Thursday, 7 June 2007

West End comic shops, living and dead

Ladies and gentlemen, because you demanded it, here's the LLC guide to the comic shops of London's magical West End.

Bright lights, big city, old comics baby!

The West End stores have traditionally occupied a very small area. I've numbered all the existing shops, as well as some of the ones that have disappeared...

1. ORBITAL (current premises)

I've warbled on plenty about this place. What more can I say? OK it's a bit grubby, but forget the decor, this is a great comic shop.

It doesn't have as many trades as Forbidden Planet but there are still plenty to choose from and they are usually cheaper than FP. It stocks all the mainstream monthly books, a fine selection of indie comics, a BIG run of DC and Marvel back issues and the best 50p bargain buckets in the capital.

The knowledgeable and friendly staff help give it a real old school comic shop vibe. No wonder it's always packed.

EDIT: This basement has now joined the ranks of London's comic shop dead! My thoughts on Orbital's new shop can be found HERE

2. GOSH!

Still in its original premises opposite the British Museum. The layout has changed since the '80s, but it remains an excellent comic shop.

Boasts a wide selection of trades (currently offering 3 essentials or showcases for the price of 2) all the usual monthlies and an impressive comics history and graphic design section.

The back issue section isn't as as good as Orbital's, but it is worth checking out for the bulk deals that seem to be a speciality - I've picked up big runs of Alpha Flight, The Nam and Captain America for bargain prices.

The staff are very friendly (especially the Aussie guy*, who is always happy to recommend titles he thinks are worth reading).

*EDIT: I now know that he's from New Zealand and called Andrew.

3. Forbidden Planet (current premises)

London's geek mecca. Forbidden Planet stocks a huge range of DVDs, toys, statues, t-shirts, games, books and yes, comics.

Don't expect to find many back issues though, FP no longer sells anything more than a month or two old. You will be able to find all your mainstream monthlies and a comprehensive amount of trades here.

Like all megastores it's a bit impersonal, but if it's new Marvel and DC comics or trades you're after this is the place for you.

4. Comicana

I'm not sure how Comicana survives. It's the pokiest of all the West End shops and the cramped conditions make shopping there an uncomfortable experience. It does have a huge selection of old comics, but they are pricey and it's difficult to understand why anyone would pay over the odds when they could get their back issues cheaper at Orbital, Gosh or E-Bay.

5. Comic Showcase (Old 1980s site)

The original site of Comic Showcase, just across the road from Forbidden Planet's new shop. I used to shop here quite a lot in the '80s. When I was 13 I inherited a small amount of money from my uncle and wanted to use it to buy an original Watchmen page which they had for sale. It featured Rorschach and would no doubt be worth a fortune now. They said I was too young to appreciate it and refused to sell it to me. Tossers.

6. Comics Showcase (Charing Cross Road site recently closed)

Showcase moved to Charing Cross Road in the '90s (I think). The shop was OK, sold a lot of indie stuff and the usual monthlies, but was obviously struggling and closed last year. That'll teach them not to sell me original art.

7. Orbital (original site, I think. Old Compton Street)

Orbital's original premises on Old Compton Street. At least I think that's where the shop was. I went in there quite a few times, but can't be exactly sure that this is where they were - let's say I'm 95% certain. Anyway much like the new place this was a basement, a lot smaller and smellier though. The new place is a lot better.

8. Forbidden Planet (Second site. New Oxford Street)

Now an internet cafe, FP was here until a few years ago. They even sold back issues in this place although the toy and film section was a lot smaller than it is now.

9. Forbidden Planet (original site, Denmark Street)

The original Forbidden Planet site, now a music shop as are most of the shops on this famous old road. I have a lot of fond memories of this place, it's where I bought most of my comics once I discovered they were available in places other than my newsagent.

10. Alley to Ben's favourite shop (I think it was called Paradise comics)

Just a few doors along from the original FP site is this little alley which used to house the pokiest little comic shop known to man. Seriously it was little more than a hole in the wall. I can't remember for sure, but I think it was called Paradise comics, which is ironic given the fact that it was so shabby.

It didn't sell any new comics, just old ones. You had to give your bag to a dirty little man behind the counter when you went in, he'd give you a playing card in exchange and you got your bag back when you left. No idea why he did this, the place was so small that it would have been impossible to nick anything without him noticing.

Currently empty, the sign on the door is just directing people to a bar in Denmark Street.

original site of Paradise (?) comics

The plague started here you know (threw that one in for Ben).

Original site of Forbidden Planet Two

Just around the corner is the site of the old Forbidden Planet Two shop. The original FP store stocked nothing but comics. If you wanted film and TV memorabilia or cult videos this was the place to go. I bought some Twilight Zone videos in there as I recall.

Happy days.


Unknown said...

hahah brilliant!
yes, that was my favorite comic shop, i still feel queezy about zeppy robbing it as we left one time. fp 2 used to be brilliant, i remember looking at a spinner toy from blade runner in there and marveling that such things existing!
denmark street fp was fantastic, i remember being taken there as a treat in 82 when we lived in essex. My Mum left me in there at 5 and didnt come back till 7. Id never seen anything like it. i can still remember it vividly. i came away clutching the cursed earth titans..
i also remember that cunt at comics showcase, the watchmen art was so small, it was really shocking, was it £70 a page? and he had tons of it. It had the colour seperations as well.
hehe those were the days of laughing at the fat men who smelt who bought comics and thinking they were losers.. whose laughing now!
now, are you missing the comic shop in virgin? i remember buying a issue 11 of watchmen in there..

