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[Each Wednesday, Complex columnist Percy Carey a.k.a. MF Grimm dives into the world of comic books with industry interviews, reviews and more. This week, Percy talks to Ryan Liebowitz, the owner of L.A.'s Golden Apple Comics.]

Percy Carey: How long has Golden Apple Comics been around and what inspired you to start a retail store?

Ryan Liebowitz: My Father, Bill Liebowitz, started Golden Apple in 1979. He read comic books as a kid and always wanted to own his own business. He worked as a CPA for major firms in Los Angeles and was tired of wearing a suit & tie to work. He wanted to do something he was passionate about. So he opened Golden Apple 30 years ago.

Percy Carey: What are the advantages of being with a Major publisher vs. independent publishers?

Ryan Liebowitz: Major Publishers Like Marvel, DC & Dark Horse have built-in audiences and readership. In addition, they have distribution channels & advertising set up as well as top talent working on projects. The advantages for Independent Published comics is that the projects are unique and daring. A comic from a major publisher is one of many, but an Independent comic is one of few and is treated with care and promoted heavily by the creators through conventions and online content.
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Percy Carey: What about distribution like Diamond or Haven? Is there room for improvement? Do you have published books from self distributed independent companies?

Ryan Liebowitz: There is always room for improvement. Diamond is the major distributor for comics in the world. Most shops order over 90% of their product from Diamond. Diamond is constantly working to improve their status and relationships with retailers like me. They recently created and launched the first comic industry Point-of-sale system to help retailers that I am currently implementing. In addition, they are constantly improving the communications with online tools through their website. However, they have their weak points like any company. Efficiency, quality control and customer service are definitely an Achilles heal for any company of their size.

Most of the Small press (Independent) publishers use major distributors like Diamond, but it is very road to climb. It is very expensive to advertise in Previews, Diamond's monthly catalog, and they must meet certain reordering levels to survive. Some of the really small press publishers still call, email & even make house calls to sell their books directly to retailers. Personally, I appreciate when publishers take the time to meet you in person at your shop.

Percy Carey: What's the key to a successful retail comic book store?

Ryan Liebowitz: Great customer service, merchandising, ordering correctly and efficiency creates longevity in any retail business.
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Percy Carey: What's the biggest complaint from comic book buyers about today's comic book industry?

Ryan Liebowitz: Increased prices of comics to $3.99 cover price. Publishers not keeping popular graphic novels in print is a close second.

Percy Carey: What's your opinion on publishing companies marketing outside of the loyal comic book collector and reader? Do you find that being a sellout? Or do you feel that to be in business you must advertise to all?

Ryan Liebowitz: I find it unbelievable that comic books are mostly advertised in comic books and comic books shops. It's preaching to the converted. I think there needs to be more mainstream advertising and promotion. Recently some of the publishers in the comic industry have tried utilizing magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and TV show like the Colbert Report, which is a step in the right direction.

Percy Carey: What's your opinion on the quality of comic books today?

Ryan Liebowitz: I feel that retailers and fans would agree that the quality of amazing writers and artists in comic and graphic novels are at an all time high. From fan faves like Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Brian Bendis and Alex Ross to the amazing independent illustrators like Chris Ware, comics are cool and here to stay.
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Percy Carey: What's your professional opinion about trades? What do you think their popularity says about today's comic book reader?

Ryan Liebowitz: Sales of Trade Paper Backs (trades) have been increasing steadily in the last 5 years. Trades are an essential part of the comic book readers experience. At some point all comic books get too old to stay on the comic walls of shops and are bagged up and filed into the back issue bins. Trades are sometimes the only way for a fan to read the old stories because the old comics are expensive or the shop doesn't have all the issues to complete the story. In addition, it is easier to store on a bookshelf and read without ads and having to flip though all the issues.

Percy Carey: You're the only comic store where I've see the Batman/Joker and Superman sneakers for sale. A friend of mine named David Erwin over at DC Comics and Laurie Rowihab at Warner Bros are the ones who informed me about them, and I thought that marketing and branding-wise, it was brilliant idea. How are they selling for you? Would you like to see more diverse products sold on the retail level?

Ryan Liebowitz: One of my long-time customers was the marketing manager for the DC sneaker line from Limited Soles. He felt strongly that the shoes should be sold in comic shops. We were the first and only shop so far to carry them. The fans love them. I've sole more shoes that I ever thought possible in a comic store. It was a perfect fit! [Laughs.]

Percy Carey: Did you happen to see the Marc Ecko Star Wars clothing line? The Storm Trooper Hoodie and the Boba Fett hoodie are my two favorites. Would you sell that at your store as well?

Ryan Liebowitz: I did see the clothing line and I would sell it. These new clothing and shoe lines are a great way for retailers like Golden Apple to separate themselves from all other shops. Same concept goes for shops that carry Uglydolls, Halloween costumes, DVD's, etc. Since most of the comic shops order from the same catalog (Diamond Previews), it's important to diversify your product line to give your customers something they can't can't buy at another shop.

Percy Carey: What would you say the percentage of Golden Apple supporters are female? Do you see room for a larger base?

Ryan Liebowitz: Actually, you might be surprised to know how many female customers we have. Being on a trendy shopping street like Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, we see tourists, Socialites, goth and artsy girls on a daily basis. In addition, we have many Wednesday regulars that are women.

Percy Carey: What about kid based comics? What's the best seller for children readers?

Ryan Liebowitz: Most of the kids like Tiny Tians, Archie's, and we carry a full line of Marvel board books for really small children.

Percy Carey: What's your opinion about web-based comics? Is there a way of both print and web base working together?

