A life spent in comics with Mike Wall
Last week our St. Charles manager Dan mentioned to that it was 20 years ago that I hired him. That got me to think of how long I have actually been with Graham Crackers in some form or another. How the company actually shaped my entire life. How employees, fellow managers and customers have made my life a little better. I will make this as brief as possible but please forgive if I ramble on a little too long for I have been here quite a while.
It all started on June 1st 1982 in a town called Elmhurst on the second floor of a building on the corner of Addison and 1st. You had to walk upstairs (no elevator) past the hairdresser where you could always smell the odor of perms. At the end of the hall was Nirvana for me. My first comic store and in my town. I had to pick up comics at the smoke shop and Osco before that. It was not the biggest store yet it had more comics than I had ever seen. I felt that I was at home. Lo and behold, I hung out for far too long and was put to work and the rest is history.
I started working in the store processing comics and sorting baseball cards. Yet I also got to go to conventions. They ranged from Chicago Comic Con, the Mini-Cons they held quarterly to the smaller ones in the Elmhurst VFW where I first met John Robinson. It was a great time being 13 and getting to see all the comics and even comic creators. This lasted for about a year and then Jamie had his eyes on Naperville. I got to at least help build the original Naperville store. After closing the Elmhurst store, it was too much of a problem to pick me up to take me to the Naperville store so sadly I had to go to another store that Jamie recommended. I was still on call to work the shows especially the VFW one which later would move to Hillside.
This would go on for quite a while until around 1995. That is when John and Jamie asked me if I would like to quit my current job working maintenance and become a full time manager. That was a major month in my life. I decided to work full time for Graham Crackers and proposed to my now wife. I was being groomed to be the new Naperville manager. They were sending me St. Charles every other day to try and fix things there. Nothing was getting done while I was not there so I asked to be either full at Naperville or St Charles. They chose St. Charles.
Thus began my reign in St Charles. I will not bore you with details but in my time I went through 2 store fronts. One of the best things that I think I did there was hire now manager Dan Weick. Once the two of us worked as a well-oiled machine the store pretty much ran itself. I can say I look very fondly on those years. There were a plethora of customers that I really liked. Some I still can call as friends. The store was a hangout for a lot of them where they can talk comics, movies and other subjects. I learned a lot from those people and hopefully I taught some of them something.
During my tenure in St. Charles, Jamie decided it was time to take me to out of state conventions. This entailed being away from my home and store for at least 3-4 days. I will always look fondly on those traveling years. I got to meet artists and writers and party with them as well. I got to meet all sorts people from the people running the show to guest like Jim Lee, Darwyn Cooke, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. It was hard loading, unloading and driving to these shows but those people made worth it to me. Also getting to meet customers from other states was fun as well.
Things were going smoothly until around 2007. That is when I got the call to move up to the big time. I was going to be the manager of the Naperville store, the flagship. It was tough leaving my little community I built in St. Charles but the Company needs what it needs. A lot happened very quickly as I took over. I started to do Friday Night Magic which made the store open later. I kept the Heroclix going as it was before. I also went through many different employees. I had no real problems with most of them but one hire I made was my best. That was hiring Dawn. She was the one that really helped keep it together during our expansion. She is also an integral part of my store. Once again like St. Charles, I tried to create a sense of community in the store from the Magic groups to Ladies night. I again have met people that I will always hold dear.
Events are the things that make this job interesting and fun. From signing to Free Comic Book Day. FCBD is our busiest and craziest day of the year. It also the most fun. Watching kids get excited about comics always warm my heart. Artist and writer signings are fun aa well because you get to watch customers interact with the creators. My pinnacle signing was with Mark Millar. He was a blast all around. Yet getting off the wall signing can be interesting. We have had wrestlers in. The ladies of WOW were great and they always have a home here. Then there was the craziness called the Rickmobile. It was as busy as a FCBD but the people associated with the Rickmobile were a class act.
The one thing I totally love about my job is that I get to deal with comics all day. It is my passion so it always comes down to that. I get to deal with new releases to Golden Age comics. Sometimes I get too busy to even read sometime but I try to make that time in some form or another. What I am trying to say is that it all comes down to the comics. I get to deal with them and talk with other people who share the same passion.
I know I yammered on for quite a bit. To sum up, I have absolutely no regrets in my decision to spend 36 years with Graham Crackers Comics. Hopefully I will be spending 36 more years. I get to deal with comics. I get to talk and even learn from interesting customers. I think of it as a life well spent. I would like to thank all employees past and present, managers past and present, and customers past and present. Lastly, I would like to thank Jamie Graham for putting that annoying kid to work. After all this I think I deserve to sit back and read some comics.
Thank you for reading my blatherings.
Mike Wall – Manager: Graham Crackers Comics Naperville
While hiking in a remote forest of Tokyo, Japan a young Mr. Graham happened upon a young man lying half dead in a giant, mysterious footprint. He was intrigued by the young man. Who spoke English, but who’s lips when moving were not in sync with what he was saying. The rescued very hairy young man was flown back to the states, taken under the Graham wing, ensconced in the world of comics and now manages the highly coveted post of the Naperville store. To this day, Mike Wall still carries a pair of tiny twins in his pocket that sing to him when he misses Tokyo.