Remember when San Diego Comic Con was about comics?

 

This year and 2020 sees a load of significant 50th anniversaries with next year being the 50th anniversary of San Diego Comic Con which started with a bunch of fans getting to gether with a shared love of comics. Today, I’ll bet you there’s people going this week who give a total of zero fucks about comics, the medium or what it can do. For these people the con is about cosplay, buying toys or meeting XXXX from whatever TV/film they like.

Things change of course and the thrust of late capitalism absorbs all but it seems a shame that in all that will come over the next five days, very little reported in the mainstream will be not about comics. But at one point it was all comics as far as you can see. Well, not quite, as it had a crossover with films but it was still rooted in comics.

Look at these back issues!

EC Comics sitting in piles. Carl Barks Disney comics going for $150. Oh for a time machine.

Oh so many comics!

By the 90’s things were diversifying but the core was still comics.

Also, ‘Green Jello’ in that last clip sounds awfully like a foetal Gorillaz.

This aside I’d still love to go as it, like Glastonbury, is one of these Meccas which fans will always hold in a special place but for one year I’d like to see more talk about comics and how the medium beats anything Hollywood can come up with, or is able to come up with but the money lies in film and TV hence they’ll always get the headlines.

Shame. I’d still like the first headline coming out the show to be ‘man buys mint copy of Fantastic Four #50’.

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Why are comic shops closing in a time when comics have never been so popular?

The Guardian published an article recently about why are comic shops closing when superheroes are quite literally making all the money on the planet and have never been so popular? The article isn’t bad and gets most of the reasons why. For example…

So why are so many going out of business? Like other retailers on the high street, comic shops must factor in rents, business rates, staff wages, insurance – but the profit margins on comics are so narrow as to make this a very delicate balancing act.

They then go onto discuss how monthly comics is a guessing game. You as a retailer have to sit with a copy of Diamond Previews, and try to guess what will sell and in what numbers.

Previews is a massive book released by the largest, and only real distributor of mainstream comics in the world, Diamond Distributors. As a retailer you spend so much time scouring the monthly order form working out how much of say, Iron Man, is going to sell in three months time. So you order enough for your standing orders and maybe 5-10 copies for the shelves as people like Iron Man right? But all that money of yours is now sunk into comics that aren’t sale or return (SOR) plus your profit margin is pitiful, so do you run the risk of having unsold copies sitting there wasting your money or have nothing which means people coming in asking for Iron Man leave empty handed?

Whatever decision you make depends on lots of things but the one thing you can’t change is where you get your comics from as Diamond operate a monopoly. There is no competition, which means the direct market which was meant to bring control to retailers and create a better overall industry, is stale and bloated at a time when the Marvel films are making billions, and folk see comic related characters adapted to to film and TV everywhere.

There are other reasons, such as kids especially not being familiar with how comics are read because it isn’t just words with pictures. Comics are an entire art form and medium of its own, and although there’s a lot of titles out there which are written or drawn by people who don’t understand how comics work (hence why some books are glorified storyboards) a lot do get the basics at least. Also some shops are opened by people who may love comics but have no idea of business so once the comic collection they used to help launch the shop is gone, then they struggle to push on because they don’t know what to do next.

As for shops there’s still those out there where staff are uninformed, unhelpful and these tend to be places with ‘Geek’ in the name of the shop. These places are part throwbacks to the old style of shop and a pretence of a more modern shop but end up just being awful places to shop. To use one example I walked into one such shop and had some 17 year old follow me around the shop thinking I’m obviously some shoplifter even though I’m now a middle aged man who suffers from right sided numbness after a stokes three years ago, so move at the pace of a drunken slug.

But ultimately the main reason shops go under is the business is an unforgiving one controlled by a monolithic distributor so it forces the retailer to take on other revenue streams which may be more profitable (see the proliferation of Funko Pop toys and wargaming) but take you away from what you wanted which is a comic shop. There is no easy solution to this but for shops to make money they need to adapt, but they all need to start questioning, and actually challenging, the way the entire direct market has been set up. Maybe then things will swing back the retailers way.

