“Get Youah Azz To Mahz”

(Soundtrack: Silverchair–Frogstomp)

(update!: Steven’s Mars Experience continues here–I think it’s pretty clear that they rolled out the full red planet carpet for our Ontarian friend! He even got to hear about the robots…)

I’m deeply grateful to Steven Wintle for recalling me to my sacred duty as the (self-appointed) High Priest of Mars. Steven’s post cuts straight to the molten core of this otherwordly store’s appeal:

Mars is by far the shabbiest, dirtiest, most disgusting retail store I have ever set foot in. I’ve visited many dozens of comic shops in at least eight countries, and nothing can compare. This is a comic activist’s worst nightmare, the kind of ill-lit, moldy, uncomfortable basement ghetto that frightens anyone with the least bit of sense.

To hell with them. Me, I love a junk shop. If no one else is brave enough to dig underneath damp cardboard boxes full of hundreds of issues of Vigilante #28 to get to a digest copy of Superman Battles His Weirdest Foes, well, like the song says, if you don’t like it, you go home.

That’s it exactly.

Mars is the Courtney Love of retailers. There’s an awful lot there to cherish if you can get past the fact that they don’t give a fuck about your needs… Which doesn’t mean that they aren’t friendly. The guy that looks like Ozzy Osbourne will talk your ear off, believe me–he’s just not gonna tell you anything helpful, that’s all. Mars is the place where “customer service” meets ontological doubt–no way is Ozzy gonna waste his time catering to an acid flashback. He’s been fooled too many times before, you know?

I’ve been patronizing the store (in more ways than one) since about 1987. Back then it was on the second floor of a crusty building next to The Bay, facing Phillips Square, just upstairs from a porn theatre, which the Mars guys used to run (and talk about, behind the cash). The place was slightly better organized in those days. I’m not saying that they actually respected the alphabet or anything, or that you weren’t gonna find a crunched up centerfold of a transexual mixed in with the All-Star Comics, but they did seem more dedicated to maintaining a policy of free access to the merchandise.

This is no longer the case.

I really respect these guys. It’s like they’re saying: “look dude, this is the store, you want something, get in there and fight for it, I’ve got better things to do than make it all nice for you… so everytime I get a new box full of glut-era comics from some warehouse, I’m just gonna toss it on top of the bins. Sure, it’s not ideal, but we ran out of space underneath the bins a long time ago, and now there’s no choice–we’re gonna pile that shit to the ceiling, see?”

Believe me–I plan to be there when that ten millionth copy of Nth Man hits the roof. What’s that Bear & Marigold?: “Have a liquidation sale?”… No way man! Mars is a lot of things, but cut-rate ain’t one of ’em. Our comics may be in worse shape than a pediatrician’s reading room copies, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t gonna charge top dollar for ’em! “Delusional?” Fuck, what’s your point man?

They don’t price comics at Mars. Ozzy waits for you, spiderlike, at the cash, in his market guide web. He takes a look at what you’ve selected, consults Bob Overstreet’s mint guess, adds 40% for the exchange rate, and writes an outrageous number in black marker on the plastic bag.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget the time I tried to purchase a copy of Showcase #97 (featuring Power Girl) that someone had evidently killed a lot of flies with back in the late seventies… Ozzy went through his routine, gasped, and said: “Fuck man, Power Girl is hot! Gonna have to ask ya for twenty bucks for that one!”

I directed his attention to the section of the guide that concerns grading. “See where they say that a mint copy is ‘near perfect in every way’?” I pleaded, “this book isn’t like that. In fact, I’m fairly certain that it’s been ejaculated upon. See this stain here?” “Okay, okay man,” he nodded, “ten bucks.”

I only had five. And I would’ve paid it too. But the man stood firm. That’s integrity.

Gotta get ready for work (and a breaktime trip to Mars natch!)…

There will be more of this over the weekend though–I don’t know how I’ll ever find the strength to stop! I hope you’re happy Steven!

Good afternoon friends!

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