May 16, 2012

Fully Booked Celebrates Free Comic Book Day: A Conversation with Jaime Daez

Last week, I broke the news that Comic Odyssey was opening up a new branch this coming Saturday in Fully Booked, High Street.

Thanks to Fully Booked for this image.

What you guys may not know is that I'd been sitting on that news for a month, and had been dying to tell you all. I had an interview (which turned into a conversation, really) with Fully Booked proprietor Jaime Daez, because my intention had been to do retailer profiles that week preceding Free Comic Book Day, but since Fully Booked's Free Comic Book Day had been moved from the original date of May 5 to May 19 in order to coincide with Comic Odyssey's in-store opening, it only made sense to postpone the publication of this particular article.

(Keep in mind, this conversation took place back in April, when Fully Booked was still planning to hold FCBD on the 5th and Avengers hadn't come out yet.)

The seventh of eight children, Jaime's love of books had come from his older brother Manny, but the same couldn't be said of his love of reading.  "My brother Manny was the champion book reader at school," explains Jaime. "What that simply meant was that you were the person who borrowed the most books for the whole school year. The funny thing was that he wouldn't actually read those books. He would just borrow these books to be able to win that award. So when I finally got into Ateneo, I copied him."

One particular book series sparked his interest. "I would always see Hardy Boys books. At the time, there were 64 books, and I read them all. I guess that's where my obsessive-compulsive nature kicked in."

This led to an interest in comics, so he would end up going to old stores like Alemar's and Gibson's and buy comics for 20 pesos a pop (Ah, the days...), and then he'd actually go and sell them to classmates at a small profit.

"I guess my whole bookselling career kinda started at that early age," he says.

In 1984, the Daez family moved to the States because of the political instability (Ninoy Aquino was shot). From 1984 to 1987, Jaime "really got into comics."

I couldn't help but comment on how that was the best time to get into comic books, to which he said, "I was right there when Alan Moore was doing SWAMP THING, Frank Miller was doing BORN AGAIN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Art Spiegelman was doing MAUS — that was also the time TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was big, and it would have all these spinoffs, like FISH POLICE."

As he refined his taste in comics, he found himself drawn more and more to comics because of the art, specifically painted art. "One of my favorite comics is WOLVERINE: MELTDOWN, with art by Kent Williams and Jon J. Muth," he says. This has led to a love of collecting original art. We'll get to that later on.

I got curious as to what Jaime thought about what I've called the insular nature of comics — the whole idea that comics companies only target the already-existing audience — and was wondering what he thought of the New 52.

"I think what DC did with the New 52 is a pretty good way of attracting a new audience. Obviously you're starting from scratch, and now there's a new starting point for anyone who's always wanted to try it but was intimidated by the whole history. But on a historical level, I don't know. I wonder if DC's really going to shut the doors on all the past issues of Superman and Batman and never go back to it."

He also speaks out against my preconception that the fan base is actually shrinking.

"For one thing, let's face it, all the big box office movies right now — most come from comic book material. So obviously the fan base is getting bigger and bigger. Sales of back issues are getting bigger and bigger. So the demand is obviously there. I just don't know how the digital aspect is going to affect comics. I'm sure there are already people downloading stuff and not buying that much because they're downloading it for free or from Comixology."

But does piracy really hurt comics as much as it does music and movies?

"I don't think it hurts it as much," he says, "because if there's anything great about people who collect comic books, they really like collecting. They keep these things in pristine condition. They bag and board it, they even put it in mylars. These people are not just going to stop. And if you really like it, you're probably going to buy the physical copy."

The conversation turned into how movies affect sales of graphic novels.

"It really depends on how good the movie is," he asserts. "Definitely, I can say, after the first Iron Man, sales on IRON MAN picked up. After the Daredevil movie, nothing. There are definitely more people reading IRON MAN now than before the movie. It helped THOR as well."

I think we can expect AVENGERS sales to go up. We'll see how many people flock to the AVENGERS offering on Free Comic Book Day, which will be one of the main titles they'll stock on the 19th.

"We mainly go for the big DC and Marvel titles. We don't really bother so much with the small publishers, because we give away a lot — thousands and thousands — and most people want Spider-Man and Superman. I know that there are a lot of other titles out there, but we don't really bother so much."

Jaime then showed me the DC Comics FCBD offering with an exclusive cover designed just for Fully Booked. It's the one on their flyer.

Since then, we've released the information that Comic Odyssey is opening a branch on the same date as FCBD, and they'll have the following artists on hand to do sketches for the family of Tony DeZuniga. (Thanks to Norby Ela for the list.)

  • Tepai Pascual (Maktan 1521)
  • Julius Villanueva (Life in Progress)
  • Amos Villar (No Parking Anthology)
  • Andrew Villar (Ambush Comics)
  • Carlo Villanueva (Boy Bakal)
  • Norby Ela (Wonder Years, Weather-Weather Lang)
  • Jon Zamar (Codename Bathala)
  • Freely Abrigo (Kulas, Kapitan Tog)
  • Aaron Felizmenio (Gwapoman 2000
  • Wan Mananita (Ang Morion, Unos Mundo)
  • Josel Nicolas (Windmills)
  • Chapel (Silent Sanctum Manga)
  • Ruben Nacion (Bennac Cartoons)
  • Gener Pedrina (Sanduguan)
  • Rommel 'Omeng’ Estanislao (Bruho Barbero, Lipad)
  • Mel Casipit (Baboy)
  • Lyndon Gregorio (Beerkada)
  • Ronald Tan (Midknight, Weng-weng)
  • RH Quilantang (Manila Man)
  • Allen Geneta
  • Ariel Atienza (West Side Comics)

(I couldn't let the conversation end  without trying to lobby for Jaime to bring in my favorite artist, who is George Perez, but he wasn't sure of what the turnout would be to such an event. Keep in mind that there's not much in the way of profitability in bringing people in; Fully Booked does it to give something back to the fans. So if you want George Perez or anyone else to come here, let Fully Booked know!)

Jaime took me to see some of his original art, which was a treat. I really liked this Bill Sienkewicz–drawn Jimi Hendrix:

Seriously guys, go buy a copy of VOODOO CHILD.
And go see the rest of Jaime's gallery here.

By this point, Jaime and I had spoken for three hours (and not all about comics) and my recorder died, so I thanked him for his time and took my leave.

I'll see you guys on the 19th! It'll be fun! And I'll definitely be interested to see just how fast the AVENGERS FCBD comic is gonna go.

(Did I mention there's a 20% discount on all graphic novels? I didn't? Well, I'm mentioning it now. But don't remember it until after I get there, because I don't want you buying what I'm gonna buy.)

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