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Riot Comics closes

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After allowing us to follow along with his adventures in opening a shop for so long, Jason Richards announcesRIOT comics is closing:

It’s Groundhog Day and I didn’t see my shadow this morning so that means spring is coming soon. Unfortunately, it also means that RIOT is closing its doors soon as well.

Yes, the dream comes to an end on Saturday, February 24th.

However, there’s one thing I want to clarify (and thanks to Mr. Matt Fraction for pointing this out to me): RIOT is closing by choice and NOT by necessity. See, I’ve been offered one of those government jobs that would be foolish to refuse…with the easy 9-5 schedule, fully paid benefits, amazing retirement plan and unmatched networking opportunities. I’ll be joining the Democratic Caucus of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in three weeks. And I’m doing it for my family’s future (and my own sanity).

Yeah, it’s been brewing for a while now. And, honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

Don’t get me wrong. I still LOVE comic books (and will continue to buy them by mailorder so I can be a geek in the privacy of my own home), but I’m not sure I was ever in love with selling comic books. There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I was so blissfully ignorant about, from scheduling problems to freight charges, marketing gimmicks to creator meltdowns, that I’d much prefer to just be a reader again.

I always wanted to own my own comic book store and I did. It may have only been for a year and a half, but that’s better than nothing in my book.


[Thanks to DH for the link.]

  1. I don’t mean to piss on any graves here, but Jason Richards is a giant loudmouth who alienated all of the local retailers in the entire runup to opening his shop by throwing tantrums about how they weren’t serving indie customers and they weren’t carrying his favorite obscure titles and how he was going to change the face of comics retail. Ask Rocketship in Brooklyn what they think of him, or the other retailers who offered him good advice on an industry message board, which he rudely and stubbornly rebuffed. Whenever anyone disagreed with him, no matter how civil they were, they were immediately met with this defensive, “I know better than you” posture from him, while at the same time doing ridiculous things like ordering multiple extra copies of unsellable books just so he could sell a variant cover to a subscriber. He’s just a hothead with weird ideas about comics retail that didn’t work here.

    What really bugged me, aside from those early swipes at the local competition was that he really took the low road whenever possible. His blog early on had several posts floating nasty rumors about his competition and the poor service and rude treatment they offered their customers. It was the equivalent of Karl Rove-ian whispering campaigns, like “Hey, one guy went to one of my competitors and asked for an indie book and was laughed at, but I’m not going to name who it was!” thus, pretending like he’s rising above petty smearing while at the same time serving to smear all of his local competitors.

    (The irony of him going to work for the Democrats is not lost on me given those tactics…)

    Frankly, his giant splash on the internet was a triumph of marketing… marketing which was built on the lie that his competitors, some of whom have been supporting independent comics long enough that I purchased magazine sized issues of Lloyd Llewellyn and Neat Stuff when they were released there, were not indie friendly. This is not surprising since Jason was an advertising guy.

    Within months of opening, his blog rapidly changed its tone from pushing indie stuff to talking about the usual superhero drek like Civil War, which suggests to me that Jason found out the harsh reality of comics retailing in an area like central PA, which really doesn’t have much of an indie buying crowd in spite of at least one store pushing and supporting those kinds of books for the decades they’ve been in business. At the very least it was a validation that some of these other stores in the area that have been open for a long time might have been right all along, not that Jason Richards would ever admit that.

    No matter how he tries to spin it with the “I chose to close,” Riot Comics went out of business because it failed to generate enough sales to support Jason Richards and his family. He wasn’t creating the new customers he had hoped to with his “indie flava”; he was only peeling customers off other comic stores. There’s nothing inherently bad about his failure; this area simply won’t support the kind of store he wanted to run, and we already have a lot of comic shops considering the population.

    Ultimately, Riot Comics was the “Snakes on a Plane” of comic shops. High on hype, but the hype failed to translate into dollars.