Dom Sutton said...

Vague memories of Virgin comics, I'm sure there are others I've forgotten.

There's me saying that it was impossible to steal from that little comic shop and you tell me that Seppi actually managed it! Do you remember if it was called Paradise by the way or am I just making that up?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dom,
Dave here. Sorry to say I raped that little shop in the alley when I was a kid.
It was first called LTS. Dunno why.
Then they changed the name to Paradise Alley, not Paradise Comics you knob!
I remember when Virgin Megastore first opened they had a really good comic store in the basement, called Fantastic Store! Then it moved upstairs and became shit.
Then it disappeared. Do you remember that little role playing shop that used to be next door to McDonalds? Before even the Megastore? Bought the Marvel Role Playing system there... Remember that? And what about that comic shop at Highbury & Islington near where Ben Jameson used to live....
Aaaaah Nostalgia overload!

Anonymous said...

Christ, am I the only person who didn't nick from that shop? No wonder it closed down.

I'm sorry mate but I don't remember the shop at Highbury and Islington or the place where you bought the Marvel roleplaying game. I barely remember the Virgin shop either. My memory is really not as good as I thought.

Anyway never mind that, get on with organising a Heroclix game! I NEED to play

love Dom xxx

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks a lot for this's quite informative (I'm hunting down the comic shops in the capital at the moment)!

Joachim Reinhold said...

Hello everybody. Even to a young german tourist (who were totally hooked on sci fi during the mid- eighties ;) the Paradise Alley comic shop is still a very cherished memory. So cherish that I took this inspiration into my book using it as a base for LARP. Anyway, here is a short question which bothers me a lot. I don't know the actual name of the alley where this shop was located. or do I mix everythin up oin my sick mind and "Paradise Alley" was ONLY the name of the shop and not the alley's name, too? When I visited the area in 06/07 I wandered around, became lost in my ways. As the memorys from the area didn't match it present state. Yours, from Germany, Achim ;) And yes, you have so marvellous shops in the West End area. Great country.

Anonymous said...

I remember Comics Showcase in 1981 being on Catherine Street near Kingsway.
Also, let's have a mention for Dark They Were and Golden Eyed which was a revelation in 1974 when it was on Berwick Street in Soho. When it moved to Queen Anne's Court it had some comic releted material, I remember buying Unknown World's of SF (Marvel mag) there.
Great site! Let's include all the old 2nd hand shops and market stalls in Greater London.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the memories are flooding back!

I also remember Comics Showcase before they they had the shop in Neal Street, I remember seeing a page of original Miller/Jansen art there, I think from Daredevil no 172 or 171, anyway it was one of the Kingpin issues.

Yes, the tiny shop in the alley was called "LTS", did anyone ever take any photos of the shop?

There was another comics shop in Charing Cross Road, at the bottom near the National Portrait Gallery. It was in a basement, but I can't remember its name.

Michael Leader said...

What a great, informative post!

I've only moved to London recently, but have already grown quite attached to Orbital.

I'm yet to check out Gosh! properly, even though it was probably the first London comic shop I came across (school trip to the British Museum, sadly wasn't allowed to go in).

It's a shame Comics Showcase is closed, I remember passing it when down for a university interview a few years ago. I think the sign (or a sign) is still up in that small enclave on Charing Cross Road, although you don't have it in your picture.

I'll have to check out Comicana - haven't come across it.

Thanks for the resource!


Anonymous said...

oh this is great - i too remember the comic shop near highbury and islington where i grew up (it was on holloway road and was a bit rubbish really though!). The name escapes me now but I'll remember. I'm sure that wa back in the day of Zero Hour and all that jazz.
Also probably my fondest and most innocent memories were of Virgin comics on the first floor of the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. I distinctly remember finding a copy of Ganthets Tale by the counter and deciding I MUST HAVE THIS.
Only recently got back into comics and Green Lantern after a 14-15 absence from the hobby. It was Kyle Raynor that killed it off for me but am glad to see the Corps is back and now I'm catching up on old issues from the Comic Marts in London. Shame they stopped being held at the Camden Centre though - very fond memories of that place all the way through to my card collecting phase...

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah... the Fantastic Store. There was a Fantastic Store in Portobello Rd for a couple of years in the early 90s (I think...) The guy who ran it was one of the people banged up overseas for being a spy in some airport photographing farrago.

Does anybody remember the legendary chain of Popular Book Centres? Dotted around west London. They specialised in pulp fiction, aged comix and porn. I fell in love with Jack Kirby in the Harrow Road PBC in 1976. The last of the PBCs was in Rochester Row SW1 and closed down about a year ago.

Unknown said...

Ahh...I remember 'teefing' out those shops back in the eighties and being chased out on one occasion.

Had to feed my growing paper adventures habit. How else could I afford it with just 4 or 5 quid in my pocket ;-)

LTS; does anyone remember how the guy put in the security measure of making you leave your bag at the little hole in the wall in exchange for a playing card or half a playing card? Or was that my 'shish addled mind adding that detail? Stumbling down the alleyways scrawled with piss stained graffitti...I loved the illicitness of London's darkest corners. Like Holmes finding his opium den.
I think the store near Wood Lane on the northside was called Bizzarro?
And remember the comic markets they used to run at the Town Hall on Judd St in Camden? And one at the Methodist Hall in Westminster? Nicking was easy from those stalls. If Bruce Wayne knew just how many times I stole him from under the very eyes of those charged with protecting him he'd stick a 'rang in my arse.

