Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Age no barrier for graphic fiction followers"
All it needs is a sign in the window:
NO Women. NO Kids

Dirk linked to this Inverness Courier article on the city's first comic shop, Heroes For Sales and I clicked through because it's always nice to see a new comic shop opening up.
Oh God.
Oh my God.

The photo is a complete giveaway for a start.
Dan Dare and Spider-Man is fair enough. But Witchblade?
And look - it's a really bad Superman cover, isn't that nice?
I know that local papers like to get comic shop owners to adopt stupid poses in front of a Superman or Batman figure but it's up to the retailer to say no and try to put themselves forward as a shop for everyone.
However, it appears that everyone is not the target market this guy's going for....

“I always said my target market was 18 to 35, because comics are fairly adult in nature these days, but its good to see teens picking up a few comics,” “It’s good to see them reading. When I was 15 I loved comics, but couldn’t get them for love nor money. So it’s nice to see them getting into comics.” At the other end of the age scale, Davies has been surprised by the number of older comics readers. “It’s mainly male — there are some women into comics, but they are a rare breed. It quite surprised me. I thought by their 30s people would stop reading them because of families and things, but there are people who have their families and come back to comics later in life,” he revealed. “And they generally have more money so they buy the collectable things like the hardbacks.”

So, that's completely dismissing the children's market. How does he think all these 30 somethings coming back into comics got their first experiences?

And women are a rare breed?
I bet they are in your shop.

Just as a quick aside, Jeff Smith was in New York a while back giving a series of lectures and signings. Look at the picture below. See all of those small things with comics in their hands. They're children. They read comics. Just not in Heroes For Sales.

and then this:

“They would go to Glasgow and pop into Forbidden Plant or A1 Comics. I’ve got them on board now, the ones who know me anyway, and I know for a fact that I offer a level of service when it comes to finding them stuff that a big firm like Forbidden Planet doesn’t want to or can’t give. Because I’m an independent it’s important to me to keep the business going. A big firm isn’t really caring if you get number 22 of Astonishing X-Men.”

Now I used to work for Forbidden Planet International through their ownership of Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham.
So to hear this guy saying he offers a level of service that he "knows for a fact" Nostalgia & Comics couldn't or didn't want to give is just wrong.
And bloody insulting to me and my friends who loved to find a customer not only something they were after, but loads of stuff they'd never heard of. Even better was when these customers would come back, time and time again, overflowing with gratitude that we turned them onto something wonderful.

I can't speak for the Aberdeen store or Glasgow or Edinburgh in the FPI chain, but through doing reviews for the FPI blog I know how passionate and customer focused the people I deal with are I and to say they don't care about getting their customers the comics they want is just an untruth.

I'm not one to normally jump up and down and bang on about how unfair some of the views expressed about FPI as a chain are, but this really, really got to me. After all, by saying that he was, so I saw it, having a go at me and my colleagues and friends. How dare he say that we were the sorts of retailers who didn't care about our customers.

And I must admit now that I did a bad thing.
I phoned up Heroes For Sales with a list of 12 Graphic Novels I was after just to check on what he meant by:

"I know for a fact that I offer a level of service when it comes to finding them stuff that a big firm like Forbidden Planet doesn’t want to or can’t give"

I fibbed and said I was after a leaving present for a colleague. This was the list:

Exit Wounds
Fun Home
Absolute Sandman
V For Vendetta
Tamara Drewe
Love & Rockets
Shooting War
From Hell

All they had in was Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell and Love and Rockets.
5 out of 12. (update March 25th. Obviously it's 4 out of 12. Obviously I can't count. But we shouldn't let that stand in the way on realising it makes it worse retailer wise!)

I know I picked stuff that was fairly left field, but it was all stuff that's received immense praise over the years for their crossover appeal, with books like Fun Home, Exit Wounds and Tamara Drewe getting national press and attrating readers from outside the small circle of traditional comic readers.

So that gives you an idea what sort of stock depth they've got. And I don't think it's good enough. And certainly not from someone who goes in print to say how he's better than the big boys.

On the plus side, he did phone me back to confirm that he hadn't got what I was after and then (oh, the irony) suggested going to Forbidden Planet for them.
So I did. I did the same thing with an FPI store, just phoned up with the list and asked what they had. They scored 11 out of 12.

I'll leave it with you to draw your own conclusions.


  1. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Is he standing in the "Posters for Sale" bucket? Or maybe he uses his big baggy trousers to sell posters. Either way, I'm steering well clear.

    Seriously though, that shop belongs in another era (1990?). At least I know where to buy my variant X-men comics to stash in the loft.


  2. Anonymous2:20 PM

    i've been there, the selection is very narrow, well it was when i was there. they had no birds of prey!


  3. I don't mean to objectify, ahem, but could that guy look more like a comic book store owner?

  4. "All they had in was Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell and Love and Rockets.
    5 out of 12."

    Actually, 4 out of 12.

    I point this out not to be a jerk but to underscore that the shop's selection is even WORSE than you reported.