10 min 25 sec

Comic Book Curator Creates Custom Crate Subscription

A Sacramento-based comic and collectibles owner sparks an interest in reading with a monthly comic book subscription box service.
Product Service Subscription Box Unique Ideas

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What It's About

A subscription box that gets all of your favorite superheroes in the eager hands of a new generation!

Business Model
Skills Required
Curating & Coordination
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Gene’s advice to someone following the subscription box model? Don’t try to build everything from scratch. There’s a lot of heavy lifting needed upfront. Gene wanted to bring on the Incredible Hulk originally to help with all that heavy lifting. Instead, he chose to partner with Cratejoy. Apparently, The Hulk doesn’t know the first thing about web programming...

Fun Fact

The storyline that got Gene hooked on comics was the Trial of Yellowjacket (Avengers) in the early ‘80s. He loved the story because it had a flawed hero who was dealing with his own demons and was much more nuanced and complex than anything on TV or movies at the time. His current favorite comics are Avengers and Iron Man. He loves their storylines, history and long character arcs.

Notes from Chris

Episode 685
Gene Farley has been reading comics since he was a little kid. They’ve always been a source of joy for him. He even thought how cool it’d be to own a comic book store someday. Two years after he got married, opportunity came knocking. The owners of the comic shop he’d been going to longer than Iron Man’s feud with Loki, decided to sell.

At the time, Gene was a graphic designer earning minimum wage. His wife, Pam, (featured in Ep. #418) was an admin assistant. When he asked his wife about buying the store, Gene imagined her slamming the hammer of Thor down on him with an emphatic, “NO!” Instead, she said, “OK, cool.”

So, on April 1, 1998, they maxed out all of their credit cards and bought the comic book store. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)

Fast forward to 2018. Gene is still running the comic book store alongside his wife. Business is good. They survived the recession and countless comic and pop-culture fads.

One day Gene and Pam were reminiscing about the good ‘ol days when you used to bike down the street to the neighborhood 7-11, blow your week’s allowance on a larger-than-life cherry flavored slurpee, and spend the rest of your day in sugary bliss reading Avengers comic books.

This thought made Gene stop and wonder, “What if there was a way to get kids off their electronics and, I don’t know, maybe open a book or something?” He knew how important reading was to his success. He also knew that comics are a great way to spark interest in reading.

Gene says that comic book people already know where to get their comics. However, busy parents may not have the time to make a special trip to the comic book store and try to figure out which comics are appropriate for their kids. (The whole goal is to reach new readers.)

Gene’s utility belt taser struck him with an idea. What if he started a subscription box service where customers would get comics delivered to their homes once a month?

Genes’ Spidey-sense kicked in and he devised a plan. All the customer would have to do is choose a G-rated or PG-rated comic book crate. He’d use his knowledge of comic books, what was popular that comic season, and any special information about the recipient to create a crate that will match either rating.

Gene doesn’t believe in assigning age or gender to the crates because he doesn’t want kids to feel “less than” if they’re older but they want to read Disney, or if they’re boys who want to read My Little Pony.

So, did this subscription box service idea actually work? By the mighty power of Stan Lee’s pen, yes. It did. Gene was pumped because he got annual subscribers right away. ComicCrate was a hit!

Since launching in July of this year, ComicCrate has been averaging a few thousand dollars a month in sales. Gene’s focusing on organic traffic only for now. His brick and mortar store is still their bread and butter, but ComicCrate is letting him reach many more people.

So, what’s on the horizon for Gene and ComicCrate? He’s been thinking of adding another rating level to his service, rated T for Teen+ readers. Gene said this could expand his audience significantly!


  • ComicCrate: Learn more about Gene's comic subscription box over on his website!
  • CrateJoy: The platform that Gene used to streamline his ordering system
  • Gardening Mama Monetizes Frugal Living Blog: By focusing on a specific group of readers—and understanding their core needs—a blog about natural living and saving money earns $3,000/month. Coincidentally, Pam Farley is Gene's wife—learn more about her side hustle, here!


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"Although we didn’t realize it as kids, comic books help improve literacy and encourage a genuine love of reading. Now that we have a family of our own, we know how important it is to be a good reader and to love reading. If our kids want to hide under the covers at night and read, we let ‘em!"
—Gene Farley #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau