Joshua Stulman is founder of the Brooklyn Comic Shop — a stand near local arts favorite Apple Arts and his alma mater Pratt Institute — and, most recently, its online presence, BrooklynComicShop.com. A Fort Greene resident who grew up outside of Philadelphia, Stulman has been operating the outdoor comic shop for three years now.
We had a chance to chat with him to learn more about his collection, his store, and what makes comics — and Brooklyn! — special.
Fort Greene Focus: Tell us about yourself! How did you get interested in comics?
I started collecting comics when I was 8, building my own collection and attending conferences throughout the 90s, until by the end I had several thousand comics, across a lot of genres.
I went to Penn State for undergrad, then I went to Pratt and pursued a masters in painting, which is how I came to Fort Greene. In my last year of graduate school, I decided I was going to put out a comic book myself and in 2012, I published my first issue of Israeli Defense Comic.
In the meantime, my collection was starting to take up a lot of space and I realized it was time to start slimming down some of the things that I hadn’t looked at in 20 years. So, in the spring of 2013, I got two tables and took them outside and took the comic boxes out and set up my first stand. I sold comics for $1 to 3 dollars and it was pretty successful, so I started to do it regularly.
I was friends with Sam at Apple Arts through being involved in a lot of art things in the community, so I asked if I could set up a stand outside on Sundays, and he thought it was a great idea. I’ve been operating there for 3 years and it’s still kind of a similar set up, although we’ve gotten a lot more professional.
FGF: What’s your favorite thing about running the stand?
Stulman: The one-on-one interaction with the customers. I’m a comics fan and I like talking about comic books and I have a tremendous wealth of knowledge, so people can ask me lots of things and usually I have a lot to talk about. It’s not odd to have people hang around 20-30 minutes talking about comic books.
What I didn’t know when is started is how many people were exposed to comics as children, so you have mothers who come up to me with their children and tell me they love Archie or Betty and Veronica or X Men. There’s a big nostalgia element, with parents bringing their children to the stand to share the experience they had as a child. It’s very sweet.
FGF: What inspired you to start the web store?
Stulman: At the stand, a lot of people were coming up to me, and I’d help them rebuild their collections. Sometimes people would ask me for valuable things or high end comics, and I wanted to find a different way to sell them, which is what I try to do with the website. We carry unique, harder to find items that you might want to get as a present or to enhance your collection. We’ve got special things and I always try to find things that are even more special, more one of a kind, more unique.
FGF: Where do you look for those special comics? Are they mostly from your collection?
Stulman: Some of the comics still come from my collection; I might have 2 or 3 copies of something or might have 3 different comics signed by the same person. How many Stan Lee signed comics do you need?
Other books I buy just the way anyone else can source them, working with dealers that I have relationships with. I try to find them at good prices so I can offer them at good prices. In terms of the signed comic books, the reason I can say it’s autographed by the person it looks like it’s autographed by, is because frequently I’m physically taking the comic to them and having them sign it. Some of the products are quite rare because I take the time to make it happen; you can’t always find in a store this book signed by 5 people, but if I hold onto it long enough to find these people and go through the effort of bringing it to them to sign, I’m building a collectible item.
FGF: And who are most of the people who shop at the sidewalk shop? Are they residents of the neighborhood?
Joshua: For the most part, it’s residents of the neighborhood. A lot of people know me as “the comic book guy.” The neighborhood is so nice — everybody is so friendly — it’s a great environment to be part of and I hope I’m being part of that culture in Fort Greene.
I get kids that run up to my stand, parents that bring little kids who are trying to find something for them to read, older collectors, younger collectors, who are interested in a variety of different things. Older customers are great, because when they talk about when they were kids, they’re talking about the beginning of comics, how they had Super Man number 1 and their mom threw it out. You get these great stories from the community and it really puts a face on it.
FGF: What’s coming up next for you?
Joshua: The next project is definitely coming out with the 3rd issue of my own comic book, which will be coming out hopefully in April.
In terms of the comic shop, I’m continuing to build an online presence, and continuing to be that guy who is always out there on Sundays, who has the things you’re looking for. Being able to fill that void is something that I enjoy and that connects me to comics, so it’s something I like to impart to other people too. The website is a great way for people to find some of the stuff they’re looking for year round, especially in the winter. That’s just nature: When I’m out there, I know it’s time to go when it gets too cold for people to take off their gloves to go through the boxes.