Comic shops can be intimidating places for some people as they are often being lauded over by scary fanboys, movie buffs and geeks. London has some fine little comic shops, which each have their own quirky characters and vibes that are worth checking out.
Personally I’m a big fan of comics and try to kid myself it’s the same as reading a book (which it isn’t). Whether you are after solid mainstream titles like Iron Man and his other (insert name) buddies or want something a little more arty (i.e graphic novels), then there’s a place in London for every desire.
The Forbidden Planet megastore in London is one of the biggest comic shops I’ve even been to, the top floor is devoted to comic and cult related toys and models. Where as the basement is fully of every comic, graphic novel and special interest book on every subject imaginable. Forbidden planet feels more like a comic library or archive of comics than a shop.
Due to the size of the megastore there are great finds to be had and often a large selection of items on sale or special, so it is worth dropping in regularly to see if something in particular takes your fancy.
The megastore regularly features signing from some of the cream of the crop comic world wise. Past guests have included Kevin Smith, Alan Moore and Jon Burgerman! Basically this is a great hide out to find more mainstream titles at decent prices and hunt through a large selection of wide ranging issues and comic genres.
Orbital Comics is now located in a basement on Great Newport Street close by to Tottenham Court Road. Orbital has a totally original and unique feel that becomes apparent as soon as you descend the stairwell. This comic shop feels more of a hangout and has a coffee-shop vibe rather than a well oiled corporate money making feel.
A large selection of lesser known titles and indie publishers make Orbital a great place to browse for new odd and specific books to read. Having said that, they do also have a large regular titles selection, which can sometimes be cheaper than internet sites. Basically Orbital feels like a real local shop for similarly minded people and a good place to strike up a conversation or get some tips about good new comics to read.
Continuing the homely and coffee-shop vibe Orbital also a privately made section where people create and sell their own titles at low prices. If this is your thing then its worth checking out the home-made comics rack in Orbital as it offers something completely different to mainstream books.
Orbital Manga Comics
Orbital Manga is located just up the street from the main Orbital shop, just off Leicester Square. This is much more of a specialist shop devoted to manga and anime.
Worth a look if you are into manga and anime as they offer a staggeringly large selection of books and dvd’s. However due to the nature and lower demand, some items are quite expensive (probably due to import costs).
Orbital Manga feels like (what I would imagine to be) a small slice of Japan, as all the bookshelves are kitted out in a traditional Japanese dark wood style and the whole shop feels clinical and obsessively neat.
They also stock a large amount of manga related figures and figurines which are pretty impressive and remind me of watching transformers as a kid (and watching it last week). If you don’t know anything about manga or anime and want to give it a spin I imagine this is the kind of place to ask. Personally I would recommend checking out Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell or Cowboy Bebop as good starting points.
Mega City Comics
Mega City Comics in Camden is a great shop to pick up pretty much anything your after comic wise. The walls are covered in highly coveted golden age titles and marvel classics, which are worth a visit alone just to drool over.
The shop is smaller than some other London based shops but always has everything imaginable presented in a well organised fashion. They again have a large independent comic range and sell a lot of Vertigo titles and seem to keep well updated with new imports and specialist books.
The staff are particularly friendly and engaging and open to questions or queries. This shop has cool vibe about it and fits well into the odd Camden landscape also it close enough to grab some comics then slob out in one of the many local pubs or gig venues.
Comicana is a small comic shop just off Tottenham Court Road rammed full of great titles and shed loads of back issue trays. The small size of the shop makes it quite intimate when busy, but usually there’s enough space to flick through the massive amount of back titles.
Again the walls are covered with fantastic golden age titles that are pretty tempting (at the lower end of the scale) and it seems the kind of place that could get hold of pretty much anything you are after.
Comciana has that collector vibe (in a good way) and I find it difficult not to spend loads of cash in there building collections or filling series gaps. It’s the kind of shop where a casual look turns into a spree of lots of back issues, that were too good to be missed.
Gosh is a good place to go if you are little self conscious about looking for some comics the staff are really helpful and are happy to answer questions. Right opposite the British Museum Gosh is pretty centrally located and have a lot of comic related material to offer.
Although they stock a large range of titles and books they also have a good selection of graphic novels and illustrated books. Again Gosh features a small selection of self published books so if you want to put something of your own out then this is a good place to get some shelf space.
If you aren’t into comics at all this shouldn’t stop you having a peek into some comic shops they can still be fun even if you’re not interested in superpowers and giant Japanese robots!
I am a little obsessed with comics and regularly read and buy new comics, if you are looking to test the waters here are some random titles I would suggest looking at or thumbing through: