Comic Culture: Comic Shops On Vacation
While reading and collecting comics is one of my favorite go-to hobbies, there is yet another thing that I really enjoy doing. It, however, does not occur on a month by month basis. In comparison, though, it is probably more expensive and definitely costs more up front. Care to take any guesses? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Ok…you all give up now? Well, it’s traveling.
Prior to dating my wife I didn’t really have much experience travelling. It wasn’t that my family was against travelling persay. We just didn’t do very much of it. The exceptions were taking a few road trips to Chicago for some comic conventions (yes our parents were cool like that), and flying to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando once (this was sort of my send off to college trip). In the end, it just wasn’t a HUGE priority for my parents.
Well, times have definitely changed and I find myself to be more of a “worldly” traveller these days. My wife can definitely take some credit for that because her family is the opposite of mine. Her parents took her and her sister to at least one new place every year and that mentality has rubbed off on her for sure. Keeping that in mind, her and I try to go on one international trip per year, and as many domestic ones as we possibly can too. As we speak, I have currently been to these international countries:
- Dominican Republic
- Hong Kong
- China (Beijing)
- Puerto Rico
Now that might not seem like the grandest of lists, but for someone like me (who makes a modest income) it’s pretty impressive. And while I enjoy visiting these places and taking in the sites I always make it a point to do one specific thing when I am out and about. Since I am a comics collector, of course I am going to try and seek out some comic shops along my travels. So, I thought it might be fun to let you all in on a few of the comic shops I have visited on my travels, as well as the items I’ve purchased from these shops. Here’s my list to date.
Street Vendor (Hong Kong) – Traditional manga style flipbook in Chinese. I literally have no idea what’s going on in this book, nor how to even pronounce the name of it. The colors are vibrant and the imagery very classic and iconic to Chinese manga. I decided this had to become part of my collection mostly because of its cultural significance. I didn’t purchase it out of practicality, more because it was just SO cool and when am I honestly going to get that chance again? Probably never. I don’t regret buying it at all even though I can’t read it.
Orbital Comics (London, England) – “Infinite Vacation” Hardcover by Nick Spencer/Christian Ward and “RASL” Hardcover Compendium by Jeff Smith. I am not positive where Spencer is from, but I know that Ward is a London native (fun fact). Prior to purchasing Infinite Vacation I had read a few of Spencer’s works and liked them, but had never had any experience with Ward’s art. As far as I know this was the biggest book he had worked on at that time. I instantly fell in love with his unique style as well as the weird time-travel, multiple reality tale that Spencer spun. I took a gamble on this book and it paid its dividends for sure. Ward seems to be getting much more exposure these days, and it is well-deserved because his art is a treat in of itself. RASL by Jeff Smith (Bone) was also a little bit of a stab in the dark. I had read some of Bone prior to purchasing this book and liked it, but it was definitely a little bit more of a true kids book. When I found RASL at the store I read the description on the back and flipped through the book to look at the art before deciding to buy it. It turned out that this book was also a time-travel, mutiple reality type tale. I ended up enjoying this one a lot too. In the end the similarity of the subject matter of both of these books was very ironic, yet interesting because of the fact that they were purchased at the same time halfway around the world. So in mind, they will always be mentioned together in future conversations.
Algoritam Book Shop (Old Town, Dubrovnik, Croatia) – “Stripburger” comic magazine showcasing local European comic and cartoon artists. This comic can basically be compared to an American anthology. The nice part about it is that it is in English, so I was actually able read it! There are a lot of politically driven strips in there, as well as some more risky material. Nothing in the comic really knocked my socks off or blew me away, however, it is still a very cool piece of art. When I got home I looked online to see if I could find this anywhere in the states and you can’t. You could probably find it on ebay, but I can’t even imagine how much you’d pay for shipping. Much like the Chinese manga I purchased I don’t regret buying this one either. It was a very cool addition to my ever-growing collection of worldly comics.
Combining travel with comics is actually quite a fun and interesting experience. Just like American comics, you never know what you’re going to find. Granted, you might need to do a little research and be willing to dig a little harder to find something worthwhile overseas, but the uniqueness of the rewards is definitely worth it. Before going to both London and Dubrovnik I investigated to see if comic shops were going to be in the vicinity of where we were staying. The Hong Kong purchase was literally on a whim, and there are vendors and stores EVERYWHERE. If there is something specifically you want in Hong Kong, it’s pretty easy to find.
So, have any of my fellow comic brethren followed my example and purchased some foreign comics while on vacation? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to let me know in the comments below or on twitter.
In the meantime…