SO I apologise profusely to all the struggling vendors whose shrinkage I was responsible for. And apologies to all for making them up their security model.
But the memories I stole were just as precious...FP's paper comics for a quid...2000AD...waiting for John Romita to sign my copy of X-Men...meeting Alan Moore(he had cool shoes on)...getting lost in multidimensional paperworlds...rolling doobies in the alleyway...KAPOW!!

Anonymous said...

Two geek facts:

Staff at FP are so badly paid they can legitimately claim housing benefit.

Eddie Campbell's daughter works at Gosh.

I remember the old old RPG section of Virgin, near center point. I picked up a box of battletech figures and some hardcore gamer started waffling on about he hated the regiment I just bought. Freaked me right out.

Anonymous said...

Nice work :) This brings back memories of school trips to London and spending the entire time whizzing round the comic shops.

Comics Showcase - I think your one is the Neale Street store? Wasn't it in Monmouth Street before then? (might have been the other way around)

Fantastic Store - I don't remember the one in Islington - didn't they have one in Denmark St at some point (where Helter Skelter later set up shop)

And the Virgin Megastore - I liked the one at the top of the stairs - I bought my first issues of Sandman up there.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Store started out as a great stall on Portobello Market in the early to mid 80s, opened it's shop at 166 Portobello Road in 85 or 86 (I bought Watchmen from there, so it must have been around then) and the only other FS branch I remember was in the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street in the late 80s/early 90s (ish).

Don't remember it being in the basement, but the Virgin Fantastic Store was nothing like as fantastic as the original Portobello Road shop, which was small well-laid out and staffed with cheerful enthusiasts of the sort who were quite willing to try, on sale or return, Obsidian, the photocopied comic magazine I contributed one woefully badly drawn but deeply enthusiastic strip to... and then sell me Love and Rockets, early Alan Moore Swamp Things and anything else my wallet and brain would stretch to!

Random Grid said...

Ahh, fond memories!
I'm a Finn and have visited London almost annually since 1986. Being big on comics at the time, it was a dream come true to find so many comics speciality shops on my first trip there.
I remember that my local comic store owner asked me to drop a Finnish indie comic to the Denmark Street branch of FB in 1986. It was actually service to one of his other customers, a guy who drew in Marshall Rogers style and had a story published in the mag.
I recall having had trouble finding Denmark Street as no one in my hotel knew the street. Motivated as I was, I finally located the store and the guy I was supposed to give the mag was actually there, a burly bearded fellow called Byrne. I still remember the name 'cause he was that X-Men artist's namesake. I don 't think I ever saw the guy again, despite going to FB on each and every subsequent trip.

Gordon said...

Ahhh ... the nostalgia.

I still remember my first visit to Forbidden Planet in Denmark Street with my dad. He was rather weary of going and kept a close eye on me which I didn't understand at the time. It's clear now that he was worried that a 12 year old boy might attract the wrong kind of attention in a shop full of fat smelly greasy men. But this was the place where I discovered the Marvel version of GI JOE. This completely threw me as I was a fan of Action Force and could not grasp the concept that Action Force was merely the bastardized version of GI JOE. That really opened my eyes. It was also in Forbidden Planet 2 that I purchased by Tron action figures and the Micro Collection version of Millenium Falcon.

Then for a while my main comic store was Gosh merely because it was the only place I knew of which was open on a Sunday. Then during the 1990s I went to Fantastic Store where I was sucked in by the X-Men bubble and purchased about ten sealed copies of X-Force number 1. And then it was Comic Showcase, the only place which offered a loyalty card.

Now I'm back with Forbidden Planet again. Full circle.

I completely agree with you about Comicana. How is this place still in business?? Is it a front for some other kind of dodgy dealings? The place is always empty the few times I've popped in and everything is overpriced.

NSFW said...

Thanks for a superb post.

I still miss LTS, not just for its half-a-playing-card security system, but also because it was so nice to have a companion shop to Denmark Street FP. As if FP were the A-side, and then you could flip over for the (very lo-fi) LTS B-side. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece.

Although I was never a dedicated comic buyer (I did buy a few) I spent many happy hours in the late 80's and early 90's visiting many of the above.

Gosh! and Comic Showcase and of course FP in New Oxford Street were my regular haunts.

The Fantasy Inn also gets a mention as that was a really great little basement hideaway in Charing Cross Road.

The one thing that struck me about all these places at the time were the weird staff and the same goth(y) music that was playing in the background!

Fab memories.



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Gosh is my favorite one... I've been going there for quite a wile now and i have a good time there, the shopkeeper is a very nice man and most of my friends go there, and I've made friends there too.

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Oliver said...

Who ate all the pies?

Who ate all the pies?

That fat bastard behind the counter of Paradise Alley, him and his bloody playing cards, he ate all the pies!

Kolya said...

An old post but I've just been reminiscing with myself about the old Comic Showcase in Oxford (the price tags had the London address). I think it's so sad that it's closed down. I spent my childhood in the 90's and early 2000's buying comics, toys and posters there. The site is now a...couscous cafe. Urgh.

Black-Adam said...

When fp moved to new Oxford street they had this Funky circular section where they had the back issues

as for the original fp in denmark st it will always have a place in my heart , I remember peeling off the import price label to try and get the underpaid fp staff to sell me the comics for the uk price of 40p !!!! I think I was successful with Spiderman vs Wolverine which revealed ned Leeds as hobgoblin! Comicana has now been assimilated and is now 'A place in space' who have their mother store in west Croydon .

mort said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey guys
Im new in London and im looking to get the entire Kick-Ass collection, I'd also just like a regular up to date comic shop to browse. What would you say's the best choice?.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys
Im new in London and im looking to get my hands on the entire Kick-Ass comic collection, I'd also like to know which is the best shop to browse for new comics.

