Pond Life #10 by Martin Conaghan: Retail Therapy

Posted by August 2, 2010 Comment

And we’re back. Sorry for the absence folks – I was away on my annual three-week family trip to the USA, but I’m back now, and ready to swim back to the surface of The Pond.

I had been planning to write about something that’s been going on recently regarding a book I produced last year, but I’ve been asked to keep it out of the public domain by the Comic Book Alliance until the matter can be wrapped up legally, so I’ll respect their wishes and return to the subject as soon as I can.

Over the past few months here on Pond Life, I’ve covered the basics on obtaining an endorsement for your comic, the importance of getting the right logo and I’ve also looked at the fundamentals of writing and artwork – then I went into the practicalities of writing a comic-book script and attending conventions.

I’ve also looked into getting your comic promoted, and recently, I discussed pitching your work and setting a good example. So, this week, I want to talk about your local comic shop.

I’ve said before that the printed book is the lifeblood of the industry, and conventions are its soul – but comic shops are the beating heart. However, that precious cardiovascular pump that keeps everyone regularly stocked with their monthly fix of four-colour goodness is constantly under threat of a heart attack, or an outright cardiac arrest.

While in New York City on my trip to the States, I Tweeted that I would be making a trip to the top of the Empire State Building early in the morning, and one of my followers, @incongvito (AKA Vito DelSante, the manager of Jim Hanley’s Universe comic shop on West 33rd Street) invited me to pop in and say hello. So, I did – and it was a pleasure to both meet Vito, and browse around one of New York’s finest comic stores. My eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter picked up some Simpsons comics, and I nabbed a few titles myself to peruse on the remainder of my vacation. Vito and I chatted about conventions and writing comics – and we both agreed to meet up for a pint the next time we were in the other’s territory.

JH Universe is a fab store, and if you happen to be in the vicinity, pop in and tell Vito I sent you.

Why am I boring you with this little anecdote? Well, partly because comic shops are something of a rarity these days, especially if you live outside of a big city – and one comic shop in particular, OK Comics in Leeds, has been struggling lately to remain open.

In an era of online shopping and vast graphic novel sections in high street bookstores, it’s all too easy to blindly sleepwalk past your local comic shop in favour of those big comfy sofas and the sweet aroma of Starbucks coffee. I’m personally guilty of ordering my comics via a postal standing order (from the quite excellent Biff Averre at ACE Comics), largely because it keeps my monthly spend carefully under control, and I struggle to find the time to venture into Glasgow for a regular, casual browse. But I make a point of popping in to Forbidden Planet in Glasgow every month or so to pick up titles I would otherwise avoid, along with indulging my son in his penchant for Star Wars figures.

However, if it hadn’t been for my LCS, I would probably never have continued my love of the medium; if I had never made the trip to AKA Books & Comics in Virginia Galleries in Glasgow when I was 15 (now known as A1 Comics, located on Parnie Street), I would never have met people like the late Pete Root and the legendary John McShane – individuals who pretty much singlehandedly founded the Scottish comics scene. Similarly, I would never have been introduced to people like Jim Hamilton, FP Glasgow’s owner, who introduced me to British comics aficionado Steve Holland and subsequently helped kicked off my career in journalism and comics.

Comics shops like these are among the only places you’ll find almost every single US import, rare editions of graphic novels and collectable merchandise, or frequent signing sessions from top industry names – but you’ll also meet like-minded people, many of whom are as enthusiastic about comics as you are (if not more). There’s even a few societies that meet up every month or so for a few beers (more on which another time).

So, if you’re out and about in the big city this weekend, take the time to wander over to wherever your LCS is and spend a couple of quid. Especially if you live in Leeds.

Martin Conaghan is a journalist and broadcaster at the BBC and a freelance comic book writer. The views expressed here are his own. He is also the writer of Burke & Hare.

Are you a small press publisher, writer or artist? Do you have something you think might be worthy of mention on Pond Life? If so, tell Martin about it at pondlife@copydesk.co.uk

You can request to follow Martin at Facebook or Twitter.

(Last Updated August 2, 2010 8:27 am )

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