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Where I buy my comics

I first started collecting American comics (as opposed to British ones, such as the Eagle) when I was at university in Durham. Since then, I've moved to Oxfordshire, and now London, so this has necessitated the shift to different local stores, as I like to browse rather than using mail order.


I first got hooked when the student union shop had a little comic shop in the corner (about 10 square metres). They basically had back issues, rather than new ones, so after a while I looked elsewhere for the latest issues. The local shops (newsagents etc.) sold a Marvel UK magazine called The Exploits of Spider-Man which reprinted four Spidey issues each month, so I subscribed to that. Also, I could pick up the odd original issue, which came over as surplus from the USA, about 2 months after publication. The Amazing Spider-Man was usually there, and other titles varied. However, I couldn't order any particular title, as the shop never knew what they would get.

Early in 1993, the story arc "Lifetheft" ran in The Amazing Spider-Man, which I really enjoyed. After part 1, I was on tenterhooks for the entire month waiting for part 2. When I saw the cliffhanger at the end, I thought "Right, that's it, I can't wait another month!". So, I went off to Newcastle, to the Forbidden Planet branch there. They got comics through on Fridays, two days after they were published in the USA. This meant that I was able to catch up on the conclusion, and the "Pursuit" crossover. I was hooked, and continued to shop at FP after that, until I graduated in 1995.


I went to Comic Showcase here, which was a decent enough place. However, they did have a couple of problems getting my order right. Before I moved to London, I spent a while commuting, and so I actually defected to the Forbidden Planet in London while I was still living in Oxfordshire.


So, I went to FP in 1996, and I was content there for quite a while, as they have a big shop. Some of the staff did have a bit of an attitude problem - nothing serious, but they were pretty dismissive of mainstream superhero comics. On the other hand, one guy who was normally surly got very enthusiastic when I picked up an issue of The Tale of One Bad Rat (an excellent series, by the way), and struck up a conversation with me about it.

The first real problems started in 1999, when I wanted to add Soulsearchers and Company to my pull list, on the basis that I like Peter David's work. They refused, and said that they couldn't stock it. I can't understand why they turn away a guaranteed sale like this. Peter David has said that it's like having a comic published by the Men in Black; comic shops will deny its existence!

Anyway, I'm too stubborn to give up, so I looked a bit further afield, and found Gosh!, a smaller shop opposite the British museum. They were quite happy to sell this comic to me, so I set up a pull list there. After a while, I added The 3 Geeks (which became Geeksville) to my list too, as they are generally more indie-friendly than FP.

Roll on to the summer of 2000. I decided that it was getting silly to keep going to two comic shops each week, when I could get all of my comics in one place. Also, when I compared the two stores, Gosh! definitely looks better. They have a computerised system for pull lists, which presumably cross-references everything automatically. By contrast, FP use card files, with one card per title. When you go along, and say "I'd like to put New Warriors on my list", they write your name on the NW card. This meant that when I asked them for a copy of my current pull list, they couldn't give it to me; they could only show me the form I filled out four years ago, which was way out of date. Also, Gosh! keep their reserved issues at the till, so there is always someone to provide them. At FP, I usually had to go and find someone to go round to the "Select Service" counter.

So, I defected, and I haven't regretted it. There's one guy whose shifts normally coincide with my trips, and he knows me by name. On one occasion, he was just heading out when I arrived, so he introduced me to a colleague, saying "This is John Kirk, and here are his comics." Similarly, there was a recent occasion when he said "I know you don't normally read Batman, but I think you'd like this issue, because it's written by Bill Willingham, and I've noticed that you read a lot of his other comics." I like that kind of personal touch.


Besides all this, I go to marketplaces every so often, generally in the Kings Cross area. These are advertised with fliers in the comic shops, and are a handy way to track down back issues. Basically, loads of stores will set up stalls in a big room, so it saves you having to trek half way round the country. One caveat is that lots of them will only accept cash, so best to get your money sorted before you go in, otherwise it's a long walk to the nearest cashpoint. This does of course have the advantage that you can control your budget more easily! I would also advise you to work out the total price for yourself before you hand over the comics to the seller, since they don't have cash registers there, and they do sometimes make mistakes with mental arithmetic.

You can also buy comics by mail order. I used to do this by getting printed catalogues from the various companies, then posting them an order form. Nowadays, it makes more sense to do it over the internet, since most of the relevant shops have their own websites. Here are a few places that I've ordered from in the past:

I've used online auctions a few times:

This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk

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