Before I get into the Great Comic Distribution Wars, I thought it was worth having a quick piece to follow up what happened in Glasgow when FP opened their shop there in direct competition to AKA.
From 1988 to 1993 Forbidden Planet followed me like a mugger with a carving knife and an erection trying desperately to fuck my plans up at exactly the wrong moment or when things were going well such as the situation in Glasgow that I recounted in part three. Let me explain….
In 1991 I was living in Nottingham after moving from Leicester (more about this sometime in the future) and working a living between working nights in warehouses and doing comic marts in Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham with Chris Bacon (more about Chris in Part Six of this series, The Great Bristol Comic Shop Wars) and having an interesting time to say the least. For various reasons (which I’ll expand upon another time, but it’s non-comics related so not relevant for now) I moved back to Leicester in the summer of 1992, but while I was doing marts in Nottingham I was effectively made persona non grata at Forbidden Planet in Nottingham (”you’re the competition!!!”), and when I moved to Bristol in 1993 to work at Comics and CD’s on Gloucester Road (more about this in part six) I chose to withdraw from the battle because FP had opened up in Bristol and fucked the shop, but again, I get ahead of myself.
So if I came over as bitter, and still come over as bitter then it feels like I’ve got good reason, but with the super power of hindsight I know it’s not as easy as that, but I’ll expand upon all this in the next couple of blogs.
The point of this blog is to make a few points. I am not saying Forbidden Planet did anything dodgy during their aggressive expansion policies of the 80’s and 90’s even though they absorbed some of the original British comic shops like Odyssey in Manchester and Nostalgia in Birmingham. In fact people like Graham Holt who owned Odyssey became directors of Forbidden Planet, or one of the many companies and subsidiaries that sprung up with ”Forbidden Planet” in it’s name.
In fact there’s several different Forbidden Planet’s as you can see by clicking this link. This results in the frankly surreal situation of going to conventions and seeing two different FP stalls in direct competition with each other. It’s a story that several comics journalists have touched on including Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool , but nobody has ever delved into the messy history of the organisation properly, and frankly someone should. Not because there’s any dark, murky secrets. I don’t think they are and there’s been rumours over the years suggesting just that but I’ve never seen or heard an ounce of proof to suggest wrongdoing, even though 20 years ago I might have dearly wished that to be true.
No, it’s to do a history as to how FP turned comic shops into corporate faceless things, which meant many newer shops followed the template and became equally faceless in an attempt to follow in FP’s wake. It’s an important part of British comics history that people have, to me, deliberately avoided for a variety of reasons.
I appreciate that people like going to FP, and I’ve shopped there myself, but like McDonalds or Costa Coffee it crushes individuality and creativity in their particular industries. If you look at the examples of the really quite excellent Page 45 in Nottingham or Gosh! in London, then you can see how comics shops should be in my own humble opinion. I can get genuinely excited going into Page 45 and recapture that joy I had when I was hunting round Glasgow trying to find comics and frankly that’s a precious, glorious thing I don’t get going into FP and staring at a wall of expensive toys, or asking surly staff where a book or comic is. I want to feel like the people running the shop care, and you get that if you go into a local, independent deli, or coffee shop, or comic shop. You don’t get that at Costa, or McDonalds, or FP. It’s just about the coin.
And now that’s off my chest, next time will be The Great Comic Distribution Wars.