Retailer Forum Dustup

I still haven’t met Jason Richards or had the chance to visit Riot Comics, but from what I’ve read on his blog and the emails we’ve exchanged, I’ve gotten the impression that he has a pretty good view of comic retailing. Although he’s still relatively new, he seems practical in what he’s doing and aiming for.

That’s why I was so disappointed to hear that he was being hassled online (link no longer available) by retailers who have well-established big stores because his idea of what it would take to successfully start a store differed from theirs. I would think, since he’s done it most recently, that they’d be a little more receptive to his experience.

In the comments to that post, the owner and moderator (Comickaze) shows up and apologizes (although it’s one of those “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” apologies that doesn’t really address the original poor choice of words). The word “hobbyist” is a dangerous one to throw into a conversation, because it’s automatically going to be taken badly by whomever it’s being used against. It’s not a content-neutral term, and its connotations are very negative. It doesn’t matter if it’s not intended to be a personal attack; it’s going to be taken as one in most cases, or at least a reason to dismiss or ignore the person being called one.

Too often, it seems, comics is populated by people who get in one way and then want to cut others off from using a similiar path. (This applies, from my observation, to creators and publishers as well as retailers.) I know at least some of these guys went the “I have a comic collection and how hard can it be to start a store?” path, and I’m glad that they’ve achieved so much success. I also know that many of them mean well, and they honestly want others to learn from their experiences both what and what not to do, but if not handled very carefully, their attempts come off as “do as I say, not as I did”.

There’s also the problem that it takes a certain bullheadedness to start and build a comic store into a successful business. That kind of personality is thus going to have a hard time empathizing with people who take different paths from the one they followed, and they’re going to be somewhat pushy about their way being the right way.

Jason later elaborates on whether he thinks that retailer forum is an “indispensable resource”.

I’ve been a member for several years now (it’s not just retailers, but other comic professionals as well), and I know I’ve learned a lot from it. I don’t feel like I can fully participate, so I read more than I contribute. There are several reasons for that: it does seem much of the time like it is a retailer group, and I wouldn’t want to step on anyone’s toes by giving an opinion they found unqualified. Some of the personalities there are very strong and not shy about calling people names. Some of them have given the impression that they don’t respect critics. In short, I don’t feel like I’m welcomed as a full member. (They’re also on Delphi, which has a user experience that’s gotten worse and worse if you don’t pay them.)

All that said, it is full of valuable information, if only in terms of how other people do things. It’s what convinced me not to open a comic store, because it takes a lot of hard work for little reward in an industry where retailers are often behind the eight ball because of poor service from the near-monopoly distributor.

9 Responses to “Retailer Forum Dustup”

  1. Matthew High Says:

    In a rather odd case of synchronicity, I also had a little bit of a dustup on that exact same forum, earlier today.

    Yesterday, in my personal livejournal, I made a disparaging remark about the comic-book-direct-market, which a couple of retailers took as insults against themselves personally. In their defense, I was not really clear about it myself, and I did use hyperbolic language for shock value. But still, it was a side-comment from the original topic anyways (I was talking about the Harper Collins deal), and not intended the way they took it. I was denigrating the overall method of selling comics itself, not the individuals within the system (which includes my own self, by the way).

    Regarding the indispensability of The CBIA…well, it is pretty useful for anyone in the comics industry. I’ve directed literally dozens of retailers and publishers there — just about anyone who calls up here and asks for advice. Sure, some of the people there may have a bit of an ego, but really, isn’t that true with any online forum?

    Reading through the Riot Comics messages, I find it just another example of the unwillingness of the comics direct market to change or adapt to the current realities of the broader comics market, and further strengthens my opinion that some major new blood or change to the direct market is necessary if it is going to survive as a viable sales channel for much longer.

  2. jason richards Says:

    thanks for the support, Johanna. really.

    and you forget…we actually did meet at SPX this year. in fact, you invited me to lunch!

  3. Johanna Says:

    Jason, I’m sorry! I tend to enter into some kind of fugue state at SPX and as a result often suffer memory loss. :)

    Matt, you’re right about online fora being that way in general, and I think your experience shows that for most people, stereotypes are fine unless they think they’re being included in the group.

    You’re also right about new blood being needed, but as is typical of comics… why would the good folks make the choice to go into comics retailing when they could do better elsewhere unless they were crazy?

  4. Leigh Walton Says:

    It strikes me as unfortunate somehow that a resource that you found useful for determining whether or not to open a comic shop is prohibited for those who may be trying to make that very decision… unless they are already part of the industry in some way.

    Would it not be possible to make posts readable and simply restrict posting rights, as on parts of The Engine?

    Johanna, I’m not expecting you to answer on behalf of the CBIA; I just think that this restricted access makes the infusion of “new blood” less likely, unnecessarily.

  5. Johanna Says:

    I have two, no, three thoughts on that:
    1. The confidentiality does help keep the content level generally high and focused, and there are topics discussed that they don’t want exposed to the general audience.
    2. I’m can’t speak for the board’s moderator, but I suspect somone who demonstrated serious plans and progress towards opening a store might be allowed in.
    3. I find the Engine method very frustrating, because there have been times when I’ve had answers to questions posed that I couldn’t provide because I was barred from responding in certain sections.

  6. jason richards Says:

    i know for a fact that the CBIA will not allow anyone on who isn’t already in the industry.

    i tried to join before RIOT was open and was shunned.

    and i agree, Leigh, that is unfortunate. but then there are people like myself and Sam Hobart who aren’t afraid to talk about the process with the public.

  7. Comics Worth Reading » Riot Comics Closing Says:

    […] in a chorus of “told you so”. This wasn’t surprising, either, given Jason’s earlier departure from the group. The thread now has lots of good advice, but as happened before, the people who need it won’t […]

  8. Michael Says:

    I am actually planning to open my own gaming/comic shop and was looking for forums to ask advice. I have been on the delpi site an everyone there has been incredibly helpful, but I like to take a variety of views into consideration.

  9. Brian Says:

    Michael & anyone looking at starting a store: I’d suggest checking out and the mentoring program. The application can be found here:




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