Anonymous said...


The comic shop in Highbury and Islington was called 'Fantasy' and it was on Canonbury Lane - just off Upper Street. The wonderful smell of comics as you walked in always excited me even before I bought anything. Behind the counter was a wall where the most valuable comics were showcased.

I remember the classic DC Treasuries (tabloid format) which were always displayed on the wall such as Superman Vs Spider-Man, Superman Vs Muhammad Ali and even Batman Vs Hulk.

Sigh... those were the days... the shop is now an expensive upper class fashion shop (which is always empty) and when I popped in recently to remind myself of the many times I visited the premises as a young boy, the Eastern European sales assistant had absolutely no interest in hearing my story of nostalgia and even showed signs of serious concern that a middle aged bloke had wandered off the street and probably made up a story about a comic shop when he may have some sinister alternative motive.

Needless to say, I didn't hang around much longer but the memories from 30 years ago did come flooding back...


Anonymous said...

This blog brought back some great memories of my early years of collecting comics from about 26 years ago. I remember the original FP shop on Denmark Street and the grubbyt little place down the alley (Paradise Alley I think it was called). the bloke in there was hilariously grumpy and unfriendly. That thrill of finding a wanted back-issue by rifling through a box full of comics was a great feeling. Ruined by eBay now! The only place that feels the same (as it did back then) is 30th Century Comics in Putney. Has a basement full of back issues which gives it a really good old-school comic shop feel.

Mo said...

My first job was in Holborn, I remember spending huge part of my saturdays in the corner of the old FP, looking at the stack of Orginal Art. Let me tell you it gave me a stiffy.

There was all the Bolland, McMahon, O'niel artwork from 2000AD usually about £50 to £100.

And they had pages from Watchmen.

Nobody ever bought the stuff, cause the pile was always the same.

I just used to look through each page again and again, I was thrown out more than once but that didn't deter me, this stuff meant more to me then if I was at the Louvre.

Shame I couldn't afford any, If I had invested my first years wages into Watchmen art, I could retire now. Or have starved to death.

Anonymous said...

comic showcase was superb .paul would put books away for months till you pay for them .every thursday i would spend couple of hrs riffling through back issue bins and picking up the latest imports .happy memories

Anonymous said...

Probably oldest poster here, having started buying DC in 1962 (Superman 154 - not a great ish) and Marvel in 1965 (Avengers 14). In those days, you bought comics from newsagents off rusty rotating wire stands, in my case from shops in and around Ealing.

There were also Popular Book Centres for secondhand copies - Dell, Charlton, Gold Key as well as Marvel and DC. There were branches in King Street Hammersmith, Shepherd's Bush Road and Rochester Row, Pimlico. A couple of scruffy piles of comics used to be in full view on the main counter (to deter the light-fingered) but who cared about grading in those days? You thought yourself lucky to get any proper US originals at all.

The Pimlico shop stank - and I mean STANK - of BO. I don't think the guy in there ever washed.

I used to go to the Hammersmith branch every week after school, pick up 7 or 8 comics for the equivalent of about 40p, then buy a bag of chips nearby and eat them on the way home.

Then there was Premier Book Centre in Chiswick High Street which was the first shop I knew of (about 1966) to get all the latest NEW Marvels in on a systematic basis. There was bearded hippy running the place who was very patronising to 11-year-old me, but took great pleasure in telling me all about Stan Lee's mistreatment of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, doing his best to shatter all my Smilin' Stan illusions. He also used to sell Famous Monsters Of Filmland and Monster World for which I sometimes idiotically traded in now super-valuable FF and Spiderman comics. Sigh.

He had all these great early Marvels - FF no 4! - in the window, visibly yellowing under the direct sunlight, which he flat-out refused to sell. Bastard.

Years later, I saw the same guy working in Dark They Were and Golden Eyed in Soho, sullen as ever.

Fast foward to the mid-eighties when in a bout of nostalgia I wanted to check out what was happening in comics. Great timing as I discovered Comics Showcase just in time to luck into Dark Knight and Watchmen. That place in Neal Street was heaving on a Saturday morning, and (unlike Pimlico PBS) had the great smell of fresh-from-the-press comic books. The ponytail guy who ran it was a nice guy I thought, along with most of the staff.

Never cared for Forbidden Planet much - too big, too corporate - whether in New Oxford Street or St Giles.

I really loved that mad hole-in-the-wall place in the alley off Denmark Street. Managed to pick up years of infill comics - esp. John Byrne FF and early 80s LSH - at reasonable prices. The playing card guy seemed OK, but then by that time I suppose I didn't look like a teenage tea-leaf.

This is great topic and many thanks to the OP.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you! It's been 6 years now since it was first posted, but still people keep leaving their comments. So here's mine:
Arriving from Germany in London in 1987 and staying there for one year I immediately checked out the West End comic shops.
Comic Showcase were always the cheapest and friendliest. I went there once a week and always left the place with a paper bag full of silver and bronze Marvels for about 5 to 10 quid. I did not care too much about grades back then, so I even picked up books priced at 10p!
Second best was Gosh who also had real bargains. I remember picking up Journey into Mystery Annual #1 (1965, Thor vs. Hercules) im VG/GD for a mere 30p. The most expensive book I bought in 1987 was a VG+ copy of Hulk #102 for 3,50 (which I still have)!
I also loved the 20p bin at Virgin. You could find a lot of goodies in there as it was updated every day. Cool shop anyway. Bought Hellblazer #1 there when it was brand new.
I always considered FP (Denmark St) to be rather expensive. But I loved their cool paper bags sporting awesome Brian Bolland artwork!
There also was a very shabby little shop somewhere in Soho (Brewer St?) selling nothing but back issues and porn magazines. I remember flipping through their stock one day when suddenly a guy came in starting an argument with the man behind the counter. It all ended up with the two of them rolling on the floor fighting... I decided not to buy anything that day!
And nobody mentioned a very messy but cool shop on Seven Sisters Road - can't remember the name! Any ideas?

