Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Free-For-All: House of Secrets - the best damn comic shop in LA

With Comic-Con this weekend, I figured it was time for an appropriately-themed post. I ask you, why is Wednesday different from all other days?

If you're a comic geek like me, you know that Wednesday is "New Comic Book" Day. Each week, you'll find comic book stores filled with regular customers on that afternoon, particularly during the lunch hour. You'll marvel (see what I did there?) at the guy ahead of you in line who has a stack of comics as thick as a phone book and a tab well over $150. You might even ask him if it's been a few months since he was last there, only to have him say, "Well, I missed coming in last week, but other than that I've been in every Wednesday for a while."

For the record, my pull account stands at roughly a half-dozen books a month.

Some cities and towns are so small that the customers have no choice. They have to go to the solitary shop in the region. More fortunate customers have multiple stores in their area, which means they have a choice to make - which one do they patronize?

Choosing a comic shop is like choosing a regular bar or a barber; it's not something to be taken lightly. It's a somewhat personal choice arrived at by weighing a variety of factors. The store I went to back home was considered one of the best in the country at the time I moved to L.A., and I almost considered it irreplaceable. For a few years, I switched to mail order. The service I used had such huge discounts that as long as I was buying a dozen or so issues a month, I was saving a lot of money even with having to pay for shipping.

Alas, a few years back I dropped a lot of titles and it was no longer cost efficient to order them. That meant I had to pick one of my local stores, and between the Hollywood and Valley areas, I had plenty of options.

After checking out five stores in the area, I settled on House of Secrets in Burbank. Don't believe what anyone tells you about any other stores in the L.A. area - this is the best. No one can match them for customer service and discounts. As a regular buyer who might not always be able to make it to the store on New Comic Day, a pull account is very important to me. For those not in the know, it basically means that your shop will set aside a copy of whatever's on your list, be it Batman, Spider-Man or Red Sonja.

Plenty of people will tell you that the Golden Apple on Melrose is the greatest shop in LA, and I admit, it's a nice sized store with a lot of inventory and some great people - but they don't do pull accounts. Meltdown Comics on Sunset is another well designed store with a lot of space. When I asked the guy behind the counter if they offered pulls, he kind of sneered at me and said, "Only if you're buying 15 titles a month."

I checked out Legacy Comics in Glendale, but didn't even get to ask my question because the douche working that day was engrossed in a game on the other side of the shop and looked put out every time he had to move over to the cash register to actually help a customer check out. Yeah. I really was motivated to go back there. Frankly, Legacy is one of the worst comic shops I've ever had the misfortune to enter.

House of Secrets not only had a no-minimum pull, but there was a massive discount if you got one. If you just tell them, "Pull every issue of Justice League and Avengers," or whatever titles you want, you get 20% off. If you're willing to go to the extra trouble of making a list from the Previews catalog each month - including the order number for each specific issue you want that month - you get 25% off.

This store has one of the best staffs I've seen. Paul, the owner, is a really friendly guy and extremely helpful to new customers. Most days you're likely to find him and Eric behind the counter and these guys are about as far from the Comic Book Guy stereotype as you can expect. It's clear they love their jobs and enjoy interacting with their customers.

But what really sets the store apart is that they're welcoming to (*gasp*) girls. I've heard plenty of horror stories about girls being looked down upon by other comic shops when they come in and start asking "ignorant" questions about Iron Man or Elektra. It seems like the result of stores developing into their own communities - but having gone so far that it's like wandering into a small Internet BBS and asking a newbie question. Instead of help and encouragement, the newbie is met with mockery, eye-rolling and attitudes so severe, they just get the hell out and don't come back.

Well, House of Secrets has at least one woman on staff, and let me tell you, Amy is probably more knowledgeable about comics than several of the geeks I know. I admit, my tastes are pretty mainstream as comics go (superheroes, mostly). From conversations I've overheard while in the store, she's pretty well-versed in a lot of the more complex and respected works. A major geek who accompanied me to the shop once remarked, "She really knows her stuff!"

So newbies and women, you have nothing to fear from the gang at House of Secrets. If you're looking to get into comics or are just trying to find a new store to patronize regularly, head on over to 1930 W. Olive Avenue in Burbank. It's on the corner of Olive and Lamer.

And in case you're curious, they didn't ask me to write this. In fact, not only do they not know about this post, they don't even know me as The Bitter Script Reader.

4 comments:

  1. Sweet. I'll have to check it out upon my return to the area.
    Thanks for the tip.

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  2. YES! This is my shop, too. I generally go for non-superhero TPBs but they've been helpful enough to point me in the right direction on a few things when asked for recommendations. Also, the writers from LOST used to come by a lot as it was around the corner from the Disney lot. I went one random Saturday and Brian K Vaughn was signing stuff. That's pretty cool

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  3. Agreed. I'm not really a comic person but I needed to do research so I went to another store in Studio City that's much lauded and was treated like crap.

    I went to The House of Secrets and this really friendly guy walked around the store with me, throwing books in my arms and talking about what titles I needed to read based on my interests. He never looked down on me or made me feel stupid, nor did he leer at me. I'd gladly go back there.

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