I may have mentioned on this blog previously that I like comics and, consequently, I’m on first name terms with the chap in my local comic shop, who has got to know my tastes fairly well and frequently fishes out obscure gothic steampunk graphic novels for me to consider. He’s a nice chap, Graham; but it seems business isn’t going so well, despite the plethora of blockbuster movies and TV series based on comics of one kind or another.
Strange as it sounds, blockbuster movies from the likes of Marvel and DC don’t actually translate into an increase in comic book sales – so in terms of getting a whole new audience reading the source material, they are a dismal failure. The thing with these movies is the merchandising, which can be picked up in toy shops, supermarkets (I’ve seen Iron Man and Hulk stationery in Sainsbury’s) and online – why bother with a comic shop? The fact that these movies wouldn’t even exist without comics seems to escape people’s notice.
Comics (and by extension, graphic novels) are a wonderful way of exploring story without spending an arm and a leg (and probably some internal organs) on making a movie with lots of special effects. They are, to be fair, no match for regular books in my opinion, as I will always favour the power of the imagination, but some stories are simply best told visually and comics are the way to do it. And they don’t have to be of the superhero variety either – Maus and Persopolis are two graphic novels that deal with very harrowing episodes in history in a way that younger readers can understand.
Not all modern comics and graphic novels are for children, of course – in the same way that not all novels are for children either – but an experienced comic shop owner such as Graham would be able to steer younger eyes away from things they shouldn’t be reading, or point them towards something that they might find of interest.
It would be a dreadful shame if Graham went out of business. Could I encourage people, if they like superhero movies or comic book TV shows, to pop into their local comic store and seek out the source material? They may find something they like…