  2. I just feel that the almost breathless coverage Riot has received since before day one failed to give the other side of the story. If that was so out of line you had to snark at me, I apologize.

  3. From the Riot blog:
    Don’t get me wrong. I still LOVE comic books (and will continue to buy them by mailorder so I can be a geek in the privacy of my own home), but I’m not sure I was ever in love with selling comic books.

    Buy your comics by mailorder? WTF? I thought it was all about supporting the industry and your LCS!

    I think he was in love with the IDEA of selling comic books. Thanks for nothing.
    Dale

  4. Dale: “Buy your comics by mailorder? WTF? I thought it was all about supporting the industry and your LCS!”

    I buy (bought) my comics from R!OT.

    And I live in Wisconsin.

    Every two weeks, Jason (LCS owner) would send me (mailorder customer) my comics and trades. Isn’t is possible to have it both ways? I did. Perhaps Jason’s gonna do the same…

    (… maybe even from MY store. ;) Jason: if you’re reading this, know that I’ll definitely keep you up-to-date — may the R!OT spirit live on!)

  5. If you want to post a screed against someone, go ahead and use your real name, or even a pseudonym, but DO NOT pretend to be someone else.

    That is VERBOTEN here.

  6. Sad state of affairs when comments of truths are deleted..but hey,it is YOUR web blog….And my name is “Stan Lee” (in my world!)…maybe I should have posted my real name…Jonh Smith. Thanks

  7. This sez it all about this lame subject ! (Way to go Jeremy! Hope I am not breaking any copywrite law by reprinting this…) Here goes:

    I find it really interesting the comments on this Blog about Riot, and I just want to throw my two cents in.

    First off, I am a retailer in the Harrisburg area, but not in the comics field. I have been working for the same independent retailer for 14 years and have been running the store for about 11 of those years. I have also been collecting comics for the better part of 27 years. I know the area, I know retailing, I know my comics, and most importantly for this blog I’ve been following the whole saga with an odd combination of amusement and amazement.

    Riot failed (I don’t care how it’s spun by either side, if it was a success he would have hired someone else to run it and still taken the new job) for a lot of reasons, but Jason was the crux of all of them. His initial plan of independent-heavy product mix would work elsewhere, but not in Harrisburg; The regional pie is just not that big. The best thing I hope future comics shop owners use from Jason is his flair for visual presentation: his logo, store design, flyers, commercials, et al, were fantastic. He knows his advertising. Unfortunately, much like the chromium collectable comics of the late eighties and early nineties, the substance was lacking. And his plans had fatal flaws.

    First: location location location! We all know that is the number one on any retailer’s list. Jason chose a strip center in a graying section of town. The shopping district is moving away from that center.

    Second: The competition. Jason failed to notice that his geographical main competition was moving from a mall that was graying to a section of town where a large amount of housing and retail shops were being built. That should have been a sign, because that is where the money is going. Also, to any of you planning on starting a business, do not ever bad mouth the competition by name in print when you are in a small field. You might need their help someday.

    And yes, there is a really bad store in this area. I was there ONCE and am sooooo glad I don’t have to shop there. But concentrate on making your own store better, not proclaiming how bad other stores are.

    Third: Never, EVER insult your customers!!! He had several blogs where he talked about being mean to people looking around in his shop and not buying anything or trying to sell baseball cards, etc. Those were people inside his store! That’s half the equation right there! Give that guy with the unruly daughter a copy of Amelia Rules, for Christ’s sake!!! If the daughter likes it, you’ve got sales. If not, at least she’ll stop jumping on your couch. If you need to vent, don’t vent where your customer can read it.

    The most amazing of these type of posts was (June 26, 2006) “Just an odd aside: In the last year, I’ve encountered more people who reek of marijuana than I have in my entire life. And it’s like they think that you can’t smell it on them. But it’s not just the smell. They forget where they set stuff down. They talk nonsense to you as if their lives depended on it. They get really defensive about things. They ask questions and then interrupt as you try to answer them. It’s kinda funny. At least they spend money here, right?” I’m sure they didn’t spend money there after that comment, and if I was a regular at Riot, that might make me stop. And if I had a kid going there, they wouldn’t shop there either after that.

