In these days of large in scale conventions, cosplay-infested MCMs and curated, arty, small press festivals it’s nice to see that events like the London Comic Mart at the Royal National Hotel are still there for us hardcore collectors.
Known as ‘The National’ to those in the know, this multi-room back issue sales area has been going for years and still carries the torch from the heady days of Westminster’s Central Hall and its star-studded Comic Mart days of the 1980s. A venue I was regularly dropped off at by my father who went for a beer while I stared at wonder at all the issues my local newsagent hadn’t bothered ordering.
Is being a ‘Comic Collector’ a dirty word these days? Everyone seems to be a hipster ‘Creator’ or a ‘Graphic Novel’ fan or a cosplay actor. Nobody admits to loving the comics of the pre 1990s? But here we are, queuing up to get in and rifle through long boxes. Impulse buys or wants lists, come prepared to see books you don’t see in Forbidden Planet or Travelling Man.
A big problem with modern conventions is the lack of pre-2010 comics you can buy. Even great conventions like Thought Bubble barely had a back issue section worth speaking of and the London Film and Comic Con or MCM rugby scrums are places that you are more likely to be able to grab a Thor backpack than a Thor comic. This hole in my addiction is filled by a couple of great comic shops (Krypton Komics, I am looking at you) and the bi-monthly Comic Marts held at this easily accessible West End London location.
Manning the stalls are the same old faces that I have seen over my 40-plus years of reading. Like hippy car salesmen, they will haggle and moan about the state of the industry and the luck of other venders.
So? You ask. Why should I head there? Sounds a bit like a flea market, with the accent on ‘flea’. I would humbly suggest that the prices of the comics is a great reason. You can always pick up a boat load of comics for a relatively small price. Always full of 50p bins and reduced price multi packs each stall is a tatty goldmine. That’s not to say there aren’t some high-grade comics tat as well, all over the shop. You can also grab cut price DVDs, posters and art as well.
The above pile only cost me the princely sum of 90 pence!
I put a tweet out to see what people were looking for and got a great reply from TV actor and comics enthusiast Riley Jones (@Riley_Jones_88 on Twitter – and currently appearing as DC Edwards in ITVs series Vera). He said that after having moved to London recently, he was keen to get to a Mart to “raid the bins for any books that I may have missed in the past few months, but will also be looking for some older collectables.
“£80 is my limit. We’ll see if I can stick to that!”
Chatting to some of the retailers at the Mart today, I was struck by their growing concerns that not enough was being made of a great venue and an established business. One retailer said he would like to see signings and competitions to draw in customers. I have to admit that you would be hard pressed to find any advertising about the event or signs outside the hotel advertising its presence.
Sure, there are some strange (trying to be polite here) people wandering (crashing) about the aisles. I once watched a man open about twenty packs of Sliders trading cards in a row and throw the wrappers at his feet. But these people are rarer than they used to be.
So if you want to discover the true history of comics (it actually goes back further than the first X-Men movie) then head down to the Royal National Hotel on a Sunday lunch time. Grab some Marvel Two-in-One or Strange Adventures or Captain Britain weekly. You know it’s going to open your minds, you silly-billy squares!
If you really search Facebook you can find an events page for the Mart and they have a website at www.londoncomicmart.co.uk Upcoming events are the 6th September and the 4th October 2015. You can find it in the downstairs halls at The Royal National Hotel, 38-51 Bedford Way, Russell Square, London WC1H 0DG
Many thanks for reading.
• For information on the next and upcoming London Comic Marts visit: www.londoncomicmart.co.uk
• Vera actor and comics fan Riley Jones is currently looking for line work he can colour for his portfolio…
Anyone got any line work they want coloured for free? Yes, free! Looking for portfolio pieces. Please Retweet. pic.twitter.com/4wCn8MQDXv
— Riley Jones (@Riley_Jones_88) August 2, 2015