Are British comic shops failing British comics?

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starscape
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Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by starscape »

(here's something I wrote StarscapeComic.co.uk - click on Comicscape - but I thought some might be interested in it)

Let's lay it on the line - I used to run a British comic shop and I used to be a British-based comics publisher. I've seen it from both sides. I also know that many shops are just not trying hard enough. Not just at promoting comics from their own country, but also turning that into more business for themselves.

If there are any retailers out there, I know what you are going to say - "small press are notoriously difficult to sell". Quite true, but let's leave the indie comics aside for a minute. Our American friends would probably collapse if they knew that the top selling comics in Britain are not stocked by British comic shops. But it's true!

Comics such as the Beano, Dr Who, the Dandy, Toxic! and a variety of others are only on sale in newsagents, not comic shops. The argument, I know, will be that Diamond stocks comics on a direct sale basis (the comic shop buys the comics but can't give them back), whilst newsagents are stocked on a sale-or-return deal (the shop tries to sell them - if they don't, they give them back). But is that really the issue? I'm quite sure distributors would be happy to sell more items via comic shops as well as newsagents.

Another argument would be that it's not the comic shop's clientèle. Well, of course it's not. If a comic shop doesn't sell kids comics, then kids are hardly likely to be able to buy them from there. And there's another point. They're KIDS comics. You know, the demographic that retailers have been trying to encourage into their shops for years? Let them buy their Dandies and, hey, remember that Captain America film you saw? Well, here's the comic...and there's a new comics fan with more years ahead of them than your traditional fanboy buying up the latest Hawk & Dove.

Talking of Hawk and Dove...

Here's where the indie press come in...small press are very difficult to sell. What it needs really is some kind of filter, so that, you might say, we have an indie press and a small press. That is, saleable books with a mainstream appeal, plus homemade comics that could only ever be of interest to a cult audience. So does that preclude not sellling indie comics at the moment? Hell, no. Walk into your nearest Forbidden Planet or whoever and count how many copies they have of the aforementioned Hawk & Dove or the revamped Power Man & Iron Fist, or even the now defunct Justice Society of America (pre-Final Crisis). There's quite a few! And they ain't gonna sell. Try to find Strip Magazine and you'll be lucky. Plenty of Frankenstein, Agent of Shade though...

So what can comic shops do to sell UK indie comics? Firstly, insist on a sampler to see the quality or not. Take 2-5 on a sale-or-return basis. Don't insist on the ridiculous American format. We don't use that size in Britain. What's wrong with A4 and A5 comics? It's no less appealing a size, plus can be produced cheaper in Britain, so we can actually sell indie comics at comparitive prices. We just don't have the printers here to sell at US-size taking into account a 50% distro cut.

So, there you have it. British comic shops can sell more by stocking the most popular British comics, whilst also establishing a younger audience to graduate onto their other stock. Meanwhile, by allowing British comic sizes, they can increase their sales by allowing British creators to sell comics at reasonable prices.

Doesn't seem like rocket science to me.

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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by McSCOTTYS GHOST »

I would certainly like to see more small press/ Indie comics in my local comic shop but only (as you say) if they have some quality to them - in the 80s , in Glasgow at least these were everywhere most were awful (I know I bought them) so quality is vital - UK comics, well Forbidden Planet (Glasgow) sell Strip, 2000AD, Zarjaz, the Megazine, Knockabout, Clint, and UK Indie publishers like Markosia etc (so does A1 comics in the City) - in fact they have recently have been stocking and trying to push Archie but to little success -so would the Beano and / or Dandy succeed - actually you know I think it could just as its so different for a comic shop - But I th8ink DCT has to play its role and get them out there - your 100% right (IMHO) new blood (ie kids) are needed in specialist comic shops cause after my generation goes (the 40s and over) I reckon that's pretty much it for them)

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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by felneymike »

I've been thinking of starting my own magazine about British comics (penance for not buying enough Crikey!). But with a Sun/Express tabloid reporting style (only pro-comics and overly sensationalised proportion-blowing-out-of against anything that's even slightly against comics). I may just use the title of this thread as the first front-page headline XD.

