Introductory Newsletter

By Carl Bonasera

Hi! My name is Carl Bonasera, and I’m owner and operator of All-American Comic Shops in South Chicagoland, Illinois. I opened my first store in October 1981 in Evergreen Park (which is still the flagship today) as the second store in the new Amazing Fantasy chain of comic shops. Former partner David Kosinski and I parted ways in 1985 and so was born All-American Comic Shops. I opened a store in suburban Orland Park that spring and never looked back.

My goal in starting AACS (as we shall call All-American) was to build the comic shop I wanted to go to. That being a gathering place for real comic collectors, and a friendly environment for casual readers. We’ve always stocked a complete line of new comics, and the best back issue selection in our relative area. But besides collectors supplies, and a few related items, we’ve never gone in for the latest fad. From the black & white explosion, thru the ‘investor years’ and up through Magic, Beanie Babies and Pokemon, we never gotten caught up in it. Sure if you really want something, we’ll get it for you, but I’ve always preferred to keep AACS a pure ‘Old Fashioned’ comic shop.

We grew through the late eighties and early nineties as my philosophy of ‘putting comics where they ain’t’ proved highly successful. In 1993 we ranked 30th in the nation (out of the then 6,000 operations) in new comics sales, WITHOUT the benefit of selling multiple copies of the so-called ‘investor books’. I bet we were in the top 5 in sales of comics that were actually opened and read. This is a mark I’m still very proud of today. In 1993 we also opened our 8th, and what proved to be our final new store.

As the ‘investors’ quickly left the field, regular customer, publishers, and new titles went along with it. Although we were selling more books to the ‘investors’ than we knew at the time (most didn’t wear name tags saying ‘investor guy’), and many of our newer and younger customers were leaving our stores, we managed to keep our heads above water without ‘selling out’. Meaning we didn’t desert out comic customers to devote our stores to the latest fad.

What we did do however, was to effectively downsize in an industry where almost half of the vendors went out of business. By closing down our smaller stores and moving and/or repositioning others, we survived the tumultuous years in our industry and have remade ourselves into a leaner (the business, not me), meaner, funner operation. 2000 was our most profitable year since 1994, and the future of AACS looks even brighter.

In 2001 we stand at our original location and hub in Evergreen Park, where you’ll find yours truly ‘almost’ 7 days a week, our new big store in Palos Hills which combined components of our Orland Park and Burbank stores which is managed by Dave ‘Stud-Man’ Studzinski, and our fledgling mail order, web based, and back issue auction business.

The most important thing I’d like to tell you guys is simply….I LOVE COMICS! Golden Age Comics, Silver Age Comics, Bronze Age Comics, 80’s, 90’s and New Comics! I also personally collect pulps, paperbacks, hardcover books, movie serials, and B movies of the 30’s thru the 50’s.Even an occasional action figure (we call them guys). And I won’t even go into my music collection. Batman and the Silver-Age Flash are my favorite DC characters, and Daredevil and Spidey are my favorite Marvels. Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson and Steve Ditko are my favorite artists, and no one has greater respect for the people like Jack Kirby who set precedents in our field so new talents like Ed McGuiness, Paul Ryan, John Romita Jr., Howard Porter, and Carlos Pachaeo can do the fine work they are doing today.

Hopefully you’ll drop by one of our stores, or maybe you’ll bid on one of our items on E-Bay. But I’d really enjoy it if you dropped by our site once in a while and visit.

As time goes on, I hope to have a monthly newsletter up, with information about what’s going on in the industry and our stores. I have lots of opinions, most of them educated, and with this site I’ll have a forum larger than our customers already reddened ears. A also hope to amass a library of comics articles by myself, and the legion of friends and customers that have patronized AACS over the last 20 years. Full Circle by Tony Fernandez is the first of such articles and is great reading. Maybe I’ll even try to sell a comic now and then.

Put us on your list of favorites and check us out now and then. The updates will come slow at first, but just like a big boulder rolling down a hill, I’ll pick up steam eventually.

Best, Carl

PART II: 2007

Well, the winds of change are upon us. 2006 was our best year at Evergreen Park since the beginning of the 'Investor Exodus' of 1996. Unfortunately 2006 was also the worst year in the 7 year history of our Palos Hills store. Some of the finest product in years combined with the growth of our Mail Order Subscription and E-Bay Auction departments helped with the growth of Evergreen. Unfortunately these added responsibilities cut into my time at Palos.

Our lease at The Palos store was to expire in May and we were faced with a 20% increase in rent and taxes. We did not need all of the space there because of the gradual sale of the Swiss Chalet Collection, our left-over inventory from older stores and the fixtures and equipment from those same stores. I set out to find a smaller (and cheaper) location in the same general area, but was having little luck. At the same time our lease at Evergreen with our first new landlord in 25 years was also set to expire. I thought we had a deal in place, but was unexpectedly hit with another large tax increase AND the possibility of a late hours greasy spoon opening next door. I looked at a spot a block away from our original location that was about 300 square feet larger than either of our stores, a deal was quickly made and we moved into that store on May 31, 2007. Moving out of our original location after nearly 26 years has been quite a shock to my system that I'm not quite over yet. I hope all of our Evergreen customers enjoy the added space and selection (it doesn't even have that old comic guy smell yet) and I trust all of our Palos customers that have made the move find these amenities worth the extra drive.

However, there is no rest for the weary (or the wicked). I now get to keep my eye on everything and everyone, and the time I save in driving will transfer over to the electronic side of my business. Thank goodness I still love comics!!


Peace and Ditko,