Monday, 6 March 2017

How To Buy A Comic - It isn't always that easy!

(Part of this piece is true and part is not. This will be the basis of this new column series going forward. It is also based on almost 40 years of going in to Comics Shops and finding that little has changed. The truth has been 'reconfigured' to suit my rant. See if you can spot it as it dances about in the vinegar?) 

OK. This is going to be fairly easy. However, if you think that 'Saga' or 'Afterlife With Archie' are the best books ever written you might need to find your mummy and get her to help you (she's probably down the pub blowing hobos for loose change btw).

Stage 1.

Find a shop that sells comics. A not altogether easy task, something akin to finding a virgin in Croydon. But remember this does include charity shops and they can be found on most high streets - if you live in the Medway Towns they are situated adjacent to the PoundWorld. (Not that comics stall at The South Bank in London - anyone who sells 'Troll: The Halloween Special' for £7.50 needs shooting!)

Stage 2.

If you are one of the lucky few who has a Comic Shop nearby then head in. Nod at the staff who will probably ignore you and then begin to scan the shelves.

Remember that most people who work in comics shops are better than you. Serving or helping you is well below any priority they may have for the day. Listen to them talk. They drone on about anything except comics. They mostly talk about what they are having for lunch, that cool band they saw online, that they feel 'Reeeeaaallly hung over' and what time they are going home. They all believe that they are not destined to work in a shop and that they should be artists/musicians/poets/insert shit here (and so on).

It is important to be safe. Remember that an awful lot of crazy people head in to Comic Shops. One could come in, pull all the copies of 'Great Lakes Avengers' off the shelf, drop their trousers, do a huge dump on them and run out (although to be fair this is a thought that I often have about 'Great Lakes Avengers' whenever I see it!) All the shop Staff will completely fail to act in any useful way and then as if a reason for their inaction complain about the poor state of mental health care in the UK - like the have been programmed to say this by their cool friends. Shoplifting is also common but I'm sure this has something to do with failings in the Welfare State (and not rampant greed and heroin addiction?) 

WARNING - The shop may have a Small Press event going on. If so you will see shambling zombie like bearded characters (men and women). These people all know each other. They also do not buy anything and/or know about current comics. Do not make eye contact. If you have an ironic hat, shitty tattoos or have problems with actually changing your clothes every single day they may be confused and speak to you. Do not make eye contact. Confuse them by mentioning Syd Barrett or Bowie and leg it!

Think about what you like. Don't think about what you think you should like because someone has told you it is cool. These are the Devil's thoughts. He is playing with you. Beelzebub and the Demons of Advertising are trying to hook you in.... 

Sure, 'I've heard that Squirrel Girl is well written.'


IT IS NOT. (Well, not really.)

It is a load of hyped and cutesy guff that people pretend is good. It's like that indie band who lasted two albums and NME kept saying were geniuses. It's like that art house movie about staring at the sea.


Being a comics fan is all about seeing past the bullshit. Recognising what is really actually good and seeing through the veil of mundanity that masquerades as 'event comics'. Read what you like - plain and simple.

Comics are also a fiction. Also normally set in a fictional world full of fantastical beings and unreality. This is neither the real world or a world that needs to be a battleground for agendas. It is about stories. Stories of all kinds. It is not an axe to grind, unless that particular axe fits into the story you are telling. Don't force your real world agendas into the pages of these fictions. If you do you will be constantly disappointed. If you are looking to satisfy your political agenda by reading comics you will be sorely disappointed. (On the Planet Krypton they think you are a boring cunt too).

If you are the sort of chap or chick (wink) who looks for comics purely based on the gender/race/sexuality/species/political background of the inker/what online stores the editor likes/what newspaper the office manager reads/that it's a comic created by bears who were used to test bubblegum etc (etc, etc, etc, etc) then I wish you luck in your next hobby. 'Cos you ain't gonna last long in this one.

Likewise , if you are the sort of reader who is worried about damage to the staples or a slight curl in the cover paper then there are a couple of easy steps you should take.

a. Put the comic back.

b. Leave the store.

c. Hand your computer in at the local police station. (They may also be interested in any storage devices you have hidden?)