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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

starscape wrote: Comics such as the Beano, Dr Who, the Dandy, Toxic! and a variety of others are only on sale in newsagents, not comic shops.
Some comic shops do stock The Dandy and Doctor Who Adventures. Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham for one.

I don't think they sell particularly well there though, as their customers are mostly adults.
The blog of British comics: http://lewstringer.blogspot.com
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by Phoenix »

felneymike wrote:I've been thinking of starting my own magazine about British comics (penance for not buying enough Crikey!).
Nil desperandum, FM. All issues of Crikey! are still available on eBay.

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Digifiend
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by Digifiend »

Not to mention Crikey! has been revived as a digital magazine.

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ISPYSHHHGUY
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

All I can say is that I have never known such a low visibility of the Beano or Dandy in all shops in general: I never really buy modern comics, but as I cartoon a bit myself [I'm doing paid advertising work at the moment] I like to keep an eye on modern cartooning trends.

I used to flick through these comics in Tesco [don't laugh!] most weeks, but they stopped selling them in my branch a few weeks ago. The only place I really know I can find them now in W H Smiths, but that chain of stores has become so bland and characterless I seldom enter their hallowed doors anymore: as I result, I very rarely see new comics artwork at all anymore, in fact if it wasn't for this forum and assorted blogsites, I doubt if I'd see new material at all.

I'm not deliberately trying to be a 'harvester of doom', this is just honest observations I have made in recent times. I just wish it was otherwise.

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paw broon
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by paw broon »

I am another who, at one time had (one third of) a comic shop, in Glasgow. We tried to stock and sell some small press, although it got to the stage that folk were turning up 3 or 4 times a week with their publications that really were not very good. Stuff such as Paper Empire/Captain Empire by Dom.Regan was of a high quality but didn't sell. It was A5 and obviously not of the DC/Marvel standard of glossy covers and 4 colour interiors. Didn't matter that art, energy and enthusiasm were all present. Couldn't get punters to have a try. There were a few others that were quite good but difficult to sell despite my one super power being selling, particularly those titles that I was enthusiastic about.
Fanzines, such as our own AKA and a couple of others sold better than the small press titles but Electric Soup was in a different league. Colour covers and some truly inspired stories and art from Frank Quitely, Dave Alexander and others made this a must read for many customers, me included, especially if you were a Viz fan.
But when I am in Glasgow now and visit comic shops, I do note that there are fewer copies on the walls and fewer titles with slowly shrinking space allocated to them, as more space is set aside for toys and other stuff. ( Apart from Futureshock, which seems to be bunged full of comics.)
At one time comic shops not only had direct market comics but also newstand comics, incl. British titles , e.g. 2000AD, and a few others. ( American titles were 2-3 months behind but were cheaper). I think Menzies were still extant then.
A lot of kids want movie tie-in comics and haven't heard of Archie, but I think having Beano, Commando etc, in comic shops would work as I also find it difficult to find these titles in supermarkets. And the reason it could work is the one of sale or return. It is so difficult to get a comic order bang on, impossible in fact - I've never been able to do it - as you either sell out too early or have too many of a particular title. I understand that either DC or a distributor are prepared to take returns on subsequent printings of the 52 titles.
As I have seen at recent Glasgow marts, there are more small press titles than there have been for a few years and some of them are rather well done but breaking through or even getting them into shops can be soul destroying. I hope they succeed.

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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by McSCOTTYS GHOST »

Hi Paw I remember buying Captain Empire an excellent comic/fanzine - used to pick up AKA also - the reason I bought them was cheapness (especially AKA) and the main thing quality - also remember Battlefield an excellent fanzine but as I said at start so many of them were beyond awful and cost more than a US comic - All Glasgow comic shops still sell lots of UK titles and I reckon Commando could do well - as you say the big 2 shops in Glasgow are now 60% plus towards toys and games and to be fair both are mobbed most Saturdays so its what the customers want pity the core reason for the shop is diminishing - just to add AKA was "awesome" (as the kids say) still miss it; great position in the city, great staff and great stock

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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by felneymike »

I can remember the non-international Forbidden Planet in Cambridge selling a few small press titles up to about 2005. Reportedly there's a chain-wide ban on them now though (unless they are by Alan Moore anyway). They've never had the Beano, Commando etc as far as I can remember though. Wierdly not even the Commando reprint books put out by Carlton or Prion.

