Of all the shops in Central London I’ve talked about so far, Orbital is the newest on the block that is still doing business. Like Forbidden Planet, it too has moved location, upgrading from Old Compton Street in Soho to the Tottenham Court Road end of Charing Cross Road. However, its front is the ugliest of the shops shown – a door with a logo next to a barber’s shop on a very busy road (in fact, almost around the corner from the original Forbidden Planet shop).
When you enter the small doorway, down the stairs with the walls covered with comic book/film posters (evoking a studenty feel), you are not filled with confidence. This is confirmed when the first thing you see when you get down there is a battered old sofa – Borders this place most definitely isn’t. I assume this is for people to sit down and read, but I’ve never seen anybody use it.
The shop is a single, wide-ish basement split into the new and the old – on your left are the new comic book and trade paperbacks (the cheapest in Central London) in shelves against the wall. The selection is wide and kept updated (Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse), matched by the large selection of back issues at the far end of the room, two layers of long boxes from most companies. To separate them, there is the till on the left and some posters and old cheap books (20 pence each or mix’n’match sets for £1) on the right.
The other factor that is a draw, to which I can’t attest because of the fact that I don’t frequent Orbital, is the friendly staff – always chatting and welcoming; they even used to do a Top 10 list, although I’m not sure they do it anymore. Rich Johnston always talks them about them favourably, and they did get Alan Moore there recently (to be fair, Gosh! did as well) but who am I to say.