Just remember this mantra - "Comics are for reading.'

I digress.

Stage 3.

Pick up a book that you like the look of and leaf through it. Look good? Yeah? What's the art like? Read a little bit. Like it?

Look at the price. Expensive huh? Yup. That's the way it is these days. Overpriced at every turn. A comic will take you (at most) 15 minutes to read. Think about that for value for money?

If it is too much then put it back and head to the back issue bins. These shops normally have some £1 or 50pence boxes. Grab something from there if you prefer.

Remember. This is not a race. Take as long as you like. Let inspiration hit you. Find something that you are going to enjoy.

Read a trade if you like. (But remember Manga is written backwards by foreigners to confuse you. Most other comics are written by Americans, they have problems with spelling, politics and firearms - so remember this when reading their usual murder filled crap. Thank God for Brexit!)

Stage 4.

Can't find what you are looking for? Why not ask?

Approach one of the staff. They will either be the type who are actually working or the type who sort of sit about reading, looking at their phone, watching loud Youtube videos or chatting to their hipster mates (they can be quite loud - wear earplugs). Their words will be confusing. They speak without meaning and mostly so that people will look at them.

Remember to act casual. Say things like 'Chill' and 'Whatevs'. These are coded signals to hipster central. They will see you as one of the lazy snowflake millennial nation. (They still won't really help you but it makes the whole thing a little less awkward.)

'Hi, I'm looking for something about (insert subject here). Can you help?'

The Answer (I guarantee will be) - 'If we have it it'll be back there.' They then point/wave/gesture at the back of the store.

Count to ten. Look annoyed but don't say anything (we are British after all). Then wander off looking elsewhere than where they have pointed (this minor triumph may make you feel a little better.)

There is a good chance that they won't actually know the answer. They only work in the shop because their friend Rosamund/Trilby/Flat White/Bakewell/Custard Hat/Pilchard/Edmundo/Beehive/Frank told them that it was a 'cool' place to work. 

Stage 5.

Found a comic? Based on liking it and not on a supposed agenda? Great! Well done you.

Now go to the counter. (This may take a while.)

The staff will not initially see you. They have customer blindness. This is a sliding scale between not being bothered to deal with you and wanting to actually stab you in the ballbag (insert female genetalia here).

They've seen you? Phew. Seize the day. Be polite. Pass the comic over. 'I'd like this please.'

They will then take it from you. They won't reply. Then they will face away and continue chatting to their friend Tarquin.

Now, you really need to watch carefully. They will ring up the wrong price and give you the wrong change! When you point it out they will huff and puff like this is interrupting something. Don't watch them too closely (they may think you are creepy) so look elsewhere, look at the variant covers of keyrings or trading cards on the counter. But try to keep them under casual observation. They will bend and pull your comics, this is because they don't actually buy or collect them. 

One of them will go 'Ha, ha, this is fun and open and read your comic. You'll feel like saying 'I'm buying that, I'd quite like to read it before you do!' But don't as this will cause them to have a snowflake cry. I usually bring up a comic from before the last 5 years. This causes their hipster programming to become confused. 

When you finally leave the store you'll feel a little dejected. You might have tried talking about comics and been ignored or brushed off. This is normal. Whatever you do don't mention Bowie or George Michael passing - this may cause wailing and self-harming.

Just be pleased that you have your reading material. Now go enjoy it.

Then Repeat this for 40 years......

(PS - I have a great local comic shop, but it took a while to find!)


  1. Dude - i love this! I haven't had a local comic shop since The Hobbit Hole in Gloucester closed down sometime after i bought the Mills/Bisley Slaine The Horned God (praise be) - my MO was: enter shop, don't look at staff, try to appear knowledgeable while wandering aimlessly around the shop, flick through long boxes, stare at new book racks all the time wondering if i'd get kicked out if i took the comics out of the bags to check the interior art before purchase and whether they'd think i was a perv if i bought a comic with a scantily clad girl on the front (as this was the 90s, my choices were severely limited by this last issue). Eventually i bought some great books from there but far less than i should have...just because i was worried about a mildly sickening look from the staff. Ah well.

    1. All the above :) I know those feelings. Thanks for the reply dude. Spot on :) T