Growing up in London, I never considered Croydon part of London – it was a suburb that marked the boundary between the sprawling metropolis and the boring countryside. This was misguided ignorance on my part, as I had never been there, didn’t know anybody who lived there or even looked it up on a map. What can I say? I was young …
Now that I live in south London, Croydon is not a distant mythical place, but a short journey on the train, which boasts two comic book shops all of its own. They are within a 10-minute walk of each other, and I can’t see how it can support both of them.
The first comic book shop is a branch of Forbidden Planet, with a prime spot on the corner of the main street just across from West Croydon train station. The shop is a big space but it uses the large floor in a very old-fashioned way, with shelves creating aisles in a single room. It looks quite dark, despite the large windows letting in a lot of light; it doesn’t have the modern feel of the shop in central London, harking back to a basic approach to selling comic books.
The shop has the same large range as the central London store – new comic books (although not a lot of old books), trades, manga, DVDs, sci-fi and fantasy novels, merchandise of various geek-related types – but all in a much smaller space, meaning everybody gets close when they try to shop, which meant that I didn’t particularly want to stay in the shop for very long.
The other shop A Place In Space, which seems to be a personal shop. It is a smaller shop, with the new comics and trades in the front open space, before the shop narrows towards the back, where they keep the old comic books in many longboxes but also other merchandise: many prints (mostly of women, it has to be said), as well as busts and superhero paraphernalia, such as a mounted Captain America shield and Mjolnir.
There were several people in the store when we visited on a Saturday afternoon, but they all seemed to be personal friends of the owner, chatting away merrily, as if keeping each other company rather than paying any particular attention to the shop or the customers. It wasn’t unfriendly – it just seemed unusual; I got the impression that the store doesn’t get a huge amount of custom. I hope they survive in the current economic climate, because they must run the shop because of a love of comic books.