Why huddle between the shelves of some dingy basement to buy your comic books when you could do it in daylight while sipping tea? That’s the concept behind a new combination comic store and café that launched in Dalston this weekend.
Eggs Milk Butter, on Southgate Road, Hackney, hosted a packed afternoon of browsing, chatting, sipping and scribbling under the watchful eyes of a Batman figurine and a mug emblazoned: “BRUCE WAYNE WOULD TIP” (of course he would; he’s a billionaire).
Co-owner Jessica Penfold, 29, a longstanding comic fan and self-published artist from Newington Green, told EastLondonLines she wanted to create the antithesis of traditional comic stores.
She said: “I always felt really uncomfortable in comic shops – it wasn’t welcoming. You had to know what you were looking for, grab it, and go. They’d correct your pronunciation.
“I realised that the old way of selling comics didn’t have to be that way.”
Her business partner, Milo Mckeand, agrees: “We just wanted to make a space for people who like comic books and coffee to have a really nice time.”
Penfold, a fan of Jeff LeMire and Judge Dredd, was inspired by a visit to Chicago comic shop Quimby’s, and returned to the UK determined to make waves. Friends hooked her up with Milo, who had just bought a derelict shop front, but it took months of repairs before it was fit to found in.
The shop opened in March, but laid low to iron out teething troubles before holding an official launch party on Saturday.
Its name comes from an old sign belonging to the victorian dairy that used to be here – and was too cool to abandon, Penfold explains.
She said: “Before this I was working as an administrator for a graphic design company, which I absolutely hated. I just wasn’t made to sit behind a desk looking at a computer.”
No chance of that when the customers are spilling out onto the street. Nearby, people are browsing the ‘library’ section of books not for sale (“we want people to look at things and like them,” Mckeand says, “but if you break it, you buy it!”).
The selection is small but eclectic – spanning the traditional Marvel/DC/Vertigo axis before whirling off into the regions of underground comix and indie melancholia.
Luke Jarvis, 27, a customer who named his favourite authors as Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes, said: “It’s not just stocking everything, this is clearly what they’re into – a personal selection.”
The stock had to be picked carefully due to lack of space, so Penfold was determined to choose a good mixture of known favourites and unknown oddities, excluding works she felt were sexist or degrading.
Alan Moore and Tintin jostle shoulders with the deeply bizarre manga wonderland of Yuichi Yokoyama’s Garden, the graphic documentary of Joe Sacco’s Palestine and the music-is-magic-night-clubs-are-shrines pop fantasy of Kieron Gillen’s Phonogram.
Charles Olafare, 22, from East Dulwich, a recent graduate from the London College of Commnication who eats up Michael Allread and Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve. was found doodling in one of the communal art books left lying around.
He said: “Buying comics has always been quite a solitary experience, like buying porn in the eighties.
“So a place like this, in an environment where lot of young artistically-inclined people live and work, seems like a cool hub for London’s burgeoning comic scene.”
For now, stock is limited, but soon the first batch of monthlies will arrive – and Penfold is taking standing orders.