Being a comic fan is not cheap. I have a relatively small monthly pull list as I get most of my books via collections but even then I spent likely around £30-40 on comics each month alone. In the states, companies are now continually pushing fans to the limit on how much they can charge and still get away with it. In my monthly ‘By The Numbers’ article with fellow super fan, Ray Goldfield (who spends in a week on comics what one would maybe spend on buying a small island or five) we’ve been noticing an unsettling trend. Comics are getting more expensive but the top selling books are also the most expensive. Marvel Comics, the biggest publisher in the industry currently are firing out $3.99 comics as standard and are releasing more and more books charging $4.99, 5.99 and yes even more, especially on key issues they know people will want.
That expense has given rise to online discount shops that are prevalent in the United States but not so much elsewhere.
In stepped Disposable Heroes Comics, a Belfast based online store run by Darren McRoberts that provided the ability to order comics three months in advance with a discount and for year the service provided exceptional service.
Then last November or December I noticed I wasn’t getting my comics any longer. They just stopped coming and unlike previous times I had e-mailed him, Darren did not respond to my e-mails. I had only met him in person at a local comic con in October where he said that his business was flourishing and he had big plans to frequent other cons in the UK in Europe and set up an actual physical shop.
I naturally thought something was wrong and it did seem like something was. It turned out other people from all over the UK whom Disposable Heroes supplied were also not getting their comics. The story was so significant and the disappearance so sudden that it warranted an article on another comic news site.
No one knew what happened, the eBay shop Disposable set up was emptied and the website they had shut down. They also had money for comics I had ordered the rest of that month and the following two months. I was potentially out around £100 ($140 or so) and I knew there was many others out potentially hundreds more. I was fortunate enough to get my money back with a Paypal claim but I believe there’s some people still out there that weren’t so lucky.
Flash forward to April 7th, when I received an e-mail from a new company, Island Earth Comics with a subject line that read ‘ISLAND EARTH: WERE YOU AN EX-DISPOSIBLE HEROES CUSTOMER?’
Below is the full text of the email:
DID YOU LIKE THEIR SERVICE UP UNTIL THE END OF 2015?
WE WERE REGULAR CUSTOMERS OF DISPOSABLE HEROES COMICS UNTIL THINGS ALL WENT A LITTLE ‘BOOBS UP’ AT THE START OF THIS YEAR. HOWEVER WE JUST COULD NOT FIND ANOTHER RETAILER OFFERING THE SAME KIND OF SERVICE, PRODUCT RANGE, PRICING AND MOST OF ALL WEBSITE. LIKE US YOU PROBABLY WERE FORCED TO GO BACK TO HUNTING THROUGH EBAY WEEK AFTER WEEK SPENDING UP TO AN HOUR TRYING TO PICK UP OUR COMICS. THESE REALLY HAVE BECOME DARK TIMES INDEED!
SO WE THOUGHT TO OURSELVES THAT IF NOBODY ELSE COULD FILL THE VOID THEY LEFT BEHIND THEN MAYBE WE SHOULD. AND SO HERE WE ARE! THE LAST 2 MONTHS HAVE BEEN SPENT TRYING TO GET HOLD OF THEIR OLD STOCK AND FINALLY AFTER NUMEROUS E-MAILS, OFFERS AND COUNTER OFFERS WE HAVE FINALLY CLOSED THE DEAL AND ARE NOW IN POSSESSION OF TONNES OF COMICS, POPS, TOYS AND MORE. WE ALSO HAVE ACCESS TO THEIR WEBSITE DESIGN AND BACK OFFICE SOFTWARE.
ISLAND EARTH COMICS INTEND TO PROVIDE YOU WITH THE SAME, IF NOT BETTER, SERVICE THAT DISPOSABLE HEROES PROVIDED WITHOUT ALL THE MADNESS WE HAVE SEEN AT THE TURN OF THE YEAR. RIGHT NOW WE ARE RUNNING OFF A BASIC WEBSTORE WHILE WE HAVE THE DHC WEBSITE RE-JIGGED FOR OUR USE. THIS WILL ALLOW US TO RUN THE GOOD OLD ‘SEMI-SUBS’ THAT SAVED US SO MUCH TIME WHEN PRE-ORDERING. ONCE THE DHC SITE IS CONVERTED TO OURS IT WILL BE USED AS A STOP GAP AS WE SCRATCH BUILDING OUR OWN WEBSITE WITH ALL THE SAME FEATURES DHC HAD PLUS IMPROVEMENTS ON WHAT WE LOVED, REVAMPS OF WHAT WE HATED AND MORE FEATURES.
RIGHT NOW WE HAVE JUST ‘SOFT LAUNCHED’ PRE-ORDERS FOR JUNE 2016 RELEASES FOR BOTH MARVEL AND DC. DROP US AN E-MAIL IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PRE-ORDER ANY TITLES OUTSIDE OF MARVEL AND DC. WE CAN GET THEM ADDED TO THE SITE FOR YOU. WE WILL LIST JULY PRE-ORDERS FOR ALL PUBLISHERS SOON. THIS IS BEING USED AS A TEST OF SORTS TO DETERMINE IF WE CAN JUST TRADE VIA OUR WEBSITE OR IF WE NEED TO TRADE ON (cringe) EBAY.
WE WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU WOULD GIVE US A CHANCE TO FILL THE GAP DHC LEFT BEHIND. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE AND ALSO GET IN CONTACT WITH ANY SUGGESTIONS OR THINGS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE ON THE NEW SITE BY EMAILING US AT [address removed].
