Comics Helper

Hello, Comics Helper!

It’s a genuinely exciting time for me. For most of my life, I’ve wanted to have a business. Mostly though, I’ve been all talk.

They should really make…
I bet that [some idea] would work!

Comics Helper represents my first legitimate business. I’ve done all the legal entity stuff and even some talk-to-actual-customers stuff. In truth, I’ve probably not done enough of the talk-to-customers stuff. Nonetheless, customer conversations happened before writing any code for this application.

Cool story! What exactly is Comics Helper?

I can tell you a little about what it is right now. It’s a customer relationship management tool for comic book stores. It might be more, time will tell. In the customer interview I had before writing any code, the main feature requested was the ability to message sets of customers about their pull boxes. Because a pull box is effectively dollars a comic shop can’t access, the sooner that transaction happens, the sooner the shop owner is paid.

There’s a little more to it than that, however. A comic shop owner is a tastemaker and curator. Right now is the best time to be into comics. There are movies and television shows (both live-action and animated). Creators have Kickstarter to fund passion projects. Web Comics routinely get turned into graphic novels. Manga and Anime are categories of their own. Meanwhile, a longstanding monopoly on distribution has tumbled, and there are a variety of ways that shop owners can get comics. This positions comic shop owners perfectly to curate, recommend and guide their customers to the best stories and art we’ve seen in comics.

Enter Comics Helper

I know that I can make a tool for messaging. It’s ready now, sign up for the beta, and I’ll reach out and get you set up. The goal is to help shop owners spend more time getting great stories into the hands of their customers.

The tools I’m using for this project are my favorite in tech. Static HTML where it makes the most sense, anything marketing. React, for the application itself. XState, the excellent library for finite state machines, handles application state management. The backend is serverless, using Serverless Stack, a tool built on the AWS CDK. So the app uses on-demand resources. Comics Helper will only go “down” when AWS goes down. When AWS goes down, it’s news. Serverless resources have the additional benefit of being a little more environmentally friendly since they’re on-demand and not built around peaks. That makes me feel good.

How do you know how to do this?

I’m focusing on doing what the books about starting companies say. Build something useful, don’t build too much, and sell it as soon as possible. Let the market dictate what’s valuable, and use your vision to deliver the solution. I’ve read the usual startup books, but I’ll especially call out The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick and Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Additionally, two podcasts have been invaluable, Startups for the Rest of Us and IndieHackers. Those resources helped prove to me that one developer can build a tool that they care about that provides real value.

Finally, I’m lucky enough to have the support of my wife, who lets me code a bunch and listens to my incessant rambling. Additionally, I have the guidance of my friend Vernon Lee, who I podcast with every week over at the process is black and white. I’ll try to post updates each month as I go along. For now, I’ll approach these as a cross between a marketing piece, explaining what Comics Helper is, and an investor update, explaining how Comics Helper is doing. While I’ve taken no money (nor do I intend to) for this project, it’s good practice to be able to explain your business decisions and choices.

Later, bub!