FW Presents: Requiem For A Newsstand

In the wake of its closing, Rob offers a few thoughts and shares some stories about the last newsstand from his childhood that still sold comics, the Voorhees News & Tobacco Shop. Joining him are fellow Fire & Water Network All-Stars Siskoid and Chris Franklin!

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15 responses to “FW Presents: Requiem For A Newsstand

  1. Porn seems to pop up in a lot of Rob’s childhood stories, doesn’t it?

    Great topic, fellas. I feel for Franklin for growing up in a town without technology or 7-11s, with only the local apothecary to sate his reading hunger and woes. Sacrificing his “pop” and vittles for books is a truly heartbreaking story. I’m glad his father (and later his mother) helped him out in his comic obsession.

    One day, Siskoid, I hope to visit your planet. It sounds crazy.

    I was lucky to live within walking distance of a couple of newstands/convenience store and a grocery story that carried comics. And the discovery that different grocery and convenience stores carried different comics was like finding hidden treasure. The “nice” supermarket, a Skaggs Alpha-Beta, even carried Continuity Comics! Samuree and Revengers, here I come.

    But the true shift was when i discovered a B. Dalton and Waldenbooks that carried comics. The B. Dalton didn’t seem to send past titles back, instead cramming new and old inventory into spinner racks. It was there I could sit and read the full mini-series of titles like Johnni Thunder (written by Ryan’s best friend) , the DC Robotech miniseries (a title so terribly received, it went from a three issue to a two issue miniseries in the span of a month!), Miracleman(!), and other assorted titles the like of which no grocery store had or would see.

    But then, that time in life was nothing but discovery. Figuring out which girls you liked (and maybe even that liked you) — or dudes, I don’t judge. Figuring out which music spoke to your soul. Figuring out if you wanted to dress like Julian Lennon (like Shag did) or like a Chess King (like Rob did). And once again, your show has challenged me to wonder if I’m just nostalgic for a time when so much was new.

    As for that famous Batman issue where Rob and his gang of conspirators opted to murder a young boy over the phone — the media had turned up Robin’s brutal killing into a story, and out came the speculators. I couldn’t find that issue anywhere. And I was sort of collecting Batman and Detective at the time, so I NEEDED this comic. By the time I saw it in a local comic shop, it was $15, then $30 dollars! If I opted out of eating lunch I could use that $5 and save and hope the price didn’t go up. But I was a fat kid! I can’t give up food. And I couldn’t secretly pack anything because my mom was on me like a hawk in the morning so I wouldn’t be late for school. But the old DAG charm paid off, because a friend of mine who moved wrote me a letter and sent me the comic! He heard it might be worth something, new I was a collector/reader, and snagged a couple from his local grocery store. DAG wins again! (P.S. – I rarely win, so it’s not bragging).

    I wrote more than I intended on this one.

  2. I love shows like this, sort of comic histories from friends. It seems like a perfect topic for a recurring show. The same questions get asked – first comics? how/where did you buy them? how did you store them? when did you switch from fan to collector, from convenience store to comic store.

    For me, there was a 7-11 down the street from me, a short walk to get comics. In the summers, there was a Cumberland Farms, a local convenience story that held comics. When 7-11 didn’t have the issue I wanted, there was a pharmacy a short distance away that had comics. This was the pharmacy where my dad would get his insulin, so I would usually go for the ride. Unfortunately, the pharmacy had the bad habit of stamping the date they were received right on the cover. So annoying.

    As you say, heading to these stores was like going treasure hunting. You never really knew what you would find. And Rob saying that it was a sort of adult budgeting makes perfect sense. Growing up, a local TV channel showed back to back Japanese kaiju movies on saturday afternoon (the Creature Double Feature). I’d often watch them with my best friend at the time. I would go around the house begging off older sibs and parents for any spare change. Then, before the movies, my buddy and I would head to 7-11 to buy snacks. So did I buy 3 slim jims and a mountain dew? Or 1 slim jim, a mountain dew and 2 comics? Inevitably, I’d buy more comics and less snacks. Then would watch enviously as my buddy ate cheetos and fun dip during the second movie when I had no snacks left.

    Love these nostalgia trips!