Will you do an update on this post someday? Or is there a list of the London shops still in existance today? Thanks!

Max (back in Munich again, but returning to London as often as possible)

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this thread, i still hanker for the days when comics really took off in the eighties just as i was finding all the comic stores. Much as I loved the FP in Denmark Street, i recall that their price stickers would sometimes take the colour of the covers (as my otherwise pristine copy of Eagle Comics Judge Dredd #1 still testifies). FP2 was fun to browse, i used to admire the 3D Alien 'chestburster' t-shirt on the wall on the left as you went in. I can't remember what it cost but it was a LOT!

I think LTS opened sometime around 1984, then became Paradise Alley about 18 months later. Their price stickers were a NIGHTMARE to remove sometimes, which rather put me off. I remember asking once how much a copy of Green Lantern #1 was that was pinned up behind the counter - i was told it was £50 and this was followed by a sneering comment about how long it would take me to save up my pocket money. Wankers! I also recall the playing card system, i think they gave up with that in the end. They always seemed to be playing Kate Bush's 'Running up That Hill' when i was in there...

Comic Showcase was my favourite, it started going to their (18?)Monmouth Street store, then went onto their 76 Neal Street branch. There was Paul Hudson(?), Paul Rubenstein ('Rube') and Tim if i recall correctly. No price stickers on their comics made them my shop of choice. I'd rather dropped out of comics by the time they moved to Charing Cross Road, but i was sorry when they vanished altogether (a victim of a massive rent increase, so i heard).

Fantasy Inn was at 17 Charing Cross Road (under The Book Inn), and i ended up working there for some time. A bloke called Mark worked there who used to love playing his Cocteau Twins and Propaganda cassettes on the tape player we had downstairs. In truth the comics section there was a bit rubbish, with these wire-cord things holding the comics on the shelves meaning that it was impossible to get them out without bending them across the middle. But i was just happy to get paid for selling (and talking) comics a lot. Great times (mostly). This shop burnt down in 1991 (i was long gone by then, honest!), not sure where the staff went, although a top bloke called Pip ended up at FP on Shaftesbury Avenue. He may still be there?

Writing this reminded me that i can still remember the phone numbers for some of these stores, i used to call them so often about stuff. Showcase was 01-240-3664, Fantasy Inn was 01-839-2712, FP was 01-836-4179. Think i've got those right. Not sure if anyone cares about such minutiae, but hey, we're all a bit geeky here right? As the old paper bags used to say, 'People Like Us Shop At Forbidden Planet'...

Philip Ayres said...


Anyone remember the name of the very short lived place in Denmark St on the opposite side of the road to where FP1 and the passage way to Paradise Alley was? we're talking late 90s/early 00s?

Philip Ayres said...

and yes I remember the playing cards in Paradise Alley :-)

Jon from They Walk Among Us said...

Hello Phil, Fancy meeting you here. The one in Denmark St you're thinking of was called B-Hive, it being founded by Gary from Brighton's Hive. - cheers, Jon

Philip Ayres said...

Hi Jon, you stalking me now ? :-)

No, that wasn't b-hive, that was round the corner and roughly next door to where FP2 used to be.

Got a pic of B hive here in fact from a RHBNC SCI FI soc shopping trip:

Where I'm thinking is the opposite side of Denmark st to FP1

Anonymous said...

I didn't see a mention of Weird Fantasy in New Cross.. near one of the old Popular Book Centres (that used to stamp & downgrade all their comics!).
And there was Top 10 Soho, owned by Paul Gambaccini and Jonathon Woss, where Charlie Brooker used to work behind the counter. A great little place always ready to negotiate on silver age stuff.. I picked up Hulk #6 there for £50 in the early '90s.

Unknown said...

I literally grew up in the seven sisters comic book store you mentioned which was called krypton komics. The owner Gary was always a little tense when me and my pal went in arguing about who was better between superman and spiderman lol.. believe it or not krypton komics is still going now located in Walthamstow and I'm still a regular. I like to treat my self to a comic book down west end once in a while but I find krypton komics caters to my need and of extensive back issues, valuavle silver age books, not to mention the friends and family discount but best of all it is a comic book store not a merchandising rip off like FP.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in South East London and used to go to Quality Comics in New Cross opposite Goldsmiths College (that was in the early to mid eighties). It was run by Dez Skinn and I believe it's where they published Warrior comic from. It had masses of back issues and was a really good shop.
One of the staff later opened a rival shop just a short walk down the road opposite New Cross Gate station, it was called Bizzaro's. So for a while we had two excellent shops close by.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that Weird Fantasy was the shop that became Quality Comics.

Unknown said...

Anyone remember the shop in Camden that was the opposite side of the station to Mega City? I think it was called Meanwhile? I remember they had a Black Orchid t-shirt in there that was £50 - back in 1991!

Kradlum said...

Was the original Forbidden Planet actually in the basement below the music shop? I have a memory of having to go down the steps to get there.

