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Meet Tim Finn and Jesse Farrell of Hub Comics in Somerville

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tim Finn and Jesse Farrell.

Well in anticipation of a possible Green Line Extension stop in Union Square, Hub Comics opened in early 2008. Manager Jesse Farrell, a figural sculptor (his work is on display at Hub!), has been with the store since its inception. Animator and animation professor Tim Finn bought the store in 2011, and started a year-long renovation. That meant new shelving, a thorough revision of inventory, new paint, new awnings, new lighting, new windows, new website, a renewed presence on social media, and more.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We never closed the store once during the 2011-2012 renovation, despite the dust we and our carpenter made, and the few hundred books sitting on tables in the middle of the store while we reorganized. Our building has undergone some upgrades this year as well, so once again there’s that “Pardon Our Dust” sign, but every change has resulted in better facilities and better service for our customers. Case in point, our new air conditioner.

As for business ups and downs, the comics industry has been growing, we have loyal customers and a vibrant arts scene in Somerville, and Greater Boston wants to read. Naysayers who predict “the death of the comics industry” are factually counterbalanced by healthy sales and publishers putting more books into more places and more hands — school book clubs and libraries particularly. Kids who read comics will find their way to comic book specialty shops. Many of our customers are parents who want to encourage their kids (or nieces and nephews) to read, but we also carry books primarily for a diverse adult audience.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Hub Comics – what should we know?
Hub Comics is a specialty shop focused on comics. We sell a few posters, t-shirts, and the comics supplies you’d expect (bags, boards, boxes), but we center on single issues and graphic novels. Breaking that down further, we carry mainstream series like “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl,” as well as indie, small press, and locally self-published titles like “Libby’s Dad,” “Crickets,” and “Roger Otto: Dinosaur Skateboarder” (by Hub employee Jack Turnbull!). And with graphic novels (which we often just call “books,”) we have sections devoted to genres, rather than publishers. That sets us apart from other stores. Rather than a section for, say, Dark Horse Comics, which publishes licensed work (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), super-heroes (“Empowered”), newspaper reprints (“Alley Oop”), and horror (“Hellboy”), we have discrete sections for Horror, Super-Hero, Nostalgia, Sci-Fi, Humor, Action, and more. We’ve also got a big All-Ages section and a big Young Adult section.

While we certainly have Wednesday regulars who are in to get the newest issue of “Batman,” we significantly cater to readers who may stop by less frequently, who are interested in a longer graphic novel instead of just this month’s installment. That means evergreens like “Batman: Year One,” recent hits like “Ms. Marvel” (six softcover volumes and counting), all-ages favorites like “Bone” and Carl Barks’ Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge reprints, and new must-haves like “Saga,” “Megahex,” and “Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life.” But we place special emphasis on our selection of independent and small-press comics.

Twice a year we have opening receptions for our gallery shows of works by local artists. Yes, although much of the store is bookcases and shelving, we have enough wall space to devote to Batman art every December and January, our annual “Dark Knight on a Dark Night” show celebrating the Winter Solstice, as well as a rotating theme for each summer show.

Two or three times a year we host a cartoonist for a book release and signing. Past guests have included Eisner award-nominated Noah Van Sciver (“Fante Bukowski”), local fave Erica Henderson (“The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”), and “New York Times” bestseller Maris Wicks (“Primates,” “Human Body Theater”).

Copious photos of every art opening, author signing, Free Comic Book Day, and special event we’ve ever hosted are at our Facebook galleries [https://www.facebook.com/pg/hubcomics/photos/?tab=albums].

All of our employees are creative folks with backgrounds in art, education, theatre, and journalism, and we love to make recommendations and help customers find a book that’s right for them or as a gift. Also, our lovely art nouveau bookcases, which came from Harvard Square’s late and lamented Globe Corner Bookstore.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
All five of us are passionate about reading comics, reading about comics and comic’s history, and are happy to chat with, listen to, and ask questions of customers. Pretty regularly someone will come in and say “I’ve haven’t read comics before, where do I start?” or “I’ve only read [one particular book], what’s out there like it?” Since comics are visual, we can walk that customer around, pull books off shelves, show off the covers, open to a page, make comparisons to other books, and zero in on some recommendations. “I like ‘Fun Home’ and ‘Maus,’ what’s next?”

We hear variations of that, and are raring to go. A customer may like Russian lit, or have only read two prose novels by Neil Gaiman, or may like the Marvel movies. We are ready for that challenge. Dave McCarthy, who’s been with the store for 9 years, is constantly replenishing his “Staff Picks” shelf. A few customers have said over and over that they love everything he puts on display there and will sight-unseen buy anything there.

Pricing:

  • Buy 10 graphic novels, get the 11th free! We can keep track of your purchases, so any book $7.95 or more, within a span of one year, counts. Once you’ve earned your free book, averaged from the price of the 10, you start over, so every 10 books gets you a free one.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Tim Finn, Juliet Kahn and Ellen Dubreuil

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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