Near closing time a well-dressed man walks in and says hello to Charet. Charet nods.
’That Avengers four,’ says the man, looking at several bagged comics taped to the wall behind Charet, ‘is that significant?’
’Of course,’ says Charet in a tone that says, what planet are you from? ‘It’s the first silver-age Captain America.’
’Can I see it?’
Charet takes the comic off the wall, pulling a small piece of paint off with it. He slides the comic out of its plastic bag and hands it to the man, who gingerly inspects it for tears, creases, flaking, browning. He flips the pages delicately. ‘Nice. Let me look around. Don’t put it back.’
The man takes a couple of comics from boxes and returns. He looks long at the price on the first comic. ‘Can you give me a discount?’
’How about 20 percent off?’ Charet says. Later he explains that most dealers price a little high in case customers want to bargain.
’Great. Can I put some of my bill on my debit card and some on my credit card?’
Charet holds out his hand for the cards.
After the man leaves, Charet says, ‘I don’t read comic books anymore. They don’t interest me. The average reader is in his middle 20s. Last year this kid said to me, ‘You have some nice comics, but you should doll them up, put them in bags with boards.’ Doll them up. Now I’ve heard everything.’
Ink in his Veins by Peter Erickson
Back when I lived in Chicago, I used to go to Larry’s Comics pretty regularly starting as a kid who’d comb the yellow pages to find more impossibly far and ill-advised adventures to creepy comic book shops.
Larry’s was the perfect distillation of what comic book stores used to be (in all the good and awful ways that can be taken) and the last time I was in there, around 2000, it was almost a bastion from the too-nice and too friendly confines of stores that actively encouraged strangers to come and discover comics like Chicago Comics. Larry’s was the kind of store that only wanted you if you knew what you wanted.
Whenever you called, Larry (it was always Larry) would answer the phone “Hello?” like you were interrupting him, if you asked if it was Larry’s Comics, he’d get annoyed and confirm it was, like you were god’s biggest idiot. As a kid, when I went in during the summers, he’d be watching a Cubs game, a tube tv sitting on top of several long boxes of X-Men comics. He’d sigh loudly if I blocked his view or even louder if I asked him to move the TV so I could find that one where the X-Men fight the Brood.
It closed not long after I left town, and I guess this is as fitting a eulogy as any.