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Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Death Of UK Comic Shops

Let me make it clear that I do not change my opinion on comic shops, particularly in the UK, who have repeatedly shunned Small Press and Indie comics because "They ain't Marvel or DC so aren't worth a shit!" (that IS a direct quote).

They have offered customers limited choices.  You buy what they get in or get lost.  Certain stores have also hiked up prices and unless you live in a dream world or are so rich that you don't notice then you will have noticed.

I last walked into a comic store in 2012. I was told that my custom was not wanted by one comic shop because they lied outright to me about books not being available and the distributor telling them the books were probably not going to turn up.

I contacted the distributor who told me the books were available and that "no member of our team would have told a store manager that -if he can provide a name we would be VERY interested"

Store tried to back pedal and then one of its staff, while the manager was listening ten feet away, was very verbally abusive because I had purchased a comic online the manager told me "Do not hold your breath waiting. I doubt we'll get it" and I said I'd try to get it online.  No problem. But they got a copy. "What f***** good is it to us if you buy the comic online?"

This was a store I promoted from day 1 and sent customers their way.  But the manager simply let the verbal abuse of a regular customer go unchecked.

Then it all hit the fan -and I have ALL the emails if I ever need to publish them.  The manager  went into breakdown in email.  In two paragraphs the story changed three times and the famous quote: "If you only ordered Marvel and DC there'd be no problem!" An acquaintance was also told "It's impossible to get copies of Bone" because it was to obscure.  Seriously.

So I was told my custom was not wanted, because I would not just order Marvel and DC -which I was also constantly missing issues of .....I was told for main titles "we get 3-4 so one goes into standing orders and whoever gets here first gets that one"......basically, standing orders were not really honoured UNLESS you were one of their friends. You shit on your customers and then ban them....because they dared place a standing order with you?

So I went to the big shop.  Forbidden Planet. Nice people and manager at that time but the prices were rising and I found the New 52 of DC and the crap going on with Marvel was...well, I was buying paper I had no interest in.  The manager looked at me one day and said: "You're only buying about three books a week and there are only a couple mags on your standing order. What's up?" I put my two comics on the counter and said: "These comics are all dead to me. Nothing is interesting me." And walked out.

I have kept up-to-date, I have to, and I have had a few trades (DC and Marvel) sent to me (still not sure by whom as they arrived with no covering notes). I have been part of the You Tube Comics Community so see and hear a great deal there.

But my story, the abusive and dumb-ass comic shop people -it's not isolated. I hear far more horror stories.  Back in February I wrote a lengthy article that summed up the comics industry.  You can find that here:

But part of it I would like to re-post here:

More Comic Shops Need To Close Down -And I Am NOT Joking

Remember the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption?  I think 2010 was my last year going into a comic shop, too.*
Anyway, comic shops began to panic because their Marvels and DCs (their Image and that other company) comics were not getting to the UK.  But did the shops try to push back issues or graphic novels that they had so many of because they ordered out of stupidity and greed?


They panicked.  As far as they were concerned they HAD to have new comics on the shelves because what else could they put on their comic shelves (let's not be too hard on them because a lot of these people are just stupid through greed)?
In the UK Diamond has a monopoly on comic distribution. If you were around in the 1980s and knew a lot of the shop holders back then you will know how they got that monopoly thanks to Titan Distributors.  From 4-5 distributors we went to one.  A monopoly.  

But business monopolies in the UK are far from legal.  Here, read:
Do shop owners complain when, if they did, a new distributor might set up competition and offer them lower prices?  No, because they are scared of Diamond and they don't know much about business other than that they can inflate comic prices to get their money back.
In 2010 Diamond had a panic. No comics to distribute and there was talk that another distributor (I know who) had access to the latest US comics and was starting to offer them to shops. The shops all acted like scared kids because "What if Diamond finds out?"  -that was said to my face three times by shop owners.
So, Diamond thought "Independent comics -they saved us all before!" Which is what the "Black and White Explosion" of the 1980s did along with US companies recruiting UK creators. "Now's your chance to get on comic shop shelves!" they declared -and comic shops had to bite the bullet.

I asked Diamond how many copies per month of titles they would need?  What the special deal was" and so on.
"We only want the books until we can get our usual stock in" I was told.  As were several other Indie publishers. The deal?  Over 75% of the book cover price -and the publisher paid to get the books to Diamond so....publishers had to give their books for you know why those shelves remained empty until the US imports started arriving.

Indie publishers who did supply comic shops turned up to find their books no longer on the shelf. Most were dumped into boxes waiting for them to collect and some were torn, badly creased or even had coffee stains (??!) on them.  "We did say we took no responsibility for damages" was a phrase used a lot. Three years later one publisher who was owed £20 (just £20 -$40) gave up trying to get his money.

