Sorry about this coming up later in the week, no one told me how much actual work there is to do at University
Now I’m in Norwich, actually a lot of you probably don’t know who I am, I mean Sid’s the guy you see most days, I was the dirty brown haired teenager you might have seen hanging around.
So now I’m studying Film and English and I’ve left Comic Connections behind (you better be keeping up with my pull list Sid), and I thought that would generally mean the majority of my comic access would be left behind.
Except that’s by far not the case it seems.
Firstly my Campus has a Waterstones, and this shop is filled with a fairly decent variety of trades, from Marvel Zombies to Sandman to Maus to the Acme Novelty Library and a sprinkling of Manga.
Secondly the actual Library of Norwich has a fairly decent variety of trades available.
Thirdly, and while this isn’t actual comics, one of my film lecturers and seminar readers is a big comic/anime fan. I was talking to her when I saw in her office, not only is her room decorated in Studio Ghibli posters, but also Spider man, Paul Dini’s animated Batman, and a big Michael Turner, she even said “He can’t draw feet”. She wrote her Docerterate-? On Princess Mononko.
So from that you could easily come out thinking that Norwich is a fairly decent town to keep up my comic love, and yeah, in those aspects it is I guess, but then this place also has a Local Comic Shop
I really need to get you pictures of this place so you can see what I mean about this place.
I mean there must be like a list of rules a comic shop should abide by
1. The guy working there shouldn’t have that body smell lingering around his counter
2. Make it as bright and accessible as you can
3. Make it inviting, make the issues easy to get at
4. If your going to have back issues, keep your boxes clean and your sections well labelled
5. The guy behind the counter should be friendly, even if it’s just as going as far to say hey when you come in, then if you look a bit lost or out of your depth they should offer some conversation and help.
Thankfully this shop didn’t break all of these conventions but it didn’t go far.
Ok so until I can manage to get a few pictures let me set the scene for you, this place is on street level, it’s bright outside, I walk in and the room in essentially a rectangle, but hey it’s not the size of your shop, its what you do with it right?
So the store is set out like a rectangle, you know, with stuff running along side the wall, and an island in the middle, one side had monthly comics on racks along with more recent trades on the wall along with a fairly decent setup on clear plastic shelving for the stores manga. The back wall then had a selection of trades, but then you look down towards the floor, yeah that’s it, ragged brown boxes holding old issues of independent magazines and over sized comics like 2000AD. Then lining the third wall we have the back issues, a fairly decent size, with pegged back issues hanging along the wall, and guess what? That includes one of every issue of 52 so far, sure it looked nice, but isn’t there a better way to use your space, I mean really. And the back issue boxes themselves were a bit damaged, the section dividers must have been written a while back because the black pen was fading. Plus when you run out of issue in the section, why keep a blank section there?
Oh and that island in the middle of the shop? A good portion of it was made with stacked long boxes, classy.
So I glanced around a bit, the selection wasn’t that bad, a nice spread of trades and graphic novels, but by no means the same as CC, but then that’s not the shops fault, I mean if they don’t get enough customers to sell that many there’s no reason to carry that many right? SO I give up looking at some of the trades and back issues and move along to the monthlies just to see what sort of variety they had, I mean I’m not going to buy them, mine are hopefully sat in a pull box under the counter. But guess what, while there is a fairly decent array of comics, they’re all bagged up. That’s really inviting to outside readers that. I mean this shop is shaped like a rectangle for gods sake, you can see everything from the counter (or at least you should) but here’s the big problem with the shop.
The counter, and for a number of reasons too.
First of all, you only have one natural source of light in your shop, what do you do? Well apparently you build your counter in front of it. Not only that put it’s a pretty high counter, Its coming in at chest height, that alone isn’t a bad think really, I mean CC has a high counter, but if someone’s sat behind it they’re sat on a stool, not for this comic shop, as I look around the guy is sat on a chair typing on a computer, he sure as hell can’t see me very well from there.
So I buy a copy of Wizard, yes toilet reading I know, but at least it’s some form of comic stuff to read as I have lunch.
As I walk up the street to see where I can get lunch I spot another shop, this time with a just as ‘wacky’ title, Kulture Shock. Now while the place doesn’t deal in monthlies, it does sell a lot of trades, manga, anime and books. And you know what? It’s a fantastic set up for the shop, the whole place has giant windows along one side, and the counter is by no means in the way. There is a clean feel with a nice clean wooden floor, spin racks and universal shelves. Hell I looked in the Neil Gaiman section, not only was there a selection of his comics, but his CD’s too, not just the latest music one, but recordings of his readings. The staff was friendly and chatty and best of all the shop had plenty of space to walk around in.
And guess what I found today, a very nice book shop, goes by the name of Borders, not only do they have a whole shelving row dedicated to graphic novels, about 2 thirds of the variety of what’s in Comic Connections (A lot less Vertigo complete series runs), they also had spin racks full of the latest monthlies, and while they were bagged and boarded, the top hadn’t been taped down and the guy working there said it was fine to take them out and give them a bit of a read. They had some great variety, they stocked a lot of manga, but then everything from Pyongyang to Runaways digests, to Scott Pilgrim, to Judge Dredd.
Now this is the sort of shop setup that you really hope can attract some readers. Plus as a student, today I got 20% off, I could have bought more, but there are plenty of monthlies I’ll need to pick up when I come back to Banbury for a little bit.
So I walked out with a book of 500 Comic Book Villains and the pocket essential guide to Alan Moore, along with a ton of English literature books.
My conclusion has been drawn I guess, Norwich is certainly not a comic dead end, just stay away from the local comic shop, trust me, just head down to boarders, it’s cheaper, brighter, more accessible, the people working there are a lot more attractive and its a lot more inviting. And most importantly, you can buy your monthlies on the Thursday, just like anywhere else.
I guess I should have been fighting for the little guy, but the little guy dug himself into a hole, the chain store really is the better option.