How Megabrain Comics is rewriting the traditional comic book store



It’s hard for Jean David Michel, co-owner of Megabrain Comics in Rhinebeck, to remember a time before he became passionate about comics. However, he still vividly remembers the first time he received his.

His older sisters, in an attempt to get five-year-old Michel to clean his room faster, showed him a mysterious brown paper bag. “They said I could have everything in it if I rushed to clean my room,” he says. “So I went around, picked up all my toys and they handed me this bag. I opened it up and it was an ‘Incredible Hulk’ comic book. From there it snowballed and I was hooked.

Teenager Michel spent most of his after-school hours at his Rockland County comic book stores. “They kept me out of trouble and taught me how to find other members of my tribe,” he says.

“The comic book store has always been the place where I could find and interact with people who liked the same things as me.”

Later, when he opened his own comic book store, creating a welcoming space was a priority for Michel. He wanted not only the typical comic book fan to frequent the store, but anyone who might be curious about a genre of storytelling in which anyone can be a hero.

“It was important for me to have a well-stocked LGBTQ section, a really good selection of BIPOC comics and graphic novels and, as a black man, a multitude of black comic creators,” he says.

Megabrain features the “Hip Hop Family Tree” series as well as titles like “Bingo Love OGN,” which tells the story of two black girls who met and fell in love in the 1960s and rekindled their relationship as grandmothers. This book and series was written by Tee Franklin, a black, gay, and disabled comic book writer who was also the first black woman hired by Image Comics.

The store also supports the BIPOC creative team of Uni Bowen and Monique Dixon, from the Kingston transplants who are behind the upcoming independent comic book “Kastor”, which explores the struggles of two young women trying to keep things alive. border between good and evil while leading a normal life.

Titles featuring female protagonists are plentiful at Megabrain, grouped under the store classification “Fight Like a Girl” for young readers and “Fight Like a Woman,” featuring so-called “ladies taking the life. through the skin against all odds. , ”And intended for an older audience.

“Right from the start, I wanted to make sure that we always had a huge section that spotlighted mean women, whether they were female characters, writers, or artists,” he says.

The Accidental Entrepreneur of the Comic Book

While comics and graphic novels remained Michel’s most beloved hobby as an adult, he never thought of working with them professionally until he had his first child.

“When my son was born, I did a lot of jobs: a machinist, a bartender – just a lot of random things to make money. I realized I didn’t want him to grow up and see his dad doing things that didn’t make him happy just to make ends meet, ”he says. “So I ended up getting inspired to write a comic book story. “

In 2011, Michel self-published the comic book “American Dark Age” and formed his own publishing house, Megabrain Comics, in the process. And although he and his associates created only two problems, the experience was an important catalyst for Michel to see the industry as a viable career.

When Rhinebeck resident and comic book fan Brian Tamm became part-owners of Megabrain Comics in 2019, the duo moved the store to a larger space on Market Street and expanded the on-site arcade to over a dozen. video games and pinball machines.

Nick giandelia

After deciding to fold the comic book series, Michel found work as a bartender and graphic designer, before moving to Rhinebeck, where he met his now wife Alexandra, originally from the city. Michel, although successful, was unhappy in his career and was looking for an exit strategy. It was Alexandra who came up with the idea for a comic book store.

“She always wanted to have her own store. She didn’t even know what kind, but she always wanted to have a business in her hometown, ”says Michel. When she suggested the idea to her husband, “it was an epiphany moment,” he says.

He found a small space off the main thoroughfare on Garden Street (“It was the cheapest rent in town,” he laughs). The store officially opened in December 2017 and quickly developed a rotating distribution of regulars.

But Megabrain’s location away from most commercial traffic has proven to be a huge obstacle to sustainable sales figures. “There were days when I sat alone all day and didn’t sell,” he says.

At the end of 2018, the store’s financial outlook was bleak. “I threw up a Hail Mary and went on our social media and said, ‘It was great to be your local comic book store, but we have to close. And if anyone is interested in becoming a business partner and trying to help us right the ship and find a solution, we are open to that as well, ”said Michel.

The Hail Mary pass was a touchdown: Brian Tamm, Rhinebeck resident and comic book enthusiast, was up for the challenge of becoming part-owner. And with Tamm on board, the duo a year later moved Megabrain to a vacant Market Street storefront, four times the size of their previous space and with better foot traffic.

“I think we made more money the first weekend than three months on Garden Street. It was crazy, ”says Michel.

Online sales helped Megabrain Comics weather the pandemic last year, as did a special promotion selling signed copies of a comic book linked to "The walking dead" TV Show with Rhinebeck resident Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Online sales helped Megabrain Comics weather the pandemic last year, as did a special promotion selling signed copies of a comic book linked to “The Walking Dead” TV show, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, resident of Rhinebeck.

Nick giandelia

Tamm, in addition to being an entrepreneur by trade, is also a huge fan of retro video games, arcade games and pinball machines. The store now has more than a dozen machines for visitor testing, which is particularly popular with tweens and teens in the city.

Megabrain’s second location was unlucky enough to open just three weeks before the pandemic shut the world down, but pivoting to sell its singular collection of books online helped them overcome it last year.

The store also got a boost from one of Rhinebeck’s resident celebrities, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who offered to sign copies of his “The Walking Dead” character “Negan Lives!” comic book for fans who pre-ordered through Megabrain.

“It paid about five or six months of our rent here – the sales were amazing,” says Michel.

With the support of local regulars, robust online sales and the (hoped-for) decline of the pandemic, Michel predicts the store will be even more dynamic in the coming months. In preparation, in-person signatures from creators and small question-and-answer panels from those in the industry.

And no matter who you are or what you love to read, Megabrain remains a store that invites everyone to walk around, maybe play a game of pinball, and hang out with a new favorite read.

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