and art? Jacobs is the man to see.
On Dec. 1, Nuclear Comics in Laguna Hills officially celebrated 20 years in business. In honor of the shops big birthday, Jacobs talks with us about the resurgence of OC comic book lover's in the last decade and what makes a good comic preparing us for Wonder Con, coming to Anaheim in April.
OC Weekly (Taylor Morgan): What makes your store unique?
Kenny Jacobs: It's personable, inviting and it's a lot of customer service. The goal is to make people feel comfortable without pushy selling and the best part is when someone comes back and says I loved it, give me more, that's everything. We also do comic shows like San Diego's Comic Con, that's world famous now, I've had a booth there since 2001.
How do you curate the store?
Right now Image is probably the most forward thinking company, in comics, so I order a little bit heavier then I use to. Image comics are known for their writers whereas with Marvel and DC you are ordering off the popularity of the title. Ordering is the hardest part, if you make a mistake you either have to give it away or sell it for nothing. It's also about keeping the classics, Preacher, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Sin City and Scott Pilgrim. I write down every graphic novel that we sell, which also helps me with ordering. That's vital because graphic novels are $10-25 + and single edition comics are $3.
Does taste for comics change over the years?
The quality has grown exponentially in the last 10-15 years. Even your plain old super hero comics are so much better than they use to be. Comics today are NY Times best sellers, they're just that good.
How have comic sales changed?
Comics use to be sold in periodicals, just like a newsstand. You ripped off the covers, sent them back and got credit, but now you can't send things back so ordering is key. The margin is higher but there is more risk. That's one of the reasons older comics are so rare. The switch that happened in the '70s proliferated the style of comic book shops now.
What's your favorite comic?
Garth Ennis' and Steve Dillon's Preacher without a doubt! AMC is in the beginning stages of turning it into a series.
Why comics over other forms of literature?
Books never interested me much. I've read some great classics but that's part of my problem, school's focus too much on stuff that kinds don't want to read. Because they're a classic doesn't mean that today's youth wants anything to do with them. Its an antiquated way of teaching. Forcing books that children don't want to read does not make readers. I hated to read before comics.
Why is there such a trend in super hero movies right now?
It's the perfect time to bring the character off the page and onto a screen because of technology. The second part is, Hollywood is having a hard time with originality. (Birdman, anyone?) There's a huge wealth of untapped wealth in comics, Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse and Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa are great examples but putting that into a movie takes awhile. What's original on the shelf right now might not be original when it hits theaters.
Do movies like KickAss or show's like AMC's Walking Dead affect your business?
That's huge. The first big superhero franchises that hit in the late '90s did really well, X-Men and SpiderMan, but after that nobody cared. They didn't care because people thought, 'I know the movies but comics? They're for kids'. A decade or so later, comics are infecting popular culture. The other difference is that kids, in their teens, have now had a screen in front of their face their whole life so that's not special anymore. Analogue is special, it goes in reverse, what's not cool is now cool. I've seen a resurgence of younger kids interested in books again.