Near the end of 2004 comic book grading was becoming a huge thing to collectors in the comic book industry. People were having their high end Key Issues graded and some others were just having their favorite covers "slabbed" to keep them in great shape. This process has become a standard today for serious collectors looking to invest in comic books. With it being such a new thing in 2004, I decided to get a business account with CGC so that Chimp's could offer this service to our customers. We still offer this as a service today, but there is sometimes a wait list to get your books sent out. For some of us, it can be a rush sending in our books to see what kind of grade we will get.
With the huge success that Brian Michael Bendis was having on his Ultimate Spider-man run, he was starting to become a huge rising star in the industry. Marvel teamed him up with superstar artist David Finch for an Avengers relaunch. In December 2004, New Avengers started and the title would bring in a few heroes who had not been official Avengers in the past. Luke Cage, Spider-man and Wolverine joined the team which gave a good dynamic to the storytelling and gave them more of a street level feel than the typical cataclysmic world problems that seemed to be the trope of the past. Now, Avengers was never a huge seller for us, but this book changed all of that. Demand was high for this book as Marvel had taken one of their top writers and gave the book a top artist. Comics had a lot of rising talent at this time and the books that had proven themselves or needed the attention big names would bring started to get the talent they deserved. Instead of having to choose great art or a good story like you did a lot in the past, this was a time that top talent on both ends would work together to bring about some great books.
Now, we had started to try having video game tournaments for the first time. We had the extra space to try something like this and thought it would be a lot of fun. We had tried a Tekken Tag Tournament one on the PS2 in the past but only 1 person showed up. So I played him for fun and didn't win a single match. This time, we were going for the big guns in gaming. We were going for Madden and Halo.
January 8, 2005 marked our second attempt at a video game tournament. We had 4 CRT TVs (because that's what existed at the time) and 4 XBOX systems all hooked up through ethernet so that we could have 4 players playing each other at the same time. The TVs were set up so that any other players could not see your screen. This was all set up the night before so that when I got to the store on Saturday, I would just have to turn them all on and be ready to go. Little did I know what was on the horizon. Saturday morning I woke up to about 6 inches of snow in a winter that had barely snowed at all. I trekked the snow covered roads and made it to the store. Unfortunately only 1 player also made the trek through the snow. I was expecting about 16 people from talking with players, but that didn't happen. By 2 in the afternoon, most of the snow had melted away and people started to show up to see about the tournament. At this point we couldn't really do the tournament as some of these players were here just to watch. I decided to not waste the set up and let anyone who came in play Halo until about 1 hour before closing.
I set up for the Madden 2005 tournament and had it ready for play at open on January 22, 2005. Yet again, I woke up to snow. This time we had an overnight blizzard. More snow than the last tournament and a longer trek on worse roads. Now keep in mind that it hadn't snowed much at all during the weeks in between the 2 of these tournaments so waking up to snow again was definitely going to affect turnout. I made it to the store and this time, no players showed up. Again we were expecting a decent turnout but the snow made it fall flat. The entire day was slow business wise as the snow wasn't melting away like last time. After a few more weeks had passed and the snow eventually melted away I noticed that we hadn't really gotten any more snow. I took this as a sign and stopped trying to do video game tournaments at the time.
During April, 2005 my mother and I liked the idea of the comic walls so much that we embarked on doing the same thing with Magic cards on the half wall that was built during the expansion to separate the table top space. This was a very long process over many Saturday nights. Here is a pic of what it currently looks like. A couple of cards have fallen off over the years but most are still there. The center of it is the 5 land cards matching the order of the color wheel on the backs of all Magic cards. Now amazingly we had to try multiple different adhesives to get these cards to stick. We were very surprised to find that the ONE thing that worked for us was Rubber Cement (a little tip for anyone else who decides to do this).
The previous year's Free Comic Book Day felt like a success, but I knew we could do better. I knew we could use this event to help the community. It was time to try something different. On May 7, 2005 we held our first Free Comic Book Day that we tried doing a food drive with. We had an article for this event with the local Newspaper (Times Union) for the first time and have done so every year since. The way we decided to do the food drive is the same way we do it today. You can get 2 FREE comics just for walking in (no doubles). If you want more than 2, we ask for a non-perishable food donation for each additional comic. Enough time has passed now that the records of how many food donations we received the first year is no longer available. If memory serves me right, the first few years tended to fluctuate between 150-300 and it has grown steadily every year since. That year the FREE comics were: Archie, Simpsons, Star Wars, Batman Strikes, G.I. Joe, Uncle Scrooge, Impact University, and Marvel Adventures.
During the summer of 2005, I got wind of a comic store in Niles, MI that wanted to sell it's inventory off. Now that I had more space I looked into it. It was around 400 long boxes and the price was comparable per book with what I paid for Chimp's when I became the owner. To me it was a fair asking price so I set up his asking price and a meeting to go peruse the collection. As I had to close for a day to do it and he was also closing, I had set it up with a loan from the bank in the form of a cashier's check and was on my way. I had asked friends in town to be ready for a call and to meet up at the store with a U-Haul truck and head on up if the deal looked like it was going to go through. A friend and I drove up and started digging through all of the boxes. Some were buried under other product as this store was doing everything from toys, NES systems, Atari, magazines, electronics, models and more. We had to move stuff from on top of long boxes and do a lot of digging to get an idea of the range of books. Some of the books dated back to the 1950s and there was a decent chunk of silver age Marvel books. This range of books would fill in our back issues immensely as we didn't have much Silver Age before this. I negotiated with the seller and got him to include a chunk of toys, statues, NES and Atari stuff. We agreed on a price and as we started moving everything into one area to make loading it up easier, the group from Warsaw was on there way up to meet us. We loaded it all in the U-Haul and about 3 other vehicles and brought it back to Warsaw. This collection would take me years to catalog and get processed as I still had the day job at the time. I started selling off the bigger books first to cover the cost of the loan and that is when we started doing the $1 comic book bins to clear some books fast.
