Saturday, March 26, 2011

Comics Shop Woes

I know, I know.

I'm writing way too often lately about depressing things (like bookstores closing) to even be allowed to bring this up today. But I think I should, because it's sad and relevant, and it really does paint a picture of the comic book industry these days.

The fantastically named Monkey Head Comics in Bethel, CT, a shop that Nathaniel and I both enjoy--and wrote about, just over a year ago--is, sadly, closing its doors at the end of April.

I found out about the closing while checking the shop's website, trying to determine whether or not I'd be able to make a quick stop there after work one evening. I've made a couple of trips to the shop over the past year-plus, usually resulting in spending a decent amount of money.

The store has/had a special place in my heart because of the amount of indie titles its owner made sure to carry. And, although the shop's space was quite small, and the location was not at all ideal, it managed to survive in the worst economy of our lives for four years.

Despite its small size, and as Nathaniel and I pointed out earlier, the shop utilized every inch of its allocated space, resulting in one of the best laid out stores I've ever been in.

I'm sorry I didn't find this hole-in-the-wall gem of a store sooner, and I'm sorry I couldn't make the out of the way trip more often.

Wanting to visit it once before it closed, I made the trip after work on Thursday evening.

Expecting to see a gutted, sad state of affairs, I was shocked when I opened the door to find that most of the store's inventory was still on the walls, and in back issue bins.

This honestly surprised me.

Monkey Head has an incredible range of product: from dollar bin back issues to blue chip CGC-graded Silver Age books; a wonderful trade paperback section that includes limited edition hard covers mixed in with a deep, impressive selection of trades; and a new comics section that used to feature a nice selection of variant covers.

I talked to the shop's owner, and he said the market just collapsed on him. He lost 25 regular customers over the past 18 months, and if you know anything about comics retailing, you know that, if you can't make money on Wednesdays, then you're in trouble.

I also asked him about why he thought there was so much remaining product in the shop. "The economy," was his answer. People don't want to pay retail for books anymore, and that trend has made its way into comics.

And I think this is going to be one of the main problems moving into the next couple of years within the industry--publishing, in general, I mean, and comics can certainly fall victim to this, as well.

Even with prices on all trades, toys, and statues slashed 50% off retail, there's still product in the store.

Maybe it's this particular shop's location more than anything, but I think it opens up the floor for a discussion about the price of printed books, and comics merchandise.

Something to think about, at least.

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