This interview is with Doug Dreger the inventor and owner of Sidekick. Doug solved a problem that collectors have been facing with their collections. It’s a great solution to keep your books from bowing or falling over in your boxes. He had some time to answer some of our questions and let us know more about Sidekick!
What got you into comics?
What’s your favorite character or title to collect?
- When I was a kid, my uncle worked at a small town drugstore. These were the days when a shop owner was not charged for comics that didn't sell, as long as they returned the top 1/3 of the front cover to get that credit. If you're old like me, you remember these "remaindered" comics that were usually tossed out like old newspapers. A lot of these ended up in my hands, and I devoured them. But I often didn't know the titles, because that top portion of the cover was missing! To this day, when I go through long boxes at a con or LCS, I sometimes get a crazy-strong moment of deja vu. I'll stop, stare at the cover of an early Cap or FF book from around 1975 and I just know I had a copy of that one, missing the title block, as a kid.
- That's easy. Mine is captured in my Facebook profile pic, which my Mom shot when I was 10. It's 1979, and I'm floating on an inner tube in a little splash pool we had in the backyard. In my hands, a copy of Marvel Fun and Games. (I think it's Issue #1). In those days, I had hair. And six-pack abs. And not a care in the world. And I obviously knew nothing about comic preservation.
Tell us about the origin of Sidekick Supplies.
- My idea for SideKick has been rattling around in the back of my mind for a looooong time. Having been a collector for over 40 years, I've had my share of minor disasters when sorting and storing my books. Usually when I grab a short box from a tall shelf, and I hear the comics inside shifting around --- they flop forward, they fall backward, and I wince thinking about how they're probably getting bent no matter how hard I work to store them safely. But, like everyone else, I just dealt with it and tried to be careful. After all, your comic boxes aren't all nice and full at all times. When you come home from the LCS with a stack, or if you've bought a collection, you need to add new boxes! Some are going to end up being only half-full for at least a while.
- What pushed me to finally solve it was my past couple of years as an active SELLER of comics, in my eBay store and in Facebook sales threads and elsewhere. That requires a whole different level of organization and care when sorting your inventory. Always searching through your new supply of long boxes, selecting books to sell next and moving those to a different box. Then you have another box of comics ready to photograph and list. And other boxes of books you have sold, or awaiting shipment. If you've done this sort of thing, you know what I'm talking about! You need a simple, reliable way to shore up the books in those partly-full boxes so they don't get damaged. And you never want to have to refund a customer because their purchase became lost or damaged somewhere between listing it and shipping it.
- I hunted around for options online and sort of came up empty. Aside from buying those expensive plastic comic bins, it seemed that most collectors were just filling empty space in their boxes with heavy TPBs, old backing boards, or maybe bubble wrap and cardboard. There had to be a better way.
- I did a few sketches, loosely based on a similar item used years ago for file boxes. And I dusted off my very old CAD skills and designed SideKick, and had a couple of early 3-D printed versions made to nail down the dimensions and everything as best I could on my own. Then it was time for professional help. I enlisted an awesome company called Rabbit Design in San Francisco to review my own drawings and help me refine it more and more, with several additional prototypes. Finally, they completed my technical drawings (DFM, or Design for Manufacturing) for SideKick to be manufactured for real. The drawings are used to make an aluminum mold for the injection-molded fabrication of the final products. That's being done right now by another outstanding company called ProtoLabs in Minnesota. And I'm in the early stages of applying for trademark and patent protection.
- During all of this, a logo and website were born (thank you, Collin Levine from Louisville!) and I got busy with all the e-commerce pieces that needed to be put into place: the customer "shopping" experience on a brand-new website, packaging/shipping options, and so on. With a ton of support from my wife and a few close friends, and the right designers and business coaching, I think we've done things really well for a first-time small business. It's been a lot of fun, too!
- Knock on wood, we haven't hit any major stumbling blocks yet. But, that's easy to say when your company is so new! Outside of a handful of friends, nobody had heard about SideKick or laid eyes on our website until early November 2022. (So much is happening with it now, that it seems much longer ago!). But, circle back to me in a few months, and I'm sure I will have made a few doozies.
What’s your favorite character or title to collect?
- I've always loved superhero teams the most: X-men, Avengers, and Teen Titans were some of my favorites as a young reader and collector. As a kid, I guess I thought a comic with 8 or 10 superheroes had to be better than a title with just one, right? And that Claremont/Byrne Uncanny X-Men run was absolutely MADE for me at that age.
- And when Marvel and DC released that X-Men/Teen Titans crossover, I was 13. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Cyclops and Robin together? Beast Boy and Storm? This was too cool for school. That book cost $2.00, which was a lot at the time. I bought three copies. I wouldn't call it speculating, though. (I still have all 3). I just had to have more of a good thing. And Walt Simonson remains one of my favorite artists.
- My absolute grail would have to be FF #1. If I ever somehow find a copy that I can afford without too much spousal aggravation, I'll be a happy man. (My wife is a saint, by the way, but we all have our limits). I also have a little side quest at the moment, collecting a full run of Savage She-Hulk #1 thru #25, all in CGC 9.6. I have 3 more to go.
- Do you know those JC Penney reprint comic sets from the early 1990s? They sold them as a sort of comic collecting "starter kit". A cool comic box with bold Marvel graphics and 20 reprints of some pretty random Marvel comics. And inside there was that newsprint guide "All About Collecting Comics". I recently lucked into buying a small collection that had the ENTIRE set from 1993, with the box and everything, all in very nice shape. That was a good find!
- My PC stands at 19,121 comics right now. Only 62 are slabbed, including those 22 Savage She-Hulks. So, I am definitely more of a raw book collector. I have nothing whatsoever against the professional grading companies. It's a really good way to preserve a book and instill buyer confidence when making a sale. But I love my short boxes (all 142 of them), and reading them when I have the time.
- I've been hunting in the wild and buying collections in a serious way for about 2 years now. Over 60 different buys from folks on Craigslist, or FB marketplace, or people that just find me somehow. Approx. 125,000 comics in all (I keep track of it pretty closely), which has helped me grow my own collection and sell the others to fund the next purchase. I haven't come across that one huge grail find yet, just hundreds upon hundreds of really nice books! But I haven't given up. Who knows what lurks in those 20 long boxes I haven't gotten around to sorting through?
- Just chase what makes you happy. Collect what you like, and do it in whatever way you like. New releases, Golden/Silver Age books, whatever appeals to you. Go to conventions, find a favorite LCS, or order online. Raw or graded, major publishers or indies. It's all out there for you, much more than the days when comics were only sold at newsstands or corner stores. I feel as though we have a wealth of collecting resources today. You know what I mean. Apps, influencers, publishers all trying to tell us what is "hot" or what is "under-valued" or what is going to "pop". If you find that exciting and fun, more power to you! But, don't get drawn to that light so much that you forget what made this hobby fun for you in the first place. Keep buying, trading, and reading good comics, whatever that means to you. And take good care of them ... one day you'll be that aunt, uncle, or grandparent that gets to pass them down to a favorite kid in your life. Just don't let him read them in the swimming pool.
A huge thank you to Doug for the time to do the interview and letting us know all about Sidekick! Check them out below!