Written by Neil Greenaway
After Phoenix Comic Con 2015 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Dave Music of Comic Book Displays about his take on making frames for comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 07/03/2015, and you can read their version of it here.
Dave Music owns and operates ComicBookDisplays.com, a company that makes frames designed specifically for comic books. As an avid comic collector (and shameless show-off), it did not take long for me to hear about his website. After acquiring a few of his (quite frankly, brilliant) frames for myself in Phoenix, I wanted to talk to Dave and see where the idea for his frames had come from, and what we might see next.
Neil Greenaway: Why did you start Comic Book Displays?
Dave Music: I love that question. I started it because I am an avid collector of art. I love comic book art. I love what people can create when they place a pencil to a piece of paper. No matter what it looks like, you have that persons interpretation of that character. Which is a lot of fun. So, I started out making frames for just graded comic books, because I thought that CGC was just the bee’s knees. And you could preserve your comic, that art, so that it never got ruined. At that time, I owned close to 80,000 comics. And then I started meeting a lot of artists.
Now I own maybe 150 comics, but I have an ungodly amount of art. But when I started collecting art, I wanted a way to display it. I would always buy these frames, but they were (for lack of a better word) garbage. The edge would crack, or the glass would break. And if they fell and hit the ground, it could slice your art right open. And I knew that I could come up with something way better than that. So I started making frames. I was just making them for myself, in the beginning, but then a lot of people wanted them. Three and a half years ago, we started making just 100 frames every 2 months. But now we are making about 15,000 a week.
NG: How are your frames made? Are they one solid piece of wood?
DM: I have them machine cut. So we take a sheet of wood (we use MDF) and bolt it down to the machine. And then it is all computer controlled. A blade comes down and cuts it all out, routers it out. And it is all one solid piece of wood. So if it ever did manage to fall off of the wall it should never break. That is the beauty of it. That was important to me because I have had so many frames fall off the wall. Poster frames are notorious for that. The corners are so delicate, because they have usually been stapled together. And everything just falls apart from those seems. So we eliminated that problem.
NG: Had you ever worked in comics before, even at a comic shop? Or was Comic Book Displays your first foray into the comic industry?
DM: Nope. I never worked in a comic shop or anything. I always wanted to. I always thought that it looked fun. My love comes purely from being a collector. I remember when I first started reading comics, back in the eighties, I was really into Spider-Man with Carnage and Venom. When Todd McFarlane was drawing. I remember that the art really caught my eye when Spider-Man #300 came out. And I remember that I was about 12 years old when I paid $65 for it. And I thought that this sucked, you know? I had to pay that much just to read it. But the weird thing is, I read it. I remember laying in my bunk bed, rolling the cover back as I flipped through the pages. These days, if you pay $65 for a book, you put it in a bag & board and top loader, or get it graded and never touch it. But I guess that is the difference between a 12 year old kid and a 37 year old collector.
NG: You recently simplified the designs of your frames. What brought that on?
DM: Yes we did, and I love the new design. It was for more than one reason. When I made the original frames, they had clips and screws on the back. Well, when you’re only making 100 frames every other month, sitting down to tighten clips and screws is not really a problem. But when you get an order for 2,500 frames (and they all need painted as well), you could spend a week just installing the hardware. But now with the new design, it literally takes 5 seconds to put a new frame together. It cut our costs, it cut our time invested. I have wanted to make the change for years, because the 11”x17” frames use a top load design, but the manufacturer we were using could not make the comic sized frames that way. So we found a new manufacturer who could do it, and here we are today.
NG: Have your customers had a positive reaction to the new design?
DM: Oh, absolutely. When we do shows, and people come up to look at the frames, I just slide the top loader out and hand them both pieces. And you can see their eyes light up at the simplicity. But that is all you have to do. And people ask “So you don’t have to fold back staples, or go to Michael’s (I hear about Michael’s a lot), so I don’t have to go to Michael’s and pay $100?”
But I tell them “ All you have to do is slide your comic book inside, and you are done.” And it is super easy to change the comic book out. And it’s so funny. After I explain all this, people want, like, 20 of them. It is a lot of fun doing shows, and seeing people’s reactions when you show them how it works.
NG: I see that the packaging art was done by Jason Meents. How did you hook up with him?
DM: So, Jason is a great guy, and a really good friend of mine. And so back in November, he had posted to Facebook. And it was a Punisher cover that he did. It was a little Punisher, holding a slingshot and tossing a rock up in the air. And I LOVED that image. I thought that it was the greatest thing that I had ever seen. And I had to find out who did it. It was around 2 o’clock in the morning, and I sent him a message saying that this was the coolest thing. And he replied back to me instantly. And we ended up chatting like schoolgirls until the wee hours of the morning. He was just starting out, he had never done a convention. He was looking for a way to get his art out there and start getting commissions.
And I said, well it’s funny you say that. I know a slew of people that collect art and would love your stuff. I started throwing his name around online, showing everybody his work. I took him to C2E2 with me, and then to Planet Comic Con. And I told him “Man, I would really love to have your art on my products. It would get into stores around the country, and get recognized.” And it does. People come up to us at conventions, because they see his art, and say “Oh, Jason drew this!” The really funny part is that in the 11’x17’ frame, they see his art and think that we are selling prints of his work. I tell them “You get to keep that, but it does have a barcode on it.” At C2E2, he was actually signing some of the inserts from our frames for people.
NG: What does the future hold for Comic Book Displays?
DM: We are expanding dramatically. First, we are going to start making double, triple and quad frames for both standard and CGC graded books. I think that I want to start doing exclusive colors. We did a really deep, rich purple frame exclusive to New York Special Edition. And then I think we are just going to do more shows. The more people that we meet, the more retailers that we can encounter, will help us get our stuff out there. We also want to try different sizes, maybe record album frames, or frames for movie posters.
NG: If people wanted to find you in the near future, what other conventions will you guys be at this year?
DM: New York Comic Con (Oct. 8th-11th), maybe San Diego (July 9th-12th)(though that is still up in the air). Then, Cincinnati Comic Con (Sep. 12th-13th) and Cincinnati Expo (Sep. 18th-20th), Wizard World Chicago (Aug. 20th-23rd). And we always do our local cons, up here in Michigan, so we will be at Grand Rapids Comic Con (Oct. 16th-18th) as well. And Emerald City Comic Con (Apr. 7th-10th 2016). And I don’t know what comes after that….
NG: And of course, Dave and his frames can always be found at www.comicbookdisplays.com.