The sad state of the comic book scene in Malaysia

Some weeks back, I did something which I've never done before in 15 years. I visited an actual brick-and-mortar comic store which I had always wanted to visit since I've read about it some months back. I was not only flabbergasted at the many titles available at the moment but I was also shell-shocked to my core. I'll tell you why.

I think by now you could gauge what I'm trying to say by just looking at the title of my post but bear with me as I make my point.

First let me give you readers a glimpse into my comic book reading habit and how I became the passive comic book/trade paper back reader I am today. This'll shed some light into my predicaments to which I faced at the comic store earlier today.
I started buying comics seriously sometime during the early 90s, coincidently it was the time of Todd McFarlane's now classic Spiderman run, Jim Lee's amazing X-Men run, the rise of several indie comic book companies like Valiant & DarkHorse and subsequently the time of the infamous exodus of Marvel artists to the newly set-up Image Comics.

At the time, there were several comic stores in my neck of the woods and I didn't have to travel far to get my weekly dosage of comic book diet. There was even a comic store, The Mind Shop, not far from where I stayed so inevitably there were many comic runs even on school days. Many.

Speaking of The Mind Shop, they had several branches throughout the city but I was always partial to the one near my home and the one near a shopping mall both my girlfriend (now soul mate) and I frequented every time we were done with our classes at college.

The Mind Shop, Bandar Utama branch. Picture taken off the internet. Strangely, I never took any pictures of the store during my years of patronage there.

Throughout my school years right up to my college years, I remembered comic books cost almost next to nothing and I always leave the comic stores with a bunch of comics to read for the week. The kind exchange rate at the time also played a huge factor and I didn't really feel the pinch at the time. I could have up to as much as 15 titles at one time and still I could afford a decent meal afterwards. 

Things were really going well at the time but I really couldn't remember the reason why I stopped buying from The Mind Shop. I just remembered the day when they couldn't fulfill several titles that I ordered and there were simply too many missing copies in between so I had to personally source out many of the missing issues myself from other places at the time.
There was also this on comic store not far from my high school called DCM Enterprise, to which I'm guessing now is a crude amalgamation of the DC and Marvel brand name. They even had a 'special room' to which only members who paid a specified yearly fee could enter. I never paid a single cent to this proprietor to get 'special privileges' because I never understood the need to pay them just to view whatever new comics that came into the store. The 'uncle' who manned the store was just friendly towards those who paid the 'special room fees' so the rest of us who refused to pay were treated like second class citizens. I vaguely remember only buying loose Marvel trading cards from the store because that's the only thing available for purchase for 'non members'. Fitting enough the store didn't last long and it was closed even before I completed my high school. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The Comics Corner in Subang Jaya. Picture taken off the internet. I vividly remember the elderly couple there helping out around the store.

The Comics Mart in Midvalley Megamall. It was actually located at a different location before and they never actually carried up-to-date titles, more of backdated issues. I wonder, if at any point of time, had they ever carried current comic titles at all.

I also remembered dropping by Comics Corner after I was done with The Mind Shop and things were going rather smoothly for a while until they themselves begun to miss certain issues, much to my annoyance. This was also the time when I started to buy the issues which I've missed from online stores from the US and while this kinda worked for a while for me, I still yearn for that visit to an actual physical reliable comic store for my fix.

For a moment, I though of getting my fix from The Comics Mart but they didn't really made a point to bring updated comics so that's pretty much the end of my single issue comics adventure.

And so it stayed for the next decade where I spent most of my time buying trade paper backs (TPBs) and graphic novels from Kinokuniya, the store with a gajillion choices so it made my rather unpleasant exit from the world of purchasing single issue comic books much easier at the time. Buying TPBs and graphic novels meant that I had to wait a considerable amount of time before I can dive into a particular story arc from any particular titles at the time aka I had to wait until the whole run was finished before it came out in TPB format.

There were also other comic stores at the time, mostly operating online, like Earth 538 (or was it 638?) but I wasn't really keen to go back to collecting single issues because I was already having too much fun getting the far more economical TPBs albeit a longer waiting time.
Every once in a while I get urges to find actual comic stores just to relive the days of yore but I never actually make a point to really find and visit one. Until we stumbled across a promised land through numerous positive reviews on socmed.

There's this place I've always read about on facebook and I never realised that it was located next to a shopping mall that my family and I visit every now and then. When my better half pointed out that we should probably get it out of our system and visit the place once and for all, we went for it.

In the absence of other visible comic book stores in town, the place is aptly called......

Seriously, could anybody come up with a better name for the store? I think not.

The place is located on the 1st floor and the entrance to the place is like some secret entrance to a cult meeting place.

Once you're inside you'd be greeted by two friendly store staff who seemed to know heaps about the comic world, which is great because it's such a bummer visiting a comic store manned by staff who knows jack s*** about comics.

They carry plenty of titles, both current and backdated issues. You can also find some TPBs there but price wise I think many will scratch their heads and be confused with the crazy forex conversions. I think for a USD5 comic, you'd be charged something like RM35 which is something like 75% above the supposed price (US Dollar to Ringgit Malaysia exchange rate) and all of the price range are displayed at the premise so everyone can get a feel of what they're about to jump into.

Snagged a couple of 'True Believers' comics which costs RM10 each (when I can actually get those at 60% cheaper at another bookstore) for old time's sake.

It may just be me but it's a far cry from the days of yore when I just had to pay the actual RM to USD conversion rate but one can't really complain here because they are after all, the LAST comic store in Malaysia.

I had a chat with both friendly staff and found out that a combination of both exorbitant levy charged on comic books by our local customs office and the difficulty to secure comic issues from the States contributed to the skyrocketed prices in their store. I felt bad for the store but at least they're still keeping the flame alive albeit higher prices for their comics. I wonder if there's something we can do to rectify the matter. A very tall order indeed but I do believe things can go back to the way they were in the good old days.

What a sad affair for single issue comics collectors. But if you're willing to wait for the TPB release then I do not see any 'issues' here (pun not intended). You'd save money if you skip the single issues and go for the TPBs instead but the nostalgia of collecting those monthly issues is still a huge factor for those who still frequent these brick and mortar comic shops.

Let's hope The Last Comic Shop stand the test of time.

The Rebel


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1978cakes said...

Apahal komen kat atas tu? Tak relevan langsung ����..anyway, The Mind Shop..those were the days bro..kadang2 tu jalan kaki je dari hal!