I was a student at UCL in the late 80's and I think most of my grant money went on frequent tours of all the comic shops.

There was also one on Portobello Road in the late 80s/early 90s.

You need to update Orbital as they have moved again. Gosh! Is now on Berwick Street. I think Andy is still there.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Brooker worked at Top 10 - can this be true?

Anonymous said...

Good memories!!!!
I worked in the shop in Canonbury Lane after school and on Saturdays.It was called 'Heroes' and was owned and run by Alan Austin who wrote the First ComicBook Price Guide.I was about 13 when I worked there and would be paid in comics! Acquired some Great titles back then,especially Golden Age stuff.
I originally started on Comics when my Dad took me to the Popular Book Centre on Upper Street in Islington, and once I had finished reading, I would go back and 'swap' them for different titles.After that I started to use Heroes to swap, and then I started collecting.
When the shop closed I started getting the 19 bus up to Centre Point on Saturday mornings and go to Forbidden Planet on Denmark St.Also used to use the Virgin Megastore shop, and when it closed, it moved to the Virgin Megastore 2 at Marble Arch.
Happy memories reading about these old shops, as I went to them all at one point or another.

Terence Stewart said...

Wow. Just wow.

I cant believe I found this blog; I was searching for some info on Alan Austin, and I find the post above about the Canonbury Shop that I used to visit regularly in the late 70s/early 80s? I probably even met Anonymous above on Saturdays. I would have been mid-teens; I definitely remember one of my last purchases there being Omega Men #1, shorthy before I left London for college. I still have many of the old comics I bought there in my collection.

I also used to visit the one in the Charing Cross basement, when I started working at the National Portrait Gallery in 1990.

My first comic shop in London was Dark They Were And Golden Eyed in St Annes Court, and I think I probably visited just about every other comic shop in central London and beyond in my search for old comics.

Here's a really obscure one - a small shop on Holloway Road, up near Archway end. I've been thinking about that one a lot recently as I've moved to a street just about 5 minutes from where it was located.

Lots of good memories here.

Joachim Reinhold said...

I decided to give all these shops a virtual monument. In my SF novel "Jennings, Erdprotektor" (currently available in German only) I tried to create a shop and atmosphere worth of how I experienced the FP and Paradise Alley back in mid-eighties. I loved them so much.

Unknown said...

Fantastic thread! I collected comics from newsagents around Dalston and Hackney from '83 onwards. But once a month, from late '86, I'd go with my dad to Heroes on Canonbury Lane. Absolutely stunned by the wall-to-wall, rare, comics! I completed my Crisis on Infinite Earths collection over the course of a few months...always frustrated i didn't have enough money to buy all of them.
From '89 i started wandering myself, up to FP on Denmark St, Gosh, Comic Showcase, Virgin and more. Did anyone else get their Comic Book Price guide signed by Bolland and Hewlett at the FP-supported signing outside the pub at the Intrepid Fox?
Also remember the madness of all those versions of McFarlane's SpiderMan 1 that you HAD to get.
Most of my best old comics were bought on the second-hand book stall at the Waste Market on Kingsland Road...stood next to the old guys looking at old porno magazines!!

Unknown said...

Terence, there was a comic shop on Holloway Road in the early 90s, but nearer to the Highbury & Islington end...they were nice guys.

Anonymous said...

What was the name of the comic shop in st anne's court back in the 80's

Philip Ayres said...

Top Ten Comics, Messers Ross & Gambaccini's Comic Emporium

Anonymous said...

Didn't read far enough down here, so ended up outside the British Museum on Wednesday looking for GOSH!, one of my 80's haunts. We ended up jumping in a cab to Berwick street, as we only had 35 minutes until they closed. I took my kids down there after visiting London Zoo (they're 9 & 11), we picked up the reprinted Cursed Earth collection. Some Scooby Doo apocalypse, Finding Dory and Star Wars. We've been enjoying the revisiting the Cursed Earth together nearly 40 years later....

I also remember the playing cards in LTS, and seeing Wossy in Showcase back in the day


Unknown said...

My first Krypton Comics experience was 89/90, and he was running it out of the indoor market in Wood Green. I now live a minute's walk from his Blackhorse Lane shop ��

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that this thread is still going after all these years!

I remember most of the shops mentioned, including the LTS, which was cool precisely because you had to be 'in the know' to find it.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the massive comic marts held periodically in Central Hall, which I would attend religiously.

My favourite store was ACME Comic shop in Brixton on Coldharbour Lane. It had a Tank Girl mural on the wall by Jamie Hewlett. It also had a piece by me, as I was a budding comic artist at the time.

For a time, Alan Mitchell worked there. He co-wrote Third World War with Pat Mills that appeared in Crisis - the spin off from 2000AD.

Being a South London boy, I loved going to ACME, but the fact that it hasn't been mentioned before now probably highlights why it didn't survive!

I also thought I'd mention the London Cartoon Centre, which was based in Kensel Rise. This wasn't a shop, it was an independent college that trained aspiring comic artists and writers. I ended up attending there and was taught by the likes of David Lloyd of V for Vendetta fame.

I remember having some of my work featured in an exhibition they put on, and being complemented by Jonathan Ross at the private viewing, which made my day.

I'd better stop there. Suffice it to say, they were good times!

Philip Ayres said...

Loved the Westminster Central Hall marts. I used to go regularly in the mid 80s and load up with back issues. My memory is they disappeared for a while and then returned in the late 80s/very early 90s. I can remember trips up there to obtain new Doctor Who videos and dodgy old who & new Star Trek.