July 2005 marked a huge comic book releasing. Frank Miller and Jim Lee teamed up to bring us All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. This book was met with extremely mixed reviews. Jim's art was as gorgeous as ever, but Frank's writing felt a tad off from what people expected. It has a very Sin City feel to it with darker tones and such. As this series ran, it got more and more darker. Never to the point of being an 18+ book, but it was pushing the line. Eventually a theory came out that this was Frank Miller's Batman from the Dark Knight Returns. The hard edged man. In Dark Knight, Batman was an angry old man who had been hardened from his years and experiences. It seemed like it would work for any Batman iteration, but hearing this theory (which I believe Frank confirmed years later) definitely helped explain why Batman was such a rough around the edges character. This series started to be met with delay after delay and unfortunately never got to be finished.
So for years our tournaments had been hosted as in-house events only. With prize payout usually being in-store credit. At this time we had been running them on Saturdays exclusively but I started to hear about a Wizards of the Coast program called Friday Night Magic. We hadn't been doing it yet as I didn't know at the time what it entailed. After speaking with the Magic Community here, I decided to give it a try as they seemed to be very interested in it. With Friday Night Magic, players would earn points that would keep track of their records and standing on a national level, special promos made for each month and our prize payouts switched to booster packs. Around August 2005, Chimp's made the move to adding Friday Night Magic to our tournaments schedule. We started running these every other Friday at the start and continuing to host our Saturday tournaments as we had in the past. Over time, we switched to every Friday for Friday Night Magic and eventually the Saturday tournaments became less and less exciting to our players. These eventually went away but not until years later. Our annual Chaos for Christmas Magic tournament was still a big hit at this time. This tournament was different than a normal one. Every player would be in the same game with the last player standing being the winner. You could only attack to your left or right, but your spells could affect anyone. After everyone played for 3 full rounds, we would bring out a deck that would take a turn as well just like a player. It would cast a spell or give the players something they could use for that turn. The card could NOT be countered by anyone. This deck would not finish off any player in the game however it could make it more tempting for someone else to finish the job. It also had positive aspects to it as well. Eventually like most Chaos games, this format started to see preplanned partnerships where players would come in with an idea that would be an endless combo to win the game and the partner would be the guard to help let it happen. Attendance for this type of tournament started to drop to the point where we tried to keep it going with this idea. The person who got the endless combo off would leave the game as 1st place. Everyone else would stay on for 2nd place. Over time, this format would end up dying off. It is still a format we get asked about from time to time to this day. People ask us if we would do it again and we did try a Modern version of this (as originally it was Legacy) but it didn't have the attendance the old version did in the past. This is a tournament I would love to bring back if there was enough interest, but time will tell on that.
September 2005 marked the beginning of the original Ravnica block with the release of Ravnica City of Guilds. Ravnica is always a popular setting for Magic and this was no different. The original block kept the interest of players and even brought back some of the players who were disappointed with the Kamigawa block. Magic was in a good spot at this moment and the cards in this block just helped to keep it rolling. Some of our older players had left with Kamigawa but gave Ravnica a chance. This set also seemed to be a point with Magic where we started to see the next generation of players starting the game. Magic always goes in chunks of when new players join in and this was a big one. Some of the players I remember meeting at this time are still players today.
This popularity in the market continued. In October 2005, DC hired Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver to do a challenging task. Their job (as pitched by Johns) was to bring Hal Jordan back from the dead and revamp the entire Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe during Green Lantern Rebirth. Hal had been out of the picture as GL since the mid 90s just shortly after the Reign of the Supermen storyline. Back then, he had turned into the evil Parallax and Kyle Rayner became the one and only GL in the DC Universe. During Kyle's run, Hal eventually died expelling all of his green energy to reignite the Sun after a Suneater took all of the energy away. Hal's path led him to be joined with the Spectre as a god-like being. Kyle had tried before to start a new Corps but had failed. He gave one ring to Jade (the original Green Lantern Alan Scott's daughter) and for a long time they were the only 2 Lanterns in the universe. After some time and becoming Ion (a god-like being as well), Kyle had the ability to undo the wrongs caused by Hal during his time as Parallax. Kyle started this new attempt at the Corps by bringing back Kilowog, the Guardians and more from the dead. After doing this, he felt it was time to bring back the "best" GL, Hal. Kyle was seen flying into the Sun at the end of his title to retrieve the body of Hal Jordan (it's comics, so his body was still there) thus beginning the Rebirth run. This was a fantastic story filled with lots of fan service, beautiful art and key moments. You could tell this book was being done by people who love the characters. Geoff Johns would go on to making one of the most epic and important runs on GL over his 9 year story and this is where it started. This is a series that you don't want to just grab the greatest hits, it is best to read the entire run as it has so many great moments you miss if you don't.
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End Part 7...