When talking about comic book shops in London, particularly the central London shops that have flown the flag for the medium for so long, Forbidden Planet dominates the story.
Forbidden Planet was the first ‘proper’ comic shop I went into. I had previously bought comic books from newsagents (back when they sold the new issues) but was told of this treasure trove by a friend in school. The original Forbidden Planet was a small shop on Denmark Street (also known as Tin Pan Alley, due to all the guitar and music shops on the same street) and it was packed with comics – I was in heaven. I gorged on their plentiful back issues and tried not to buy everything in the shop.
I only have dim memories of this shop because it expanded into a new shop on New Oxford Street, just around the corner. This was a much larger floor space, with a big area for toys, sorry, I mean action figures and merchandise, but the back section was still packed with comics: they had many shelves which seemed to stock every single comic book that came out that week (as well as the last month’s issue as well). But it did suggest that comics were of secondary importance, something that was made clear when Forbidden Planet moved again around the corner to Shaftesbury Avenue.
This is a huge store, and deserves the ‘mega’ title – I couldn’t fit the whole of the storefront into photo, as you can see. It is now on two floors – the upstairs is devoted to geek culture merchandise: lots of superhero statues and busts, movie props (light sabres, Lord of the Rings swords, etc.) and just about anything you can think of, in glass cupboards up to the ceiling. Round the back of them are Star Wars figures, Star Trek figures, Doctor Who figures, Buffy the Vampire Slayer stuff, anything that Todd MacFarlane sells, The Simpsons stuff – you get the picture. There is also a selection of bizarre geeky things, such as manga statues and Kubricks and things I don’t recognise. Of course, there are also lots of superhero action figures and all the geek magazines you can think of.
Downstairs is enormous and has vast amounts of comic books, manga, trades, European books, and coffee-table editions. There is also a huge geek DVD section, science fiction books, fantasy books, Doctor Who books, even a separate Terry Pratchett section. Basically, anything you can thing of that is genre-related, Forbidden Planet has it and in abundance. You can also get lost looking for it downstairs, it’s so large; the only annoying thing is that they have a separate cash register downstairs (in addition to the four upstairs) but I have yet to see it in use.
The latest Forbidden Planet is not the shop I remember from my youth – I don’t have any connection to the current version – but I’m happy that it still exists, even if I don’t actually buy anything from it anymore (except for that Usagi Yojimbo calendar two years back). But good luck to them – you can check out their blog.