They then relocated to the TUC place c1992, up near Tottenham Court Road tube, but I'm not sure how long they lasted there as they were back in Central Hall by the mid 90s.

Are there any proper comic marts happening now in London? I went to something advertised as a comic mart in Birmingham recently and it was mainly merchandise and cosplay! Very few long boxes at all :-(

Faisal said...

Back in the late 80s and early 90s my dad would regularly take me to Kingsland road market on Saturdays and Brick Lane market on Sundays. Both of these had a couple of second hand book stalls that sold stacks of back issues for 10/20p.

Some great back issues could be occasionally found including Claremont/Byrne X-men and Wrightson Swamp Thing.

For a while I worked on a camera stall on Brick Lane and one of the owners of a book stall knew me so well that he would let me have first dibs by getting someone to call me round whenever he got a new batch of comics to sell. Scanning through a batch of comics on these stalls was always a highlight of my weekend.

Am I right in saying that these kind of secondhand books/comics stalls no longer exist in London markets these days?

Anonymous said...

There is still London Comic Mart at The Bedfordshire Hotel at Holborn WC1.
No Cosplay, just second hand Comics and that classic second hand Comic smell.
I think it's every 2 Months. Loads of Golden and Silver Age Comics.
Takes me right back to the 80's and 90's.

Philip Ayres said...

This one?

Anonymous said...

Yep, Great Mart. If anyone knows any like this in Colchester, please let me know.

Michael O'Donoghue (MOD) said...

Nostalgia is generally old hat, but it does bring a smile to ones face.
Dark They Were was where you had to go...but the (relatively) trendier Forbidden Planet at Denmark street was where you spent your pocket money.
Gosh. Vast respect for what Josh has done for the art and independence of the medium.
Paul Hudsons comic showcase...any incarnation...but especially before he brought in them new fangled monthly imports. Wonderful shop that taught me that water damaged DC smelt different from water damaged Marvel. No. Seriously.
LTS and other oddities...any know the name of the shop in Leytonstone (filled in a very important part of my Thomas/Buscema Avengers run!)?
Central Hall Marts...nice pub next door to it, bargain bins and the Fast Fiction table.
Many thanks for the kind words about Acme (Brixton), Virgin (megastore), and Meanwhile...(Camden, apologies to Martins MegaCity). I had a hand in setting up and running all of them.

Paul Hudson said...

Hey Dominic - owe you an apology for not selling you that Watchmen art - genuinely have no recollection of being so rude to you, hope it is not too late to say sorry 30 years on?

Dan hum said...

Hi, great thread, I didn't trawl comic shops in the golden age but it was good reading about it! I have a comic i've published of my own with a special Alan Moore introduction which i'd like to give all of you free if you're interested, as long as you write something good about it somewhere online or anywhere else. Head over to my website and leave your address
Thanks Danny

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Paul Hudson was ever rude to anyone,
One of the nicest guys you could wish to meet,
Now Rube!!!!

Andrew Buckle said...

The first London comic shop I recall visiting was Dark They were and Golden Eyed when they were in Berwick Street and I recall having to jump over the comics that were all piled over in the floor in the entrance. There was also a box of old comics with things like Thor Annual 1. Only went there once, did it have Captain America or Thor on the wall outside ?? can't recall now. My regular shop was the last Dark They were in St Anne's Court where I bought loads of Marvels that were never distributed to the regular newsagents in Maidstone (along with things like the excellent Marvel Super Hero Index by Alan Austin). The comic marts at the Westminster Central Hall were always great for picking up loads of comics really cheap (as well as some golden age ones). A comic shop opened up again in St Anne's court just above the original Dark They Were and that has some really unusual comics (such as a 1936 New comics 1 - one of the earliest DC comics - the only comic I regret never buying as I didn't really know a thing about those early comics). Comic Showcase in Charing Cross Road was a regular trip (as it was when in the Covent Garden area) and that was great for all kinds of comics and chatting about comics with Paul Hudson. The popular book centres were always a great source for some comics (always with the large stamp though to generally ruin most of the cover). Still enjoy visiting Gosh as well as Forbidden Planet as well as 30th Century comics in Lower Richmond Rd. Best finds for comics were always outside of London in small back street shops in seaside towns (though the comics were often always bleached in the sun)

Unknown said...

Seaside town comic-hunting was always fun, although am haunted by piles of ROM, Dazzler and Ghost Rider...
Remember holidaying in Spain and Majorca, seeing tons of Pacific Comics, and picking up Amazing Spiderman #252 :)

Unknown said...

Moving outwards, Comic Showcase had a shop in Oxford, and over the road was another one called Rainbow's End. There was a small comic shop in the Virgin Megastore there too! I am aware this is not London!

Anonymous said...

In reply to Michael O'Donoghue's comment from about a year ago(!) I think the Leytonstone store was possibly called Comic Shack. The number 720 popped into my head, maybe it was the number of the building? Can't be sure without getting my old Speakeasy issues out of storage! That was a great mag until they got rid of the newspaper format...

Anonymous said...

Whilst a bit off-topic, the mentions of seaside comic-buying reminds me of the time I went to the Isle Of Wight when I was a kid in the 80s. A news-stand they had over there is STILL the only place (apart from online, obviously) I have ever seen that sold Harvey Comics. I still have the three Richie Rich comics I bought that day!

Piran said...

