Thursday, 29 January 2009

Death to comics

I just came back from my new local comic shop, having gone through the painful rigmarole of switching allegiances. My old shop was a special place. We chatted, we geeked out, they let me take some album shots in there, we were on first name terms. But timetabling sent me somewhere closer to home. I immediately like the guy in the new place. He’s a soapbox defender of the universe, an angst-ridden old man who is watching his industry die before him. We’re seeing it all over. The advent of online shopping has killed independent retail outlets dead. The only survivors are the monopoly-builders, like HMV or Waterstones or Forbidden Planet. Forbidden Planet exists on many levels- it has a thorough website for online shopping; the latest comics and back issues; DVDs; books and merchandise tie-ins, rows and rows on them. They’ve got a prime spot at the end of Covent Garden and they are helping to kill off the independent shop. So what, you say, it’s capitalism and it’s comics. Comics exist in that same sphere as records do. It’s the conversation, that High Fidelity-esque spirit of sitting around shooting the shizz on that difficult third album or the latest Deadpool arc. Now with online shopping and forums, this is growing sparser and rarer. I’m hankering after old ways. But the comic industry is dying. The masses want the films of these characters, now the effects can deal with them. The masses want films not comics. Only nerds want comics. And those nerds are all twirty upwards to fifty-sixty. The die-hards. The youngsters want the films and the games. We want the original, sealed, packed away and delivered with a conversation about who was the best Green Lantern.

The monopoly in comics goes higher. There is now only one distributor within the industry that takes the comics from DC and Marvel, the two biggest houses, to deliver to our shops. And they can do whatever they want. Because if you don’t like it, where are you going to get your comics from? Hardly ethical. Hardly for the love. Obviously comics is a cash industry. And Diamond knows that ultimately the fans will still buy the comics no matter how much they’re dicked around. So they had an extra surcharge for delivery worldwide, and we pay it, and the price of each comic goes up, and because the dollar is so victorious against the pound, the comics go up. This new comic story owner told me all this and then said he wasn’t making any money off new comics. To ensure repeat customers, he was selling them at the price he got them for from Diamond. He has backrooms full of unwanted back issues that no one wants, and Diamond ain’t taking them back or won’t recycle them. No way no way. We’re stuck with them.

The evils of business. I was born too naive for this world.

In the coming weeks, I’ll interview this eloquent new comic store owner and get the full lowdown on the last scraps of a dying industry.

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