Back in the 1980s with Preview Comic I lost £50 from the sales of issues 1-5 because Forbidden Planet in London "can't read the signature on the invoice" and other insulting con-man remarks.  £50 back then was a lot of money and would have meant continued publication.
But comic shop owners are "okay" and "they're mates" -what I used to think. Remember I supported one shop and was banned (I still have all the emails) because I purchased an Independent comic they told me for months they could not get so I told the owner I'd track it down online. Two weeks later the owner (I saw him)  at the top of the shop stairs as one of his staff verbally abused me because I bought the comic they now had (after months of saying it was "impossible to get so go online"**). 

The temptation was to floor the little fecker being rude but I just said loudly "You hide up there while one of your staff rudely insults someone who has promoted and supported your business since day one?" then I walked out (the boss was very brave later in his email).
Like the guy in the last video posted says, most of the people are shit.  Morons.  Rather than build a strong comic shop industry embracing all genres and publishers like they used to up to the late 1980s, they prefer decline with Marvel, DC, Image or that other company.

Decent, honest shop owners are very rare today and how long have they been trading -most are almost dealing with their comic shops as an extension of their hobby not a real business.
Personally, I think we need less and less comic shops.  More need to go out of business, and they will be, because if they are SCARED of their distributor who cannot survive without them, and will not diversify, they deserve to go. 

"Where are people going to get their comics then?" If you are really asking that question then YOU need to go, too!


That was then.  This is now. The other day I watched some comic fan videos.  Depression about summed it up. Why?  Well, most have really cut back on Marvel and DC standing orders -some only get 1-3 combined from both companies now because they have lost interest and gotten angry following reboot after reboot after reboot. 

They realise Marvel and DC does not care what they think. If turning Aunt May into a nymphomaniac lesbian would bring in more money then Marvel would do it. 

Image and Dark Horse titles they are getting fewer of.  But now, as I discovered through them and then double and triple checked, a comic is going to set them back just under £5.00.  

And that was before a bunch of voters with low IQs decided suicide is good and voted to leave the EU.  This is part of an article from Bleeding Cool Comics:

"Brexit Pushes Up Price Of US Comics By Up To 25% In Three Days Time

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The collapse of the pound sterling against the US dollar as a result of Great Britain’s referendum result to leave the European Union, has today had its effect on the price of comic books.
Diamond Comic Distributors has informed comic book stores that prices have increased as a result of changes in exchange rates, the first time they have done this in eight years.
There are, naturally, increased costs associated with shipping and selling US comic books on the same day – hours earlier indeed – than in the USA.Currently, a $4.99 comic book sells in British comic books stores for around £3.60 to £3.75.
But Diamond’s recommended price for this comic is about to be £4.50. That’s an increase in the price of an American comic of up to 25%."
At the end of the article, Johnson writes:
"Basically, anything from America that British retailers want to order, you have a few days before the prices rocket. It is expected that Diamond UK are about to be very, very busy.
This may also not be the only price change, as it is expected that sterling will slip further."
So, to waste money on following this all up, I spent Friday afternoon on the phone.  What I heard is not going to offer comfort.
It seems that an individual, regular, DC or Marvel comic could hit you with a cover price of £5-£5.50. I asked a couple store owners about this -how would it affect business? Did they think customers would cancel standing orders?  You know, questions that people in comics might like to hear responses to.
Three store owners thought this was "great".  
Why?  Well, it would make them more money.  
Did they not think customers might not have money to splash out on huge pull lists now?  
Apparently, and this was the same response from each so I'll paraphrase: "If they have the comic bug, the movie comic fixes they'll still buy. They can't really stop".
It did not sink in.  Customers are not big piggy banks there for their benefit.  No, it seems customers will still be buying huge bundles of comics -and these were businesses that were already struggling.
The other two store owners....I think one had a noose around his neck and the other was about to burn his shop down -and not get out. "This will kill comic shops in the UK"  Sums it up.
You are looking at Forbidden Planet (which stopped being a comic shop as such a couple decades back) being the future. High prices. Remember when US comics were not distributed in any organised way in the UK, before comic shops? Well, you are going to have to depend on being able to pay high prices because I cannot see Ebay dealers offering cheap new or recent comics.
At £5-£5.50 it's almost cheaper to buy Cinebook albums or...even Black Tower Books.
If you are a comic buyer and you voted Brexit. Fuck you.
If you own or run a comic shop and voted Brexit (I know two who did): Fuck you.
The steel workers trying to save their industry with EU backing who then voted Brexit.  The Welsh who were practically living off EU funding -in fact every part of the UK where the EU is part of social, business and the arts- where people voted Brexit. Well, they have a new industry to add to the list that they helped kill.

* No, Terry -2011 was!
** Just checked my Day Book from back then -it WAS the manager suggested I go online to find the book!!

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