    Forth: We all have freedom of speech, but we shouldn’t say everything we think. I know this goes with the comment above, but I think this is something a lot of people have a hard time with in the new computer age. Is it really so hard not to write about the fact you are stealing wireless from the nearby school on your blog! (July 18, 2006). And if you are a retailer, DO NOT GET A MYSPACE PAGE WITH YOUR NAME ON IT!!!!!! After reading his Riot Blog and Myspace account, I would not hire Jason, nor did I shop his store after my one visit. His postings show a lack of maturity and an overall creepiness that makes me uncomfortable. Like “comic book store guy” creepy. You know, what he was accusing others of being.

    As for the feeling that what he said before he opened the store having no bearing on business ethics, excuse me but what planet are YOU living on? Again, if someone called my business practices into question or said my business was no good, then opened the same type of business, taking food off my table, I’d be pissed. And if you are that forgiving, I am REALLY impressed.

    Fifth: Where was the positive outlook? He spent so much of his time bitching on his blog most people weren’t clamoring for his demise, just betting he would fail. He finally DID address this, but by then it was far too late. If all you do is complain, people will leave to hang around someone else. And if you trying to sell them comics, they will either buy somewhere else (bad for you) or quit comics altogether (bad for us all).

    Sixth: Keep financials between you, any partner you may have, and your accountant. Now IF his blog was for industry-only types, I wouldn’t have a problem with this (and I wouldn’t know about any of this), but no good can happen from Joe Consumer knowing how much money your store is taking in. Either they will think the sales figures are too high and you should be giving him a discount (or bigger one), or they will think they are too low and figure you will be going out of business soon. And those pot-smokers he was talking about could have mugged him.

    And by the way, if he had given out MY sales figures, I would have sued his @$$ so fast, and I’m not even in the same industry.

    Seventh: Know your limits. Jason was great at making his store look awesome and his ads nice. But he was a terrible salesman (I experienced that first hand), and if he had a good employee handle the sales and he was able to spread the advertising at his opening over several months, he might be keeping that store open. He did have great connections with the press from his former advertising job, and he did very well with getting coverage. But in the end enough people just didn’t shop there, for whatever reason.

    Finally, if you are starting a business and someone tells you an idea is really bad, find out why they think it is a bad idea. Learn from other people’s mistakes, so you don’t repeat them. Apparently, a lot of people who had experience in the field tried to help Jason with some points about running a comics store and he disagreed with them to the point it was some kind of tempest in a teapot. I am 36 years old with 17 years of experience in my field, and if someone with 20 years of experience I’m wrongheaded with a business idea, I listen to them. If no one in an area is doing something, it might just be they tried the very same idea and it didn’t work for them, so they adjusted. And if someone very successful in my field tells me something, I listen VERY carefully and take notes.

    In the end, the shop a frequent IS indie friendly (and always has been), and the sketches framed on my office walls prove it! I wish Jason nothing but the best, and I hope my meager contribution is seen as constructive criticism, and I hope he has learned a lot about business.

    Anyway, sorry for being so long-winded, and thanks for reading! (and keep reading comics!!!)

    Comment by Jeremy 02.09.07 @ 11:27 pm

  8. One more quote:
    If/when I default on that loan, the federal government pays the bank 80% of the outstanding debt and I’m responsible for the other 20%. No collateral at stake. No bankruptcy looming…

    HEY A-HOLE! That is mine and every other red-blooded Americans money you pissed away…you should be so proud! JERK!

  9. As a long overdue footnote to all this, from his current blog:

    I used to own a comic book store called RIOT comics + culture. Some of you have heard of it. Most of you have not (and I don’t blame you…it was fun and all, but it certainly didn’t change anyone’s life). Why did I open the store? Because I like comic books.

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