Riding Fandom: Off the Rack Comics, from hobby to something much more

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Daniel King Jr. and Jill Stewart of Manchester created Off the Rack Comics as a way to connect with fans like them and make some extra money on the side. Courtesy Photo

Granite Staters are harnessing the power of their comic book fandom and creative hobbies to start small businesses and side hustles.

Between Free Comic Book Day (Aug. 14) and Granite State Comic Con (Sept. 18-19), Manchester Ink Link will be showcasing these entrepreneurial nerds, who have opened comic and toy shops, started selling aftermarket comic books and collectibles or offering professional photography that specializes in cosplay, to name a few.

MANCHESTER, NH – In a fast-growing secondary comic book market, it’s easy to get caught up in the rising waves; buying and selling bulk collections, for thousands of dollars sight unseen, as speculation and online auctions have inflated the prices. But as Jill Stewart and boyfriend Daniel King Jr. have learned, it’s also easy for fans and their love of comics to be sucked in by the undertow.

That’s why they’re catering their aftermarket comic dealing business, Off the Rack Comics, to fellow fans and collectors, rather than other dealers looking to make a quick buck, whenever possible.

Earlier this year, the young Manchester couple started their business online, with an Instagram account and a blog.

“The fun thing is that Off the Rack Comics started as a blog where Daniel and I would read and review comic books,” Stewart said.

They soon found they didn’t have the time to read and review the books as much as they’d hoped. But it created a way to connect with fans and prospective buyers. Now, when they post a book that’s for sale, a fan can comment on the post for “dibs” and work out the price with King and Steward in direct messages.

“I enjoy seeing comics go to the right home,” Stewart said. “I think what we really enjoy out of the entire aspect is connecting with the marketplace. It’s not just selling a product, it’s connecting with people and sharing a hobby that we really love.”

In July, Stewart and King purchased dozens of short boxes filled with comics, mostly modern and some vintage, from a dealer for their initial inventory. They also buy books from customers.

Stewart, who has worked for Double Midnight Comics in Manchester for nine years, is experienced at valuing the comics. Some of the high-value vintage comics will be sold through their eBay site, but most of the other books will be priced between $3 to $5 plus shipping, in the hopes of recreating the feeling fans had when they first bought the book off the rack when they were younger.

In July, King and Stewart bought dozens of boxes of comics to fill out their initial inventory. Courtesy Photo

“What we want to do is have fun, create a community, and if we can make a little money selling little paths to people’s happiness, that’s enough for us,” she said.

King said he was inspired to carve out this niche in the secondary market after watching so many people trying to get top dollar on everything they were selling.

“Once Jill and I got together and really explored our shared love of comics, we kind of dabbled in the secondary market to kind of fuel our hobby,” King said. “The whole culture of buying, selling and collecting … was already stirring in our private lives.”

In 2018, the couple sold enough of their non-comics collectibles to raise roughly $2,500 and finance a road trip down the East Coast to Florida and back. They stopped at eight different comic book shops along the way, including Midtown Comics in Times Square, Third Eye Comics in Maryland, and Savannah Comics & More in Georgia.

While they mostly bought books for their personal collection, they got the sense from this trip that they could make some money buying and selling back issues.

They’re both still working their day jobs, but they hope the extra income they earn through Off the Rack Comics will help them raise enough to buy a home.

“And all we really want a house for is to fill it with more comics anyways,” Stewart said.

Stewart first became a fan of comics when she read the first issues of The Umbrella Academy, written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabrial Ba. Soon after, she started attending Granite State Comic Con, hosted by Double Midnight owners Scott and Chris Proulx and Brett Parker.

Stewart met the Proulxs in 2007 when she was 14, and started working for them a few years later.

King first got into comics like Spawn, Gen13 and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez.

“I probably got into comics, specifically, back in my very edgy adolescence,” King said.

Later, in 2016, after Vasquez, who also created the Invader Zim cartoon on Nickelodeon, began a comic series for the alien invader, King returned to the medium.

“That’s when I really started appreciating the different artists and writers and publishers, and actually exploring what the comic book industry really had and offered,” King said.

While their goal is to continue selling individual books at affordable prices, sometimes the larger tidal forces of the comics market leaves its mark on the business. During a recent yard sale, they ended up selling 45 short boxes of comics, a bulk of their inventory, to a dealer who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and for two-and-a-half times their initial investment.

They plan on using the money to increase their inventory again and continue selling to fans like them.


About this Author

Ryan Lessard

Ryan Lessard is a freelance reporter.