By Lee Hester, owner of Lee's Comics of California.

Monday, July 13, 2009

oh thank heaven

My daughter Sophie was all fired up about "Free Slurpee Day", and was telling me about it for days. It took place Saturday, so I drove her and a friend 2 miles down the road to the nearest 7-11. I was worried that there would be a big crowd for such a great free treat, but there was no line. I was also worried that it was the wrong day, or that they would say that they ran out of cups, or the like. There was only 1 other person in the store. I asked the clerk about the free Slurpee. With obvious embarrassment he handed me 3 cups. These were no ordinary cups. They were Lilliputian in size. The things were barely the size of my palm.

Great. It's been years since I've been to a 7-11. I used to love their Slurpees. Back in the 1970s I would buy my comic books, and spend the last of my hard-earned money on a Slurpee. They had a series of cups with the DC heroes on them, and later with Marvel Characters. I loved those cups, and still have many happy memories of collecting them.

Lee's Favorite Slurpee Cup, featuring Jim Steranko's Nick Fury.

If you are a small business man like myself, you may think that you cannot compete with the huge companies. Think again. Just treat your customers well, and you will have a distinct advantage over most corporations.

Corporations think they are really smart when they think of new ways to trick their customers. Some genius at the 7-11 corporation (or whatever conglomerate owns the place) thought it would be a great idea to make July 11th (7-11, get it?) free Slurpee Day. Now instead of giving you a regular small size Slurpee, (12 ounces), which would be entirely acceptable, and within everyones expectations, they come up with a really nifty way to short change the customer. They make a special tiny cup. But this is no ordinary size. It's 7.11 ounces! It's like they are shining up a turd and telling you it's Almond Rocca!

Apparently 7-11 does not want you to drink deep. They just want to give you enough to whet your appetite, so you'll have to buy more on the spot just to quench your thirst. But hold on. This is not, free sample day. It's supposed to be free Slurpee day. Mrs. Fields gives away little tiny pieces of cookies every day. Does she call it "free Cookie Day?". I guess Costco should call every day "Free Food Day" since they hand out little tiny samples. The gelato shop I go to should announce "free gelato Day" since they offer a tiny spoonful for you to taste.

My philosophy is to treat each customer as a friend. When our industry has free comic book day, do you get a tiny comic book? Do you get a page, or a panel? No, you get a full-size comic book! At my store you get 2 of them. 4 if you bring in a coupon. The comic book dealer pays for these free samples in order to get new faces in the door. Each of these "free" comics we give away costs us 25¢ and up. Just how much would a regular sized Slurpee set back the 7-11 owner? I would be shocked if it was a nickel. But that's still too much, so they have to produce a tiny size cup, which likely cost more money to make than the Slurpee costs. All in the name of bilking the suckers that come through the door.

If it was free popcorn day at the movie theater you would expect at least a standard small size popcorn, right? Not a tiny size bag with 5 kernels in it! 7-11 went and produced a special tiny cup, slightly over half the size of the smallest drink that they sell. Shame on the corporation for thinking so little of it's customers to do this! I also blame each individual branch. If I owned a 7-11 I would have been giving out normal sized Slurpees, even if I had to pay for them out of my own pocket. You just don't treat your customers (your friends, remember) that way.

My plan was to get the free ones for the people in my group, and to buy more for the people at home. When I saw the crummy little insult of a shot they were giving out, I swore that I would buy nothing. It's going to be a very long while before I set foot in a 7-11 again. Shame one you 7-11. It's no wonder you are ridiculed as the "Quickie Mart" on the Simpsons. Your reputation for being a shoddy rip-off is well-earned. You had a chance to make a lot of new friends on July 11th, but instead you put greed first.

Shot-glass size free Slurpee. Is that any way to treat a guest?

Thursday, July 09, 2009


PRINCE VALIANT Vol. 1: 1937-1938
Fantagraphics Books, Hardcover $29.95

My favorite comics work ever is Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. Years ago, Foster's entire cannon was released by Fantagraphics, one year's worth of material at a time, in oversized softcover volumes. These volumes are now long out of print, and command collector's prices. It's a shame that such vital material was so expensive and hard to find.

Now Fantagraphics has begun a new series of volumes that are a great improvement over the previous ones. They are hardcover with better reproduction and coloring. The previous volumes were in soft cover, which, due to the oversized format, was easy to damage. The hardcover format is a much better way for this timeless material to last through the ages. The coloring and reproduction are much improved as well. There is now 2 years worth of material in each volume, double what the previous volumes had. The first volume includes several pages of nicely illustrated historical Hal Foster articles and interviews.

A glance at Foster's Prince Valiant will show you how beautiful and masterful the illustrations are. Foster starts off nicely, but after around 18 weeks, he really hits his stride. Where the pages were previously done generally on a 12-panel grid, they now open up with much larger vistas of sprawling castles, armies marching, and action scenes. All are rendered with singular beauty, flair and realism. It's the work of an absolute master, working at the height of his powers. Upon reading it, the amazing discovery is that the stories are even better than the art! All of Foster's incredible panoramas are there in service of a thrilling saga. Prince Valiant is a man of action, but he is also quite cunning and strategic. He is bold, strong, and well trained, but more frequently he out-thinks his opponents. You can't wait to see what happens on the next page.

This beautiful volume belongs in any comic book fan's library. I have read these stories many times over the years, and I have loved them each time. I am reading this volume at home right now, savoring a few pages each night. This is absolutely fantastic material. It's my Desert Island graphic novel. If I could only keep one Graphic Novel, this would be the one. It's available at the stores right now. Buy yours today!

Monday, July 06, 2009


To celebrate my Niece Shannon's birthday, my Sister-In-Law, Barbara, invited my family and a bunch of other people for a cruise on the San Francisco Bay to see the fireworks.

We left from the Port of Oakland. Our ship was the USS Potomac, which had been Franklin Roosevelt's Presidential yacht, known as "The Floating White House". It was really exciting to travel on such a historic vessel. It's a small craft, and can accommodate no more than 125 people. They had plenty of drinks and snacks available, and docents on hand to tell passengers about the historic details of the ship. I must say, this was one of the most spectacular independence day celebrations that I have ever experienced!

Here's a vintage picture of F.D.R. enjoying himself on the ship. You can almost feel his presence, as all the little details have been re-created.

Connie and I.

The Bay Bridge.

Daughter Hannah, who plans to live in San Francisco when she grows up.

Sophie, Cousin Sarah, and Hannah on the fantail.

Sister in-law Rebbecca, Grandma, Birthday Girl Shannon, Sophie, Sarah, and Hannah.

"Pardon me, have you any Grey Poupon?"

Some of those aforementioned fireworks.

"A 3 hour tour!" It's Cousin Justin.

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Imagine a World with no comic books. Not worth living.

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