I found myself in London at the weekend (again). I went into a Comic Shop, to meet a Wrestler, to get a Metal album signed. 3 of my favourite interests / hobbies / passsions all rolled together into one place. All it was missing was some topless dancers playing with video games and/or Transformers and my life would have peaked.
I was, of course, in Forbidden Planet. I hate Forbidden Planet. It is a soulless, profit-driven, consumer hellhole. It almost makes me wish for the days when comics were for reclusive losers (which of course is silly and completely against everything I have been trying to acheieve over the last 10 years in my job), because at least then the people staffing comic shops have passion and a spark of joy left in their otherwise insular lives.
You could spend an hour walking around the upstairs of Shaftesbury Avenues FP, without ever stumbling onto the fact that they sell comics. "Comics! We keep them downstairs, what do you think we are, a comic shop?"
And even then if you turn left upon venturing downwards you get swamped by books, DVDs and a host of other overpriced things dissasociated from the world of comics.
Still, lovely selection of toys, models and action figures at over the top prices, you could just go to a Woolworths or Toys'r'us and find the items for 1/2 the price, but where would be the fun of that.
Fair play to FP for their comendable selection of graphics and tpbs, but where the fuck are the back issues????? And why are most of the Tpbs damaged? And why does the Manga section smell of BO?
Just round the corner, up the street a bit and opposite the Astoria (venue of choice), there is a doorway. Its small and unassuming and looks more like the venue for one of Gaimans secret markets, but when you venture within, there is a glorious comic shop called Orbital / Orbiter Comics (I forget which, sorry!).
Its selection of Tpbs is a little limited, but all the obvious picks are there and I am sure they can order in anything that isn't in stock. There is a healthy selection of back issues, lots of recent stock and a few nice oddities, such as new import Transformers, posters and original Judge Dredd strip artwork.
And the staff will talk to you.
Check it out.
So the question I put to you: What makes a good comic Shop great?