[ITA/ENG] Speciale Fumetterie: C4 Chiacchiere con… Forbidden Planet (London Megastore)
As we anticipated last week, our tour continues trespassing italian boarders and getting to know one of the most important international stores. Forbidden Planet is probably one of the best comic stores in the world, significantly showing how entertainment can embrace different fields. Louisa Ryrie, assistant store manager at the London Megastore, has kindly answered all of our questions about her experience in this job, Forbidden Planet’s philosophy, british attitude towards comic books… And much more.
C4 Comic: Hello Louisa, welcome to C4 Comic and thank you for this interview! Although Forbidden Planet is the largest UK stockist of comics and graphic novels, it would be definitely unfair to consider it “only” a comic book store. How would you define it?
Louisa Ryrie: We like to refer to ourselves as a cult entertainment megastore. Although we do have a great number of comics, graphic novels and manga we also have toys, statues, boardgames, clothing and all kinds of books too, from supernatural fiction to video game art to books about Doctor Who and Star Wars. If you consider yourself to be a geek in any way, we will have something for you, and even some things for those who don’t think they are geeks!
C4: Forbidden Planet is a perfect example of how comic books are nowadays strictly related to cinema and tv series, videogames and boardgames, novels and merchandising. Do you think this is a symbol of weakness for comics themselves or an opportunity to spread to more readers?
Louisa Ryrie: I think it’s a great thing, for us as a business, for older fans, and for getting new fans. As a long term fan of comics I’m glad when they make something I am a fan of into a movie or tv show, that way I can finally get hold of tie in items, like t-shirts or figures!
I think it says a lot about how people are starting to accept comics as a proper medium, that they use so many comics and graphic novels for new movie source material. We get a lot of people visiting who watch something and then realise afterwards that it was based on a comic, and that is what has got them into reading comics. Everyone should read comics, and gradually I think they are realising why!
It also helps that recenlty they have made such fantastic adaptations of things. Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, Dark Knight, Daredevil, Constantine, The Walking Dead – they are all amazing, so people like to know where these ideas came from.
C4: Let’s take a look at the numbers: how many comic books does the London megastore currently stores?
Louisa Ryrie: Every week we have in the region of 70-100 new comic titles delivered, plus any new graphic novels. For several of these titles we also get our own exclusive variant covers and sometimes have the creators in to sign them. For example, we have had several Dr Who exclusive covers from Titan Comics recently, with Paul Cornell, Neil Edwards, Nick Abadzis, Rob Williams and Al Ewing all coming in to sign them. That was a fun week!
C4: Comic books can deal with every matter, as they are not inferior to literature or cinema, but just a different kind of media, with a totally different language. However, here in Italy we still struggle against prejudice and ignorance regarding comic books, as most people still consider them as kids – or kidults – entertainment. How are comic books perceived in the united kingdom?
Louisa Ryrie: Some people do still have this opinion but for several years now people have been realising that not all comics are like that. Things like Persepolis and Road to Perdition being made in to films made a lot of more literary type people realise that comics aren’t all about scantilly dressed ladies and men punching things (although i like those ones).
Massive success for things like Watchmen, 300, Sin City, 30 Days of Night, and more recently tv shows like The Walking Dead, and the Netflix Daredevil series have really driven the point home to people that comics are not for kids.
C4: Since we are talking about my country, let me ask you a personal question: which are the most known italian comic books in your country and which are your favourite ones?
Louisa Ryrie: Matteo De Longis!!! I recenlty got his book “Vox: Rockbook”, it is gorgeous!
I’ve read some Diabolik. I like Hugo Pratt too, we sell Corto Maltese and Jesuit Joe, and if we are talking italian creators we really have to mention Sergio Toppi, right?
If you asked most people in the UK to name an Italian creator though, I think most would probably say Milo Manara, his art is beautiful and his work has been consistently available over here for years. The superhero fans would probably also say Gabriele Dell’Otto for those mind blowingly beautiful painted covers…
C4: Ok, i said “just one” personal question. Just… A few, maybe? When did you start working in Forbidden Planet and how did you get to be assistant store manager?
Louisa Ryrie: I’ve been working here for 15 years! I started as a saturday girl in one of our smaller stores when I was 17 years old, it was the second job I ever had. After a while I went full time, then I was an assistant manager, a manager, a manager at a bigger store, and now finally in the London store. I’ve worked in most of our 9 shops around the UK at some point. London is by far my favourite of them though. It is just so big, and you get to talk to so many different people who all share your love of comics, like when you came in on your visit! I also like that in the London shop we get to meet people like Dan Slott from time to time.
C4: Do you have any advice for guys who would like to start working in a comic store, maybe even forbidden planet?
Louisa Ryrie: Comic stores always need people with good all round knowledge of things, but other than loving what we sell, it is pretty much a standard retail job. You have some customers who can be demanding, you have some who are lovely and just want you to recommend something for them that you like. My advice to anyone is just make sure you are ready to work. When it gets busy, it gets really busy! Also, it might not help, but providing the manager with cakes will surely do some good as well! 😉
C4: Ok, let’s go back to comic books. Webcomics, as well as digital versions of comic books, are little by little developing to conquer a slice of the market. What do you think about this kind of product?
Louisa Ryrie: I like that it makes things more accessible for people, especially those who don’t have a comic store near them. Regarding digital versions they definitely have their purpose. My boyfriend likes that I don’t bring as many books home, as we don’t have any more space in the flat… I have filled it with things I buy here! A lot of fiction novels that I read, like Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) and Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim) I can have on my e-reader but if it is something I really love or collect, I still buy the book as well. When someone really likes something they still want to have a physical copy they can hold. In some cases I think people buy more hardcovers now, and at Christmas people still like to unwrap something rather than download it.
Regarding the actual ‘webcomics’ that are initially on the internet, I love them! A lot of webcomics can be shorter – or more regular because they don’t have to go out to be printed or ship from place to place. They can be snappier, because of that, and because they cost less to produce more people are getting into creating them. They get a good cult following, sometimes bringing new people into the world of comics the same way movies do. Things like Cyanide and Happiness or Penny Arcade have their own books now and they are very popular.
Some people find it easier to read their comics online but, as Stan Lee said, “comics are like boobs: they look great on a computer, but I’d rather hold one in my hand.”
And who argues with Stan Lee?!
C4: I would like to end this interview with our unavoidable question: what is your kryptonite? Thank you again for your kindness, I hope we’ll meet again in Lucca Comics & Games!
Louisa Ryrie: My kryptonite? Art books. I have to have them all. My current fave is Vox: Rockbook, plus I love Brom, Daphne Yap, Tara McPherson, Brandi Milne, Rob Williams, Ragnar to name a few.
I also have a weakness for tattoos. Both legs from the knees to the ankles are covered with Jamie Hewlett artwork, not just Tank Girl, and my whole back is from comics by Junko Mizuno. Plus I have art from steampunk (Chris Bachelo) and Tara McPherson. I have others but they aren’t comic related… So maybe I’ll show you at Lucca some time soon!
All of our love to Italy!