AND LASTLY APOLOGIES FOR WHAT WILL HAVE APPEARED AS A RANDOM RAMBLING E-MAIL FORM A RANDOM BUSINESS. SHOULD YOU NOT WISH TO RECEIVE ANY MORE FROM US THEN PLEASE CLICK THE LINK BELOW AND WE WILL DELETE YOU FROM ANY FUTURE E-MAILS WE SEND.
Beyond the spelling errors, the all caps, and odd choice in some of the content, something just didn’t pass the smell test. Was this just Disposable Heroes Comics rebranded?
I now knew I would not have nothing to do with Island Earth as there was too many questions left unanswered. So on April 13th I sent them a little e-mail which involved some questions.
To whom it may concern
My name is Glenn Matchett, I was a loyal customer with Darren at Disposable Heroes for four years. Like many who shopped with him, I was saddened to see the brilliant service vanish along with some money I later had to get from eBay/Paypal. While I am excited to hear about a similar business pop up I have some natural concerns.
I am also an article writer for comic website Graphic Policy. I would like for the sake of clarity to ask you a few questions. Like many other former Disposable Heroes customers, I am currently airing on the side of caution. There are a few elements to your story that I also would like clarification on. If you would be so good to answer the following for the article, it would be greatly appreciated.
1) At no point in this email do you state your name(s) could you introduce yourself to us?
2) In your e-mail, you mention a private transaction with Darren, the former owner of Disposable Heroes for his stock. Several people including other comic news sites were unable to contact him, could you provide information about how you managed to get a response?
3) There are many people still owed money from Darren, will the purchases they paid for in the stock you received be subsequently provided upon proof of purchase?
4) If not, what advise do you suggest the people that have had their money taken take?
5) Are you aware of what caused Disposable Heroes to suddenly stop trading?
6) How do you believe you can avoid the same?
7) Again with the sum that was paid to Darren for the back stock, do you believe its fair to pay someone for items that may have already been paid for to an individual who seemingly abandoned thousands of customers with no explanation?
8) How was the capital raised to start this business?
9) If you received investor backing of any sort to start your company, did you provide a standard 5 year business plan? If you did would you be willing to provide this upon request?
10) Even if you didn’t and don’t have a business plan do you not think that is essential when starting up a business?
11) What experience do you have in running any kind of business?
12) In your e-mail you mention running an identical service in regards to DHC’s semi sub service. This was a service I have not seen elsewhere.
- a) How are you coding this to your site?
- b) Is this something you also got in your purchase of DHC’s stock?
- c) Since I have been unable to find another site in the UK have you checked to make sure that Darren himself has not trademarked it for himself?
13) Is there any involvement in this new enterprise from anyone who used to work for DHC?
14) Are you currently registered to trade as a sole trader, responsible for paying business tax as is per current Government legislation?
15) If it is registered can you state the name who the business is registered under?
16) On your site, in the our story section you do not discuss your past as a disgruntled DHC customer. You have used this claim to attempt to gain new customers here, is there any reason that not even an allusion to your backstory you present here is not included on your site?
16) Your site claims you reside in Belfast as did Darren from DHC. Can you explain why another individual from Belfast has taken it upon themselves to do an identical business model as Darren (also from Belfast) did?
17) For whatever reason, the previous way this company ran ultimately folded at the drop of a hat with no explanation to this day. How can you reassure that history will not repeat itself? You are asking people to give you money for items they will not receive for months, how can you offer your potential customers reassurance?
18) Your site also states that you intend to open a physical comic shop in Belfast which I believe was also Darren’s intention prior to his late 2015 disappearance.
- a) Do you think that is wise when this company is just starting in itself? Its not as if you have four-five years of solid trading behind you such as DHC as and your initial start up costs will be rather hefty.
- b) Planning an opening of a store will incur even more costs to yourself, this seems like a lot of output for a start up business. Do you foresee yourself being able to turn a profit and keep this business sustainable for those who are trusting you with their money?
I think that’s all I have for now, I may have follow up questions based on your answers which I look forward to seeing.
Some of the questions were hard hitting but the fact of the matter was that Island Earth had come to me for potential business. They were the ones who had mentioned a connection to Disposable Heroes and if I had done the same, I would expect to be able to answer the above questions quite easily.
Even providing a name would have installed some confidence. A few days past, I had no reply but I did discover a Facebook page set up by former customers of Disposable Heroes who had misgivings about Island Earth’s e-mail also. They said that a shop on eBay ‘Funkfury’ was trying to sell most of the stock that had belonged to Disposable. After being accused of such, the shop soon vanished and Island Earth popped up. The group believes that the same individual that was fronting Funkfury and Island Earth was the one and same. I was given a name but since this is not something I can verify as Island Earth did not reply to me to introduce themselves I thought I had to treat it as hearsay.
On April 20th I sent them another e-mail.
To whom it may concern
Last week I sent you some questions in regards to your intentions to provide a similar service to Disposable Heroes
I have not heard a response from yourselves. I intend to write up an article regarding your website and your intentions on Monday.
If you wish to still answer the questions, I would be happy to include them.
Still nothing. Not even a name.
Add on top of their going out of their way to obfuscate even basic information like who owns the website. Compare Disposable Heroes’ Whois information to that of Island Earth.
I’m not one to cost people business, especially small companies. As I said, my mother owned her own business for years prior and after my birth, I know how hard she worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I also don’t like people potentially being taken advantage of, especially in an industry I love and where you spend your money is becoming more important as the price of being a fan keeps going up and up. I want people who want to do business with Island Earth to make an informed decision. You may receive an exceptional service or you might find yourself one day, out of the blue asking where are those comics you paid for three months ago.
It happened to me and as I have learned the hard way. Once bitten, twice shy and Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Stay tuned for updates as the story progresses.