    1. Comics, junk food, and movies on a weekend afternoon is about as close to heaven as a nerd kid like me could achieve. My local station instead of Kaiju movies ran the Universal Monster films, Abbott & Costello, and Blondie movies. (there were apparently about 50 of them)

  3. Fun show lads. Mind, you think you had it hard as kids, never knowing if you’d find the next issue… here in the UK we were about four months behind you by the time US comics arrived, having come over as ballast on ships!

    In our town there were three newsagents within five minutes of one another, all owned by the same family, the Foggins, and if I couldn’t find an Action, JLA or whatever in one shop they’d likely have it in another. I think there were only two of us kids buying the things, but they had them for years!

    When my Mam went to work in a paper shop things got loads easier as she would bring me a copy of everything that came in, but I’d still buy stuff from Foggins, non-DC comics I wasn’t that bothered about, stuff like the Alan Class black and white comics such as Tales of Suspense and Sinister Tales, which mixed Marvel with Charlton, and various other non-DC comics.

    The biggest kick of all was seeing ones I’d worked on, on the newsstands, years later.

    1. The Foggins! Love that name.

      And I hear you about getting a kick out of seeing a book you worked on for sale somewhere. I inked, like, six lines in one panel of a JLI Annual, but every time I see it at a con or even online I think “Hey, that’s mine!”

  4. I loved this podcast! I hope this wasn’t just a “one-shot” as they say in comics. I think there is potential for a show like this; aside from newsstands, how about the first time you saw back issues for sale (was it at a comic shop or a garage sale?; for me it was a flea market), first comic shop visit (for me, it was a place called The Nostalgia Shop in the mid ’70s that was quite a place, but didn’t stay open relatively long), or first comic con experiences? How about that back issue you saw for sale that got away?

    I never frequented newsstands for my comic books; if there were any around, they weren’t in the vicinity of my house. Growing up in 1970s Memphis, the closest newsstand was actually inside the airport. This was initially the only place that I had access to DC’s 80 page Dollar Comics (Superman Family, World’s Finest, etc.) when they first came out; my local 7-11 didn’t carry them though they did have pretty much all the other DC and Marvel fare. My dad would pick one up for me if he happened to have a rare business trip. Getting a buck from the folks was tough, but there was no way they’d drive me to the airport to buy a comic book.

    Like the others, it was strange to see the differences in what the different stores carried. For some reason, Spidey Super-Stories was a tough title for me to find. This was sometimes found at the next closest 7-11 (not within bike or walking distance) than my closest one. I got issue #1 but they were already on issue #6 by the time I found my next issue. (“I missed five issues?! Nooooo!”)

    From kid to adulthood, my comics buying was at convenience stores, moving to a Wisconsin town that had a department store with a spinner rack, and on/off visits to comic shops with pretty much consistent access to one since 1981. The last time I bought comic books from a newsstand was in the mid ’80s during a high school field trip to Milwaukee. There was an outdoor one downtown and I bought copies of First Comics’ Jon Sable and E-Man; which they seemed to get a week ahead of my local comics shop. I was surprised to find them there and I loved it.

    So many memories and recollections! Thanks!

    1. You’ve just triggered a memory of there being some Comico, First and Eclipse comics on newsstands in my town, which seems strange to think about now.

      1. I found some Comico titles at the local supermarket – Robotech mainly. And then we ended up getting quite a healthy dose of NOW Comics at the store and at various convenience stores. Lots of Ralph Snart, Ghostbuters, and Married with Children. And some Terminator.

          1. I loved loved LOVED the Green Hornet series from NOW. In hindsight, James Robinson seems to have taken a bit of it for his Starman series. Legacy hero dies early in the series and his reluctant brother takes over? Coincidence? Probably not. And I found those on the newsstands along with Snart, Ghostbusters, and Comicos as well.


  5. Franklin – That Hornet series art went from good to serviceable to blecch in three issues. Remember 90s Hornet? Members Only jacket with pushed up sleeves? What was cool was that portrait of the Lone Ranger (put with full face mask) that tied it all together.

    1. Yeah, that Lone Ranger portrait rocked my world, because years earlier my dad had filled me in on the Reid family lineage, which he remembered from the actual radio shows…when they aired!