Come to East Kilbride and buy lots of comics

It’s another weekend so it must be a comic convention! This week it’s the surprise show of 2018 which is East Kilbride Comic Con which will be at East Kilbride library from 11-4 this Saturday the 4th May.

Last year was surprisingly good, and more importantly, profitable. It might have helped that Avengers: Infinity War was showing in every screen in the cinema opposite, so I assume Endgame will be doing the same this year.Sadly it’ll be too early for some nice stuff I’ve got coming from all over, but I’ll still be giving the comics buying public of EK the sort of stuff they need!

Spider-Man? Pfftttt, I shit Spidey back issues!!

It’s also Free Comic Book Day so seeing as I need some space, there’s going to be a few boxes of bargains!!

See you all on Saturday!

A few words for traders at Comic Cons

For the past few weekends my vision in front of me has been something like this.

From the front it looks something like this.

It’s old skool comic convention tables. Back issues and new stuff. No Funko Pop’s, no merchandise, no bubble tea. Just comics because even though I’ve been reading comics for five decades, and in and out of the industry for four of those and I have had days when I’ve had, or not wanted anything to do with the industry I’ll tell you a wee secret.

I fucking love comics. Not just for the characters but the entire medium and I love selling them. It isn’t easy. You need to know your stock, plus you’ve got to know what people want to buy as after all if you’re still dragging around a Thunderbolts section that nobody has asked about in years then you’re not just wasting limited space, but you’re putting strain into dead space.

Basically, it isn’t as easy as turning up, throwing open the boxes and sitting back watching the cash flow in. So one of the things I’ve seen a lot of are traders who are sat behind their tables at cons who do nothing to sell their products who then complain to the event organisers they had a terrible show as if to blame them. Yet I’ve seen over the years traders who don’t have great shows because their stock is poor, overpriced or they’re not doing enough to sell it. Here’s a vague example of what I mean. At a show last year I watched a trader spend all day on their phone while people were looking at their stock. No attempt to engage or interact with them meant people walked up interested, but were quickly put off because the trader was too busy on their phone to pull people in.

Another common example is of traders who spend their shows chatting with mates at the expense of potential customers. Worst of all are those traders who are just rude to potential customers, or sometimes you get the perfect storm where traders just so put off customers they don’t attract them.

It takes a lot of time and effort to put together a show. Good show organisers who give you a good few thousand people can’t be blamed for any lack of success however there’s one simple rule in becoming a trader who may end up being successful enough to make this game a full time job but you’ll never do that by sitting on your arse, staring at your phone as people walk by you. Engage people, chat with them. Talk about what they like. Draw them into your stock because you will do shows that are hard, and this is the difference between a bad show, or even an average show, or one that’s good or massively successful. This is a hard industry but it can be fun and of course, rewarding but only if you do a few things to engage people which should make things better for you.

Come to the Edinburgh Comic Con and buy lots of lovely comics from me

It’s that time of year again as the Edinburgh Comic Con comes running towards us to break up the misery of Brexit and the fact I’m fighting off a dreadful cold. Thankfully most of the work is done and this year Neptune Comics will be in the same place as last year but expanded with lots and lots of goodies from the Golden Age through to the Silver and Bronze Age and today.

I’m even going to fanboy over Kevin Nowlan who’s an artist I’ve loved for a long, long time. Assuming I get the chance to as I hope the show is as busy as last year so come along. They’ll be tickets on the door as the event is sold out of advance tickets and come buy comics and have fun at Scotland’s best large comic con.

Welcome to Neptune Comics

For ages I’ve been sort of playing with myself regarding what I’ve doing regarding comics since moving back to Glasgow as I’ve been to be blunt, fannying around. I’ve decided to stop fannying around and maybe see exactly what I can make of it. So with that in mind, welcome to the official birth of Neptune Comics. Do excuse the site, it’s still being tweaked..

Alright, it isn’t exactly going to change the face of comics, but there’s space for a good back issue dealer in Scotland selling the sort of stuff you don’t see much of here at genuinely affordable prices. See, the marketing is amazing already!

Next up I’ll be at the Edinburgh Comic Con on the weekend of the 6 & 7th April. Hope to see you there as I try to work out what to do next…