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Comic Book Shops: Orbital (Number 4 In A Series)

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.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Michael

    There’s a store in Seattle, Washington, called “Comics Dungeon” which is very much like the store you described. There’s little lighting and the place lives up to it’s name pretty well. It’s not quite the place it used to be, and their manager is a bit of a dick.

    “Orbital” sounds like an odd name for a comic book store. Are the owners fans of the famous electronic music duo?

  2. David

    I don’t know if Orbital is as bad as the place you talk about – they always seem friendly and amenable. I guess I should test their amenability by asking about the Orbital question …

  3. Continually Spicy

    In reply to Michael, there is a wide variety of factors you need to take into account before passing such a negative review. I may be defensive seeing as to how I am that ‘dick’ you must be referring to, unless you are mistaken as to who the manager actually is. I’m not going to get on your case and throw any insults back at you, however. I aim to never be rude unless I am dealing with a rude person myself, but if I was in fact unfair or hostile to you I do apologize.

    In response to the dungeon like atmosphere we have, I will be the first to admit we have generally poor lighting. Considering the amount of electrical problems and other issues the builing we are in has though, I think we do fine enough. One of the things people often take for granted is that comic retail doesn’t make tons of money, and often times the storefront has very little in its budget to spruce up the place. That’s not even taking into account restrictions placed on us by the building managers.

    As for not being the place we used to be, I would be curious to see just what you mean by that. We have the largest inventory we have ever had in our history, as well as the most open floor plan in over 10 years. We are currently more familiy orientated than we have ever been, and have seen a substantial increase in the traffic of parents and children to support that claim.

    I’m not really sure what you’re looking for, but I am honestly tired of people complaining about the superficial problems and not spending enough time looking at the things that matter. If you want a different atmosphere, feel free to shop elsewhere. If you feel like insulting me, please do so to me directly and have a good reason. I’ll own up if need be, but I’ll be damned if I let someone insult me and everything I work for without some sort of defense.

    And I’ve managed to rant up a storm, I apologize. Best of wishes, and interesting blog, David.

  4. David

    No need to apologise, ‘spicy’ – isn’t the whole point of blogs the expression of opinions? Glad to provide a forum for discussion 🙂

  5. Anonymous

    I just visited the shop yesterday
    (26Jan09). Its moved to a new location near Leicester Stn almost across the much missed Comic Showcase. The new premise is very big & bright with back issue boxes taking up 2/3 of the store.

  6. David

    I have yet to visit the new location – someone who works there sent out an email flyer about the move and the Opening Sale on Saturday – but I look forward to seeing the new shop, although I don’t know if I’ll do another blog about it 🙂

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