I define a comic book shop primarily as a location where you can buy the new comic books that were published that week. Even though I don’t classify Book & Comic Exchange on Pembridge Road in Notting Hill as a proper comic book shop, I thought it warranted an entry on my list of places you can buy comic books and trade paperbacks in London. It has been around for a while (I traded comic books there in the late 1990s, early 2000s) and it even recently started a sister site on Berwick Street in Soho (where I picked up my Blue Beetle trades for a steal), although the Soho site no longer sells comic books, despite what it might say on the website.
The Notting Hill shop is just around the corner from Notting Hill Gate tube station, which could explain part of its long-lasting appeal – easy to get to and it sees a lot of people walking past (trying to get a photo of the shop without people walking past it or into it was almost impossible). However, the shop itself is not the reason to visit: it’s a mess. It’s a dark and dingy shop, with shelves from floor to ceiling full of books; in fact, the shelves aren’t enough and there are books on floor in various piles.
The overwhelming majority of the shop is dedicated to second-hand books; the comics and trade paperbacks are a small concern, contained in a central aisle in the middle of the shop. It’s not a huge selection – I remember that they used to have more comics back when I was a regular visitor, and I don’t think that’s just my rose-tinted nostalgia – but there is some filtering: there are some issues bagged together because they form a complete story; there are some relatively newer comics, sectioned out into Marvel/DC heroes or teams, which are different from the older (approximately 10 years) comics in another section; the trades are split into Marvel and DC and Indie; there is even a small filtering of authors (Ellis, Ennis, Moore, Morrison – it is a UK shop, after all).
The main appeal of the shop is that the comics are priced to sell – usually about £1 for recent things, 50p for slightly older or less sellable books – although the second-hand trades are about the same price as trade you can buy new on Amazon; however, you do get the opportunity to flick through the books before you buy and see what they actually look like (I flicked through some Jason Aaron Ghost Rider collections because I’ve never seen more than some preview material on comic book news websites), and you always have the opportunity to sell or trade them back afterwards.
If you want to get down and dirty with books and comics, you can always visit the basement – everything down there is 50p and there is no filtering of the books, and the comics are a messy collection on top of a table and on the floor. This is the chaotic part of the shop but the upstairs is only slightly less messy and chaotic. The shop is cramped, messy, dusty and unwelcoming – I’m amazed that it is able to keep operating. But exist it does, and thus demands cataloguing for the purposes of my comic book shops list.
[EDIT in May 2018: I don’t know when it happened, but the Book & Comic Exchange has split into separate shops, with the Book Exchange at the old location and the new Comic Exchange, obviously containing just comic books, slightly further down the road at 32 Penbridge Road – see their Facebook page.]