Pie Crust and Me…. A tale 40 years in the baking? By Rick Berg
Well for me it’s more like 39 years. When I first visited Graham Crackers Comics it was located in downtown Naperville on Washington Street. It was behind what I thought was a “malt shop” but learned years later was a sandwich shop. It was the tiniest little place but had an arcade game and comics! So many comics. I bought a Planet of the Apes #2 Marvel Magazine that was on the checkout counter. VCRs were newer then and once a month I rented my favorite Planet of the Apes, so when I discovered POTA comics? Yes, please and thank you!
Then in 1983 over Christmas break I had my tonsils removed. Legend has it, Jamie Graham himself sold my mom a giant stack of books that day and the one that stood out was the trade paperback collection of THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA. I was immediately hooked on Wolverine. Who knew climbing in sewage could be so cool? I soon had hunted down Incredible Hulk #181 followed by Frank Miller’s Wolverine mini-series.
Then in 1985/6 my friend Ryan showed me Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and Robotech comics! He told me he got them at “Pie Crust”. Our secret name for Graham Crackers Comics was “pie crust”. In those days liking comic books outside of my friends meant being bullied by older kids and shamed by school teachers. So, every few weeks from that point on, I saved my allowance to go to Pie Crust (ahem) Graham Crackers Comics and get more comics. And each visit I would ask whatever clerk was working about this or that artist or character to spend my money on.
By the fall of 1986 I was buying and loving comics every week. My enduring love of Mike Mignola and everything he does is because John Robinson told me about the Chronicles of Corum mini-series and Marvel Fanfare #43 that were by the Detective Comics #583 cover artist, I asked him about.
Then in 1989, The Summer of BATMAN, Mr. Robinson must have loved seeing me every week so much, he hired me to work weekends! My first job! Luckily for him only an hour earlier I had tried out for the Naperville North High School football team and dreaded the thought of doing windsprints in full football gear. My reward for hating exercise was to fold and bag 100s of BATMAN t-shirts and vacuum those rickety shag carpet stairs every weekend. And every time I left there smiling as I had more books to love and cherish. I bragged that I worked at “pie crust”. I was a hero to my friends as I had the “best job ever.”
Years later in 1996 I came home on summer break to work a few days here and there. I got to sit in the old empty Wheaton location in Rice Lake Square while everyone else moved and setup the current Wheaton location. Later that day I got to see a great feat of human strength when Patrick lifted 5 full long boxes of comics and carried them up the stairs!
A year later on July 4th weekend 1997 I was asked to cover the Aurora Graham Crackers Comics so the weekend guy could go to the Chicagocon. Yes, there once was an Aurora flavored Graham Crackers Comics. Then a week or so later I was hired full time to manage Aurora. For the first time I was the one in control and got to share my love and knowledge of comics. It was a great time as I tried to sell Mage the Hero Defined #1 to so many readers of Spawn on the basis it was a well written Image Book on top of the tremendous artwork.
In early 1998 I switched to Bolingbrook management and that was when Thor finally broke free from Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee land. Diamond comics accidently double shipped our Thor #1 orders and instead of 40 copies we received 80 copies. And oh man, let me tell you, I hand sold every single one of those extras.
On the 12th of April 1999 I helped to open and run the brand new Dekalb branch. Dekalb was where I finally felt confident enough that I was able to mold the entire store to my liking. To this day, the old Dekalb store is my second favorite Graham Crackers location ever. My favorite was the old ST. Charles location with the crooked floor by the Pickle place. To this day when I think of nostalgia and comic books that store is the first thing to come to mind.
By late 2001 I met my future wife there, by telling her that the original Tank Girl comics were awesome but hard to come by. Forever cementing her belief that I am not good at my job. If not for Graham Crackers Comics Dekalb I might not have the beautiful family I am blessed with. Also, I would most likely not need the entire basement of the house my wife bought us, to hold all my comics and toys but I digress.
When the summer of 2011 arrived, I returned full circle and left the cornfields of Dekalb for the Wheaton location, which I had indirectly help setup so many years before. As luck would have it, DC decided to relaunch three weeks later and I got to usher in the Nu 52 generation of comic love to customers I had not seen in over a decade.
Now in the summer of 2022 as I write this, my daughter loves reading graphic novels like Dog Man over and over again. My son, constantly runs around with his Hulk buster Iron Man action figure. And I sit back, filing away last week’s treasures and anxiously awaiting the next weeks comics. What new flavors of delight will “pie crust” bring me this time? I can’t wait.