As also appearing, amended in October’s V3 Magazine by Cecil Louis Disharoon
“Comics Shop News: interview with Jason LeCroy of What If? Comics and Collectables”
Bright colors, easily wheelchair-accessible- we’ve arrived at What If? Comics and Collectables, the friendly 21st century portal to the world of comic books at 1850 Redmond Circle, the 700 suite.
In May, 2015, What If? brought Rome its first Free Comic Day in years, as it hopes to for years to come.
Here’s the comics shop news about the store founded by Jason LeCroy, his mother, Darlene LeCroy, and brother, Jeremy LeCroy- as they celebrate What If’s second anniversary October 19th!
What IF? We go inside.
From the front door, you pass what I call the Wall of What If?: new comics, counted and poised. Turn around, and find plentiful boxes of old comics- together, the life blood of What If?
With the new boxes, LeCroy creates the Wednesday Wall of What If?.
The classic comic books on the wall, embodied in the wallpaper in Cashier Corner, may stir recognition of some childhood day, but the present’s here, too, in the subscriptions box, behind Jason LeCroy.
Many of us kids played “comic book shop.” But- What If?
V3: So: old and new. Comics, over collectables?
Jason LeCroy: The comics make the business. We get a bump when a TV series, like say The Flash, featuring a character starts its new season- or a movie, like Suicide Squad.
V3: How much of your job is figuring out what’s hot and trendy, like the debut of Riri Iron Man #13- How much of what you do is find some 70’s or 80’s issue of Iron Man?
LeCroy: That’s more difficult to do better than anyone else can. But we get three, four calls a week about collections for sale.
V3: At the store, you have all the fun of inspecting your prospects.
He mentions a convention team-up at Cartersville Civic Center -to host a show in January. You can ask him in person; he’s thinking about where and when these days, with more regional-reaching ideas.
LeCroy: Conventions are a great place to sell your store’s older stuff. This is the pick-up point for the brand new, but the rest sometimes has go become new to other people.
V3: Media-featured story lines often sell great numbers, but aren’t immediately rare collectables.
LeCroy: Rarity helps drive What If? -style choices-like, say, in collectable comics. It’s story lines you don’t think about- like The Walking Dead, which few people thought much about coming out, at the time- become the collectables people are dying to get their hands on.
V3: Mom’s watching the cartoon.
“Wakko, Yakko, and Dot?” I say, sure she might’ve seen them some time at the Juniper Street apartment.
With superheroes’ stories now famous world-wide, LeCroy concentrates on how mainstream and accessible What If? can be.
It's a difficult go, to publish outside of Diamond Distributors. One of the biggest success stories has been the Yi Soon Shin series, which just released a double-sized #4 conclusion to volume two. Convention circuit sales, like those made with each painstaking mile by the writer (with editor Dave Kraft) Onrie Kompan, who personally produced the title with a hand-picked professional team, are the indie publisher's life blood. Even still, a shop can order these sort of titles directly from their publisher- lending to the potential diversity of material like never before, at professional production values. The war-torn blood and blades drama of Yi serves as both entertainment in a visceral degree, but also in the spectrum of creator voices in modern comics.
V3 shuffles into Walker territory.
V3: The Walking Dead seems like it would bring in the most people who are not otherwise comic book fans.
LaCroy: Sure. People enjoy how you can read it and watch it, still get two different stories, without the surprises spoiled. It’s a big seller, one of my highest selling comics every month.
V3: Back issues?
LaCroy: Some! Kind of rare. A lot of people who have it are collectors. They know, ten, fifteen years later, it’ll be worth a lot more.
You have, basically, different categories of customers: Walking Dead fans, superhero comics fans, gamers who don’t want comics, back issue collectors, buyers on the pop culture, ride the wave, hey what’s-cool-right-now who like t-shirts.
V3: Could you tell me how your business divides between “Interested from years before” customers and how many are new people getting on board more with movies, shows?
LaCroy: These line-wide re-sets seek new readers. Old readers like things like, classic Superman’s back again. It’s a hard balance, appealing to readers old and new.
The comics I bought:
Cullen (Conan The Slayer, IDW Revolution) Bunn, Conan The Slayer #1
Ariel (Xena) Medel,
and JM (Augusta Wind: The Last Story, Scooby Doo Apocalpse) De Matteis.
My copies of Xena #2 and #3 feature artist Ariel Medel. Jason’s donned his Ash t-shirt today.
LaCroy: Is he doing the next (Army of Darkness) crossover?
V3: No, that won’t be his. Ariel wants to spend more time with his family.
Here’s the funny thing, though:
I’d just chatted with the original Xena comics artist, from both Topps and Dark Horse runs: present Marvel cover genius, Joyce Chin. Original Wynona Earp artist, too!
She graciously provided images of original pages of uncolored artwork and unreleased covers, for a special post at OutrightGeekery.com.