      And yes, the art was…troublesome on the Hornet series from time to time. The colors were kind of garish and nasty too. But the story was great.


  6. My newsstand of choice was the neighborhood 7-11 I walked to routinely past a few blocks worth of apartment complexes and usually over some sewage overspill on one of the sidewalks. My grandmother would give me a handful of pocket change to pick up her Virginia Slims and a comic book (and if there was any money left over, some strips of Sixlets.) The comics were in a small rack down and to the right of the cashier, where I’d sit Indian style and thumb through the selection until I found my pick. I shopped there until we moved to Nevada in 1987. There was a young lady from the islands that was fond of me, and when my parents told her we were moving, even asked me to write. She would often talk about how I’d be sitting there quietly reading the books without her even noticing me (which wasn’t entirely true– I’ve never believed in reading a comic I didn’t buy at a retail outlet. I was only skimming to determine my purchase.) When we were back in Houston a year later, she was gone. Probably for the best, as my interests had creeped around the corner to the wide rack of magazines where I would pick up the less adorable Savage Sword of Conan, Punisher Saga, Freddy Krueger’s Nightmares on Elm Street, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, and the odd issue of Heavy Metal (when I could work up the courage and/or lust.) We’d started moving around town before the ’87 move, but there was always a corner store to catch my fix.

    Grocery and toy stores were also fairly reliable about stocking comics, though 3-packs reigned there. K-Mart wasn’t much help, but the odd trips to Gemco or Woolworths always offered exotic scores. Besides flea markets and other thrift avenues, there was also the mall Waldenbooks and B. Dalton. If they had any secondary publishers besides Comico (which I never bought,) I don’t remember seeing them. Like David, I also occasionally scored some unseemly Continuity Comics at a Circle K a bit further out than comfortable walking distance. Safeway was the only place that had Now! Comics, which I’d thumb through but never buy, as they sat at the crossroads between expensive production values and questionable quality of content/licenses. I had access to comic shops for brief periods in ’87 & ’89, but didn’t start to transition away from the newsstand until the boom years around 1991. Probably one of my last newsstand purchases was an issue of Incredible Hulk from the Peter David/Dale Keown run.

    I may have seen a copy of the cheapjack Death of Superman trade at a corner store, and my brother had the Death in the Family one, though I think his was from a shop.

    I was never overly concerned about condition, and I didn’t hide comics, or if I did never successfully. I didn’t sweat missing/skipping the odd issue of X-Men, but I recall feeling anxiety over getting all of Secret Wars (starting with #3) and Dreadstar & Company (my first complete set?) After I switched to comic shops, I still kept my eye on what made it to the newsstand. Marvel’s dominance at convenience stores was reaffirmed going into the aughts, before comics disappeared there entirely. I drifted away from my modest toy collecting in that decade, and I’m pretty sure comics were absent from toy aisles and shops by then. The last vestiges were color Marvel and especially Archie magazines at Kroger until a few years ago. It’s been a long while since Archie digests were at checkout, so I suspect their recent deal with Marvel may be a bid to keep that shelf space before it’s entirely gone (as it appears to already be in Houston.)

    P.S. Godzilla and King Kong got some play on local UHF in the ’80s, and there was a lot of kung-fu movies, but like Rob my jam was Abbott & Costello & Universal Monsters (but in late night, Elvira and slasher flicks.)

  7. When I was growing up there was a dedicated comic book store in town but there were also two places that had spinner racks. One was a convenience store and one was a Rite-Aid. Though I’d frequently look over what each place had when I was in there I only ever bought one comic book off a spinner rack. That was from the Rite Aid for the record, because the guy who owned the convenience store was such a raging asshole who actively hated anybody under the age of 20 (despite the fact that the high school down the street accounted for probably 60% of his business) it became the first store I ever actively boycotted. What I ended up picking up at Rite-Aid was Catwoman Annual #1 (which is on the docket for 90s Comics Retrial,) and I think part of why I grabbed it there was that 1) it featured near nudity within its pages so it immediately had my attention and 2) I wasn’t 100% certain I’d be able to find it again if I went looking for it at the comic book store because at that point I hadn’t totally wrapped my head around navigating the stacks and was too shy to ask a clerk.

    So there you go, my one and only comic book newsstand purchase.

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