Great thread but a couple of shops missing. Eternal comics on seven sisters road and one in Clapham (name escapes me) where I bought Brother Power The Geek 1 in the 8Os. Also Mighty World Of Comicana up in Barnet. My first trip to FP on Denmark At will never leave me and saw Brian Bolland there around the time of Killing Joke querying why they were flogging a t-shirt with his art on it. Still regret not buying a page of his artwork for £50 from Showcase basement on Charing Cross Rd. Think it was Camelot 3000. Lived in Centalral London 88/89 so spent all my spare time and cash in these establishments....

C_Oliver said...

Originally posted to this thread 7 years ago; long may it continue!

Joachim Reinhold said...

C_Oliver, is your name by any chance Colin and did you work at Radio Mayday based in Croydon?

Caspar said...

Wasn't the Highbury comic shop called Heroes?
Dark They Were... in St Anne's Court was a veritable Xanadu to the 16-year-old me, who only visited once. I couldn't believe such a fabulous store existed. In fact, I can still hardly credit it.
Also repping Paul Hudson, who always seemed a decent chap to me. He was clearly as much a comics fan as a businessman, and was always chatting away ten to the dozen with his staff/mates about.... comics, of course.
Jonathan Ross and Paul Gambaccini still owe me a few quid for copies of my small press comic that sold in their comic shop above the old Dark They Were, which went bust before I could get along to collect. No wonder they're rich and I'm skint.

Anonymous said...

The Virgin Megastore comic shop upstairs was always the easiest to pilfer from as the person on the til tended to sit reading in some sort of little booth. The 20p bin there was always worth a trawl and they had a very lax policy on letting you just sit and read whatever you wanted for as long as you could. It was always less crowded than the other shops and there was a burger place across the road that routinely filled Oxford Street with the smell of frying onions. Routine for me was comic shop, purchase burger, sit on the side of the old water fountain nearby.
Paradise Alley was a great little place in many ways and reading this thread reminded me of the whole weird playing card security aspect. I loved the smell of that place, it was dark and dank but smelt like old newsprint. This place had long runs of 70s and 80s Marvel stuff at stupidly low prices and I remember walking out of there with piles and piles of stuff. Annoyingly though the owner always put his ultra-sticky bright yellow price tags on the actual comic themselves rather than the bags and so invariably they'd bleach or damage the cover in some way. It was a great place to pick up a lot of comics for little money, even if you weren't getting top quality. Invaluable as a way of filling out runs though. I once tried to sell the dirty grumpy bloke a pile of my unwanted comics and he laughed me out of the shop because I was eleven and didn't know that what I was selling was pretty worthless. Only good memories though, once saw that old obscure Spider-Man LP on the wall in there.
I've loved reading this thread, great to see it's lasted ten years at this point!

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten about the impossible-to-remove price labels stuck to covers in LTS/Paradise Alley, put me off buying there (as well as the sneery staff attitudes that I mentioned back in my 2013 post!).

It reminds me of a time at a Central Hall mart (which were so amazing I can now barely believe they existed) when I just couldn't track down a copy of the recently-released Blue Beetle #1 (the Paris Cullins version). I eventually found a stall with a big pile of them, but the guy had WRITTEN THE PRICE ON THE COVER in pencil. As if you could just rub it out without removing the colour print! I bought a copy, I had no choice, but that price is still on my copy today...

Vince and Siv said...

Extremely late to the party here....but loving this thread! All this brings back so many memories for me....meeting all the Studio guys at the signing in the Denmark St Forbidden Planet, Getting Alan Moore to sign my Grafitti Edition Watchmen at the Virgin Comics store, buying a page of Gary Leach Marvelman art in Quality Comics, browsing in Dark they were, and Michael Moorcock just turning up and doing an impromptu signing....SO many great memories!

Unknown said...

Dear MOD.Good to hear you are still in the game,but I'd just like to very dare you not mention the lads at the original Fantastic Store in portobello road.Mike

Anonymous said...

Love this thread.

The Paradise Alley shop was indeed originally called LTS. It stood for London Transitory Services which was the owners’ previous company. When they started the comic shop, they still had the previous company set up so rather than pay to register another, they just re-used LTS. I don’t remember a fat guy at LTS in 85 or so. It was a young guy with dyed blonde hair. He used to put stuff aside for me. Agree, their stock was cheap & plentiful. I too still have comics with those bloody price tags on. I don’t have a photo, but I still have one of their flyers with logos etc.

The North London shops are a topic on their own, especially the shop on the Seven Sisters Road which is variously being called Fantasy, Krypton, Eternal etc (I think Eternal is right). I used to buy from them at the marts in Central Hall Westminster and only went to the shop itself once. I have only the vaguest recollection of being on the tube for what seemed like days and stumbling blinking out in the light of North London, which seemed like Mordor. I think I was about 12. My parents would be locked up now.

I never warmed to FP, I loved Dark They Were too much. I just wish I’d looked around on the street level floor of DTW a bit more. I used to run straight through the place and into the basement. Anyone remember that box that was always on the counter with all the great stuff in it? Debbie? Dave?

Loved Comic Showcase. I remember Paul Hudson coming back from the US with a Detective Comics #27, and musing aloud, deciding who he was going to sell it to.

I agree that 30th Century Comics is now the only place you can get that local comic shop feel, run for geeks who think they know everything, BY geeks who actually DO know everything.


The Chocolate Ocelot said...

Even later to the party than others here. Great resource for my failing memory. As a Hertfordshire kid, my closest decent shop was Stateside in Barnet, which had a massive warehouse out the back for browsing back issues. It later morphed into Mighty World of Comicana and eventually became that pokey shop in Central London.
Back in 91 I went to an Alan Davis at Edge of Forever out in the sticks of Bexleyheath (I think).