What If?’s piece comes amidst of a swath of comics interviews. I picked Dragon Con guests like Sanford Greene, who draws Luke Cage in Power Man and Iron Fist each month. He answers my questions here in late September: ‘You sent a ton of questions I unfortunately really answer yet. lol’ That’s exciting.
Jose Delbo, artist on late 80’s Transformers and, while Lynda Carter’s show was on TV, Wonder Woman, has answers on the way to me, courtesy of his manager, Silvana.
Wonder Woman #272 appears as a mural in on the Wall of What If?
Appropriate: Delbo now re-creates his work as murals, and he drew the book back then.
Some customers come only for their favorite comic book. Some buy by character concept; some pursue an artist or writer. How about one of everything?
What If?: Origins
V3: Was the store a lifelong dream?
LeCroy: Actually, no! It sort of happened! My uncle was HUGE into Conan, Tarzan-
V3 (Geekeruption): OH! Joe Kubert for DC! My friend Kraft wrote Tarzans for Marvel!
Lecroy (nods): -Including the Universal Monsters, the toys, the statues- he still has a room in his house to showcase this stuff. The love kinda fell down to us. We always played with the 90s Captain America figures, watched the Spider-Man cartoons, Batman the movie at midnight. I went to Legends.
Jason asked himself: What If a manager – with a fondness for Wolverine and The Punisher- worked with his brother and mother to establish a store that sold what no one else in Rome has. A place of work that served a one-of-a-kind appetite: Imagination.
What made others laugh one day led to open doors six months later.
Comics characters are higher profile than ever, but what’s still there from years back?
Spider-Man’s way of soldiering through loss, his use thwipps, flips, and Spider-Quips to reassure civilians and tangle his foes-these elements remain, when written (to use the Terrificon panel appearances) by Dan Slott, Peter David, or in other years, Roger Stern or J.M. DeMatteis. Yes, even Dave Kraft- he wrote the real swingers.
Superman died, but he got better. My partner on IDW’s upcoming Hero Duty, creator Joe Phillips, even drew the Superboy born out of ‘Return of Superman.’
Three women- one, artist (and singer!) Afua Richarson- write World of Wakanda, two features each month, rounding out the Wakandan world with the characters taking agency free of their super-heroic monarch this November.
Lecroy: With a title like that, Black Panther fans will probably come in any day and say “hey, pre-order me a copy.”
As if on cue now arrives a key part of the store’s creative process: the shipment! Two boxes of brand new comics from Diamond Distributors, wheeled in by the Fed Ex guy, for Jason to refresh the Wednesday Wall of What If?
V3: Do the new Ms. Marvel, World of Wakanda, Riri as Iron Man, Jane Foster as Thor, bring new readers?
LeCroy: Some! The Female Thor had a lot of interest, great sales when she came out. A lot of these things will flip over with Marvel Now next month.
V3: How’s that for sales?
LeCroy: Tough. As a retailer, you already have your order forms set. With the shuffling around, you don’t have the same series: stories, creative teams.
V3: Blockbusters bring in new people?
LeCroy: Oh yeah!
V3: Practically part of your job, seeing them all ---
LeCroy: That’s what I tell my fiancee! So DC, and Marvel, especially, have remade things more in the image of their successful movies and shows. Now with Reborn, DC is trying to appeal to the older fans, while keeping the newest ones who came along with 52.
You can tell what generation of fan someone is by their choice of Harlequin design.
My daughter didn’t go for the jester cap look; it’s the colored hair, shorts, baseball bat, so you know-
V3 : Margot Robbie.
LeCroy: Right! Suicide Squad movie.
V3: It’s savage.
LeCroy: Right. But - longtime fans do prefer a faithful reflection of the print comics. For example,
the Joker was never so absorbed with being a crime lord- more big gestures of mayhem! Already, you have Two Face for a role like that.
V3: Yeah, they wanted The Joker’s cachet and link him with Harley.
Years later, people look for a storyline, certain to leave them with opinions and reflections across the entire emotional gamut, if that’s what they want.
The reasonable limit on what can be carried in stock also leaves room for the LeCroy’s to get you most any American-made creation. Readers can help create the shop, too. They can popularize a title’s orders.
These readers, living their own dream of completing runs of longtime favorite books, make Jason’s business possible. The passionate collector is the backbone of any industry.
At least twenty percent of What If?’s business? Young readers.
Parent and child reading together -children, reading together.
McCroy: Teachers and parents love it. A kid who didn’t like reading much before sees: ‘This has Spider-Man fighting the Lizard! I want to read that!’
Halloween’s going to have some comics surprises, too- check in, check it out.
We had a terrific exchange. Alas, articles, like shops that stock that which they can hold, also fill up- with hopefully, what no one else has for you to read!
Each week brings boxes of comics never sold before, along with each added collection- another “What If?” beneath each lid.
Among these longboxes and wall pockets sit stories, old friends and new strangeness, brought to life by artists, letterers and colorists, craftspeople with distinctive styles and varying skills. Often assembled by editors, and published for profit, their artifacts and expressions become the essence of Imagination, exciting in its power to make the world around you feel new and possibility-filled.