This interview series is yet with another one of my favorite online comic shops! I've also had the honor to meet the team at Black Flag Comics a few times after attending two of the Crain Road Tours. They're extremely nice, accomodating and really great people all around! If you've ever ordered from their store you know they put a lot of care into packaging up books. They're the exclusive home of Clayton Crain and also put out several hot variants throughout the year!
What got you into comics?
- Saturday morning cartoons back in the 70s. Taking a special trip to the Broadway Newsstand to grab a copy of X-men; Scooby Doo & Spider-Man are some of my favorite memories.
Favorite childhood memory about comics?
- Ooops I answered above.
Tell us about the origins of Black Flag Comics? Also how did you start working with Clayton Crain?
- I opened my first brick & mortar comic shop “Phantasy Workshop Presents Neo Tokyo” in a mall kiosk during the mid 90s. In 6 months time grew that business to a storefront in Downtown Asheville, NC. The business thrived for many years. Eventually hitting a lull in the early 2000s, I switched gears and joined corporate America for nearly 20 years.
- Always thinking about what could be or could have been had my shop made it through those rough times. Black Flag originated after seeing a live stream on Facebook of a guy selling comics. Intrigued, I watched for a while and decided pretty quickly I could do it as well. I began running live streams after my time at my day job. During that period I worked as a Finance Manager at Nissan in the day and began moonlighting as a comic sales guy at night. Often working upwards of 90 hours a week between the two. One was a great job that took care of my family but had a major cost of time and all around pretty boring. The second was a passion, something from my childhood I loved and I saw the potential of being able to do something I enjoyed and hoped to make it my full time gig again. The live sales grew as I tried out new formats and ways to interact with my audience. You have to understand, in the beginning I was doing this on my own as well as keeping a full-time corporate job. Finding books to sell, grading, organizing, shipping and all while attempting to be at least a little bit of an entertainer. My live sales grew from 1 person watching to 2 then sometimes I would get all the way up to 15 people in the first few months. Eventually growing to 20;40;75 and so on.
- At that point I asked my wife to come alongside and help out. It had grown past my abilities to do it alone and work a full-time job. She reluctantly joined me and brought her own flair to the business with branding and logistical skills. We found that our Marriage and all the quirks that go with it were a part of our daily life and our live sales. Thats when things truly began to take off. When my wife first joined the lives she would have rather crawled in a hole and died as opposed to being on camera. Soon her charm, wit and great personality won over the clients as it had myself. Also, she was the first female live seller of comics and that didn’t hurt things either. The branding and the female touch for our business is what has helped catapult us to where we are today. I left my corporate job in 2018 to pursue comics full time and jumped fully back in the world I loved so much. It has morphed and had its own evolution over the last several years and we couldn’t be more thankful for it.
- Another part of the evolution has been our relationship with Clayton Crain. We knew him over the years from cons and the copious amounts of signatures we were able to acquire for our clients. 2019 NYCC at a random pizza parlor in Manhattan late after the con, we ran into Clayton ordering his own slice of delicious pizza. Unexpectedly, we enjoyed dinner and conversation for three hours. It was quite literally a night that changed our life, Clayton offered us the distribution job of his variant cover for Spawn #301. I guess you could say the rest is history. Clayton is an integral part of our life as a member of our family and an awesome business partner too.
- Honestly,I can say that mistakes are what you make of them. We use every opportunity to learn. We have had MANY lessons and all of them for the betterment of not only our company but us as a family and humans overall. Even the hard lessons were worth it in the end.
- The future? So bright you gotta wear shades.
- Spider-man anything.
Next big thing for your personal collection? Your grail?
- I’m dreaming of an original Frazetta. Hey, we all gotta dream.
Most unique or favorite thing in your collection?
- I have an original three sheet poster Seventh Voyage of Sinbad autographed by Ray Harryhausen. Its over 6ft tall.
Raw or Graded? Why?
- Raw, I’m a purest. There is something about the smell. If CGC is reading this, we love you, and still waiting on our scratch-n-sniff slabs.
Best find or score?
- When I started buying collections tucked in one was Evil Ernie #1 & #2 both double signed by Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes. I submitted them for verification and they came back 9.8s. Pretty incredible for a random box. These were the only two 9.8 copies in existence double signed at the time. Showcase #4 wasn’t a bad score either.
Advice to new collectors or those wanting to starttheir own shop.
- Go to www.blackflagcomics.com. Ha! In all seriousness, collectors stick to what you love. Sellers, know your client base. It cannot be about transactions it has to be about your clients. I made a choice when I started selling comics full time to not collect them. I moved my personal collection to statues and original art with the occasional comic tossed in. This was really pivotal in the origin to keep the money flowing and not being attached to a singular item that I may have had to sell for our family to be able to pay the mortgage. My collection was and always will be rotating.
A huge thank you to Jason and April at Black Flag Comics for taking time out of their busy schedule to do this interview. Check out Black Flag Comics here!