Friday, 3 February 2012

Souvenirs of Geekdom: Comic Shops and Standing Orders

OK Comics, my local and sometime-workplace.
If you read comics regularly, maybe you have a standing order (or a pull list, if you're reading this from the Americas) at your local comic shop. Maybe you don't. Either way, comics nerds' relationships to their standing order or non-standing non-order are often a bit weird and a bit fascinating.

(Catch-up! A standing order is a list of comics that you give to your local comics retailer so that they can put those titles aside for you every month, ensuring that you don't miss an issue.)

For a long time the weekly trip to pick up a standing order was, for a lot of nerds, their one and only connection to the wider world of geekdom. This has lessened somewhat thanks to our ability to debate whether Squirrel Girl's a minor (and whether Wolverine consequently committed statutory rape when he screwed her) through forums, Twitter and, to a lesser degree, Facebook. Lest we forget, though, not everyone spends as much time using the Internet as thee and me. Even for those that do, the trip to pick up a standing order is still, for many, the only chance they'll get all week to discuss the merits of Before Watchmen in three dimensions with a human they can see. Through my time working at OK Comics I know a surprising number of nerds (frequently of the older generation) who aren't Out to their friends and families, so for whom their standing order really is a lifeline connecting them the nerdosphere.

The standing order betrays the obsessive nature of many peoples' comics habits. It's relatively easy to drop a series if you don't have it on a standing order. It's often happened by accident for me. A few months will pass and I'll suddenly think, 'didn't I used to buy Frankencastle?' Discovering that I've not missed it I'll shrug and move on with my life. Once a title's written on a tatty piece of paper in a ring-binder in the back cupboard of a comic shop somewhere, however, it's a whole different kettle of fish. You've made a Committment. You've taken your tie to that comic from dating to 'in a relationship'. I knew one guy who spent upwards of £50 a week on comics but was several years behind on his reading. A very conservative estimate puts that at 2,500 comics and £7,500 worth of expenditure just sat in bags, untouched. He's stopped buying now, but he'll have years of reading to go at. Please just take a moment to consider that man's level of commitment to his Collection, though.



For some, the standing order becomes a source of anxiety. Their financial situation changes for whatever reason and they can't afford to get as many titles as they used to, or perhaps they don't want any at all. Rather than contacting their shop to notify the staff, though, they'll often put off doing anything about it. Maybe they think things will change and they'll go pick up their backlog next month. Maybe they fear a wrathful shop manager wreaking bloody vengeance on them. But, for whatever reason, they'll treat it like a missed credit card payment, getting a knotted stomach every time their phone rings or their inbox gets a new message until they either finally have what turns out to be an amicable chat with a shop worker or the order gets pulled and put back on the shelves.

I kind of admire the guys (that's a gender-neutral 'guys', although if we're being honest a majority of them are, in fact, guys) who have just a couple of comics on their standing order. They're not massive comics nerds - they just know what they like and they're practical about it. They don't want to miss an issue, and why should they?

On the other end of that scale are the guys that you see in the shop every single Saturday, week-in/week-out, who spend a fortune but just won't sign up for a standing order. They often find themselves resorting to eBay because a title they wanted took the shop owner by surprise and sold out by Friday morning, but there's no WAY they're going to set up an order. They're afraid of commitment. Commitment to the comic? Commitment to the shop? Who knows. Members of the opposite sex should, however, be wary.

I've known a couple of guys who had standing orders but didn't even realise it, thanks to a diligent retailer recognising their buying habits and deciding he wasn't going to let these guys down.

That said, there are various reasons for the avid comics reader to not get a standing order. Maybe he can get to his local comic shop on a Wednesday and get everything he needs without any problems. Maybe he worries about missing out on the pleasures of browsing. Maybe he's not quite realised or admitted to himself that he's a proper comics nerd.

Any way you screw your face up and look at it, though, I would be sorry to see the standing order sacrificed on the digital alter. Good Comic Shops of the world, I salute you!

No comments:

Post a Comment