The comic shop in Lincoln (can't remember it's name, it has batman logos all over it and is yellow) was 100% comics but they were almost entirely Marvel or DC. I once despairingly turned to them when a search of the city had failed to turn up Commando or Classics, but they didn't have a clue what I was on about.

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paw broon
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by paw broon »

McSCOTTYS GHOST, hello. Belated thanks for reading AKA. It was seriously good fun putting it together. There is a copy of #5 on www.goldenagecomics.co.uk available for download in the fanzine section and if McShane gets his finger out, fixes his machine and scans the others, there will be more. Captain Empire was good, wasn't it? There was a back up strip in early issues titled Black Ice, I think, by another young Glasgow lad. I'll try to find my copies and check that as it seemed promising, if memory serves.
If you have other memories, I'd look forward to reading them. Or if you fancy a moan at me for flogging you something you didn't like, please feel free.

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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by McSCOTTYS GHOST »

I'll need to look out my issue for Capt Empire again and check that back up strip - I seem to remember buying it from a shop in Candleriggs area (across from the old Goldbergs shop) from memory it was a shop the dealt with gaming more than comics but the sold a few Warrens etc and Capt Empire -I may be wrong as no one else remembers this shop - Yeah it was a good time to be a comic fan in Glasgow in the 80s lots of product, nice shops and charactes a plenty.

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paw broon
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by paw broon »

McSCOTTYS GHOST,
Sorry to be a bit late getting back on Paper Empire but we went to Cologne for a few days to visit Christmas markets, wander around a couple of excellent galleries, buy comics from 2 well stocked shops with good staff, drink gluhwein and stuff ourselves on those huge German meals. So, I've only now dug out the following:- Paper Empire #1, 3 & Captain Empire#4 (a name change from the previous 3 issues. The back up 1 & 3 was Black Ice by Peter Coyle (writer) and Andy Hope (artist), both Scottish lads that I haven't seen or heard of in many years, although I seem to remember Andy got married went to America. Bit of a shame that he didn't keep up his art (maybe he did and I just don't know about it) but, despite not being obvious from the 1st. Black Ice story, he got better in leaps and bounds and even the Black Ice stuff is no worse than I've seen in some Silverwolf and other b&w titles. By #3, Dom is drawing Black Ice and Cap. Empire. So, if you have a copy of #2, please let me know the credits on stories and art.
Also in the wee bag was a copy of Gasp #1. 1982. This fanzine was a product of The Friends of Don Heck, who met on Tuesdays in The Whitehall bar in Renfield Street. As opposed to The Friends of Clark Kent, who met in a number of pubs but eventually settled in Wintersgills in Gt. Western Rd, on Wednesdays.
Gasp contained a 3 page Captain Kelvin strip by John Culbard. Again, if you can shed further light on any of this, I'd be grateful.
The shop in Candleriggs did exist - you aren't imagining things. I seem to remember it was run by Bob thingy (same name as a famous s.f.writer?), But there was another shop nearby which did gaming, so I could be imagining things. I'll ask around.

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nottinghamian
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by nottinghamian »

I've asked about getting Commando into local comic shops. They just weren't interested, and said they couldn't get it.

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starscape
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Re: Are British comic shops failing British comics?

Post by starscape »

I live in Nottingham myself these days, so I presume you mean the 'indie-friendly' Page 45. Indie friendly as in American indie. Virtually no Brit comics - even some of the more popular small press - and with an obvious contempt for superheroes. I feel much more comfortable in Forbidden Planet.

When I ran a comic shop, I bought in Commandos from my nearby Borders. Didn't make any profit from them but felt that if someone bought one from me, they were more likely to get other comics too. Forbidden Planet, at the very least, could easily come to an arrangement with Comag/Seymour etc to stock Brit comics. But it needs a change of mind as to a business model. Brings me back to what I was first saying.

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