COMIC BOOK PALACE – an indie doc by Felipe Jorge

Title card from "The Comic Book Palace" (2013) -- image source: YouTube

Title card from “The Comic Book Palace” (2013) — image source: YouTube

Documentary films can show us a slice of life that we would otherwise not notice. Filmmakers who work in the documentary genre often reveal a world that exists under our very noses, one that we overlook out of ignorance or lack of interest. Good documentaries will take such a world and show us what we were missing; the best make us want to seek out and experience it for ourselves.

With no budget, no crew, and no script, Felipe Jorge set out in 2012 to make an observational-style documentary that reveals the unusual, sometimes off-the-wall goings-on in the world of a comic book store. Armed with one camera and one microphone, Jorge (a Massachusetts independent filmmaker who runs Method to Madness Films) captured the essence of life in the realm of The Comic Book Palace, located in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and owned by Glenn O’Leary. By focusing on Glenn’s relationships with comic books and with the regulars that hang around his store, Jorge was able to craft an award-winning documentary. “The Comic Book Palace” (2013) won both Best Editing and Best Feature Documentary at the 2013 Massachusetts Independent Film Festival as well as Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 Los Angeles Film and Script Festival.

Glenn’s life history is the kernel from which the story of Jorge’s film grows. After years of working his way up the ranks in a convenience store, Glenn decided to open his own business. He chose a comic book store because of his love for comics and due to his desire to run his own show. Glenn sees the store as his kingdom and himself as its king. His “regulars”, many of whom provide free labor that helps him run the business, hang around with him and talk critically about comic books, artists, and publishers. This is not professorial pontification, but rather a good-natured, often foul-mouthed, sometimes nerdy, but always entertaining argument about the pros and cons of different series, books, and artists. Many of these customers are also Glenn’s best friends. After all, Glenn has run the store for twenty years. Moreover, he and his regulars have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of comic books, graphic novels, and associated merchandise.

Given the limitations that Jorge faced in making the film, the quality of the cinematography and sound is impressive. Jorge is also a talented editor. His mix of interviewing, observations of interactions among the denizens of the store, and cutaway footage is impressive. He makes skillful use of music in his soundtrack. Despite the one microphone, the sound quality is very good. Most importantly, he tells a good story.

“The Comic Book Palace” is currently available on DVD. It can also be viewed on VOD via VHX. Felipe Jorge himself can be found on Google+, YouTube, and on Facebook. His award-winning documentary is well worth the price of the DVD or the cost to stream or download the film. It is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys watching or making documentary films.