Monday, January 08, 2007

Nostalgia & Comics & Me part 9
The basement part 3
or why Todd McFarlane really hates me......

When last we talked about the basement, we got to the stage when the basement was pottering along nicely, we'd got over the troubles with 2000AD mountains in every corner of the shop and things had settled down quite nicely.

Interestingly I found out from the lovely Mr Pete Ashton that there was a nice little trade going on in taking the free magazines from Nostalgia and flogging them for better stuff at the local second hand dealer in Birmingham.
Which was fine, at least we wanted rid of these magazines. Usually the problem was people nicking stuff from Nostalgia and then flogging it in this second hand place!

Anyway, the basement is as tidy as it's ever been and everything is going along quite nicely.
Of course, at least a third of the place is taken up with the owner's shit. Which we're not allowed to touch for fear of it going missing.
But the rest of the place is well organised, tidy and manageable.
This in itself is a feat of Herculean proportions seeing as we're still in the era when we were buying in a lot of collections and had a thriving back issue section.

For those of you who don't know, Back Issues are essentially old comics and in the bygone age we're talking about here, before Graphic Novels became the wonderful norm, Back Issues were very important to a comic shop.

So every month we'd probably turn around 1000s of back issue comics. Unfortunately, even back then I could see the future and realised that the business model of back issues simply didn't work. But we kept going, kept buying in collections, but also kept putting lots of unsold new comics down into the basement to add to the back issue numbers. And although we did sell a lot of back issues, we generally put more away. So every month the back issues grew, and every month we had to come up with more and more innovative ways to bleed a little more space out of the finite floorspace we had down there.
Sometimes this meant just stuffing the boxes ever fuller, sometimes it meant more dexion and increasingly smaller aisles, sometimes it meant shrinking the owner's stuff into an ever smaller space without him noticing.

But then the major change happened that would eventually overwhelm even us.
The toys started arriving.
Those bloody, bloody toys.

Now those that know me know what I think about comic shops. I believe that Comic Stores are as legitimate as book stores and just as important.

Unfortunately Nostalgia & Comics has never been as lucky as stores like Gosh or Page 45 which are basically owned by smart, comic loving people. We've never been that lucky, we may be managed by comic loving people, but the owners always thought there were other ways to operate.

Someone in charge always seems to believe that the future lies in being that hideous abortion of a marketing idea that is the "pop-culture" store. Where comics and graphic novels are just a small part of an extended "product mix".

Obviously I hate the idea of making a comic store into a pop culture store.
On it's simplest level I believe comics and graphic novels, like books, music, artwork and any other creative endeavour classify as art &/or literature.

Action Figures do not.
They are, at best, attractive pieces of fun. They are Toys.
And I genuinelybelieve that they don't belong in a comic store.
They detract from the main aim of the store which should always be to get the wonderful medium of comics to a wider audience.
Most of this wider audience has never been shown what wonders we contain and the last thing we need to do is have most of the store packed with bloody toys to further re-enforce their existing prejudices about our wonderful literary medium.
On an even simpler level:
Go into Borders. Go into Waterstones. Tell me what you see.
Now go into your nearest Comic Shop.
I bet one has lots of juvenile toys and silly card games and the other does not.

But enough ranting on about comic shops in general, this is meant to be a nice whimsical post about the inner workings of Nostalgia & Comics and somewhere I'm meant to be telling you why Todd McFarlane hates me.

The worst thing that ever happened in terms of impact on the basement was the devastating change that happened sometime in the last 10 years with toys and merchandise.
After years an years of learning to cope with a near overwhelming tide of comics and magazines we'd developed many ways of coping, many ways of racking them and many ways of storing them in the finite space we had.
You see it was really quite easy to store comics down there in the specially designed comic boxes, but these horrible toys were another thing entirely.

At first it wasn't necessarily that big a deal, it seemed that early action figure toys were all very simply designed to be on a similar scale to the comics they came from and they fitted quite nicely into the comic boxes and onto the dexion shelves in the basement.
I'm sure many of you remember the packaging for Star Wars figures? Well, most merchandise and action figures were on a similar scale and fitted quite nicely in their regular shaped packs.

But then Todd McFarlane happened.
That bastard.
Now I dislike Mr McFarlane for many reasons; his awful art, his even worse writing, his crappy business practices, his ego and much more.
But the main reason I hate him is that I believe he deliberately set out to make my life difficult with his ever increasing range of shit.
Sorry, that should read; his ever increasing range of action figures and merchandise.

Sometime around the mid to late 90s, he decided that the standard format for presenting action figures just was too easy for me to deal with and started bringing out action figures in ridiculously sized and shaped packaging that just refused to fit properly in my bloody boxes. It used to be that I could fit at least 20 of 30 action figures neatly in a comic box. Now after they'd been McFarlaneded I was able to fit about 4 in.
Obviously this meant huge changes were needed.
And huge changes happened very soon after that.
But that's for next time....

Join me for Nostalgia & Comics and me part 10. Bloody hell, this was meant to be a little series of 2 or 3 posts to simply say goodbye after working there for so long. It's turning into some sort of epic!

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