Ryan Liebowitz: Absolutely! Web based comics should help readers find their way into a comic shop to buy more books like the one's they read online. Comics are meant to be handled, collected and appreciated as forms of art. Web comics create a different non-tangeable experince. I feel that it is a great way to introduce new readers to comics.

Percy Carey: Would you mind telling the readers a few of the people that did in store signings and events at Golden Apple?

Ryan Liebowitz: My Dad used to say, "the Great & the Near Great!" From comic icons like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, to Modern day creators such as Jim Lee and Alex Ross to Celebrities like Public Enemy, Gerard Way and even the entire cast of TV shows like Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles. We have been very fortunate to have signings and events all the time with amazing and talented people.

Percy Carey: What's the best advice you can give to a new publisher that wants to do business with Golden Apple? And do you recommend giveaways or incentives for potential buyers?

Ryan Liebowitz: Spend the time and make the effort to promote your products. Schedule a time to come in on a Wednesday (New Comic Day) or Saturday for a few hours and talk to our customers. Give away some posters, sign a few autographs, have an artist draw some sketches and make a lasting impression of the customer to gain some new readers.

Percy Carey: What can we expect from Golden Apple in the future?

Ryan Liebowitz: I'm working on a few BIG things....

Percy Carey: How can the Complex magazine readers get in contact with you?

Ryan Liebowitz: First off, sign up for our mailing list though our website. If you want to contact me, call me or come in to my shop or email me at ryan@goldenapplecomics.com.
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MF GRIMM and The BOOM! Studios staff will be at Meltdown Comics every Wednesday for the Month of January 2009 at 7pm

Meltdown Comics
7522 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 851-7223
Meltcomics.com

CLICK NEXT TO SEE PERCY'S NEW RELEASE PICKS OF THE WEEK!

 

DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT...
Percy Carey picks the hottest releases from the week of 1/14/09
[Assisted by comicbookpage.com]

ANTHRAX SCOTT IAN BOBBLEHEAD

One of the biggest metal bands of the 1980's, Anthrax took New York City and the world by storm with their driving guitar riffs, heavy drums, and locomotive songs. At the forefront of Anthrax's sonic assault was lead guitarist SCott Ian, as renowned for his high-energy musicianship as for his shaved head and kick-ass goatee. This iconic heavy metal rocker is ready to play a concert for your bobblehead collection as a 7' tall resin bobblehead that comes in a 'guitar amp'-style window box!
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DAREDEVIL PREM HC BORN AGAIN VOL 19

Written by FRANK MILLER
Penciled by DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI
Covers by DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI

'And I - I have shown him... that a man without hope is a man without fear.' The definitive Daredevil tale! Karen Page, Matt Murdock's former lover, has traded away the Man Without Fear's secret identity for a drug fix. Now, Daredevil must find strength as the Kingpin of Crime wastes no time taking him down as low as a human can get. Collecting DAREDEVIL #226-233.

248 PGS./Rated T+, $24.99
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GHOSTBUSTERS: THE OTHER SIDE #4

Written By Keith Champagne
Art By Tom Nguyen
Cover By Fabio Mantovani

You'd think dying would be the end of the story, but not for the Ghostbusters! Trapped in a kind of limbo, Egon, Ray and Winston set out in the land of the recently (and not-so-recently) deceased to find Venkman and save his soul from eternal torment! But it seems the tables have turned and it's the ghosts who intend to do the busting this time!
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GLOOMY BEAR MIMOBOT 2G FLASHDRIVE H GRAY

In one of the first crossovers from Artist Series '07, Mori Chack's famous and bloody Gloomy Bear has been transformed into a mimoBot Designer USB Flash Drive! Available in a limited edition of 1,000 pieces, choose from a selection of Pink Gloomy, Gray Gloomy or even Gray Gloomy with Heavy Blood! These 2 gigabyte capacity flash drives come preloaded with lots of surprises inside. Just don't hold this Gloomy Bear mimoBot too close, or you may turn out just like Gloomy's pal, Pity.
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SOUTH PARK KENNY BOBBLE HEAD

We're going down to South Park, that loveable hamlet in the mountains of Colorado, with these bobbleheads featuring the series' familiar characters! There's Kenny in his orange hooded jacket, with some fatal fate about to befall him. Kyle and Stan are on the run from their overbearing parents. And Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, brings some twisted charm to the holiday season! There's always something weird going on down in South Park, and these bobbleheads will bring that weirdness to your collection!
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WATCHMEN MOVIE DR MANHATTAN 1/6 SCALE FIGURE

Based on the upcoming March 6, 2009, Warner Bros. movie WATCHMEN, DC DIRECT brings both long-time and new fans of WATCHMEN what they crave: collectible action figures, intricately clothed 1:6 SCale deluxe collector figures, exquisitely sculpted busts, and straight-from-the-set prop replicas! All products feature movie accurate ikenesses and costume detailing! Get ready for a three-month WATCHMEN movie product extravaganza from DC Direct, beginning in January 2009 and continuing through the release of the WATCHMEN movie in March 2009. WATCHMEN MOVIE: DR. MANHATTAN 1:6 SCALE DELUXE COLLECTOR FIGURE This 1:6 scale deluxe collector figure measures approximately 13' tall and comes with a removable black suit. Packaged in a deluxe 4-color window box with a fifth panel, it also includes a 4-color Certificate of Authenticity.
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50 CENT: BLOOD IN THE SAND

50 Cent is back! Play as 50 Cent, the world's biggest hip-hop star, in this fast-paced action shooter! You and the G-Unit battle across two war-torn countries to collect your payday and exact your revenge on those who have crossed you in 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.