One of my favorite things I like to do in a new city is find the local comic book shops. Even way back in my wee younger years, while visiting family at my grandmother's summer cottage in Michigan, when I was wrapped in a blanket of lake swimming and adventuring. Even then, in that summer paradise (and if you read this blog regularly you know I use "summer" and "paradise" in the same sentence never) ... I would drag out the yellow pages and point out two types of places I wanted my dad to drive me. Thrift shops and comic book stores. Good man that he is, he'd always comply. One year, when I had a dilemma about how to spend the $20 I had on me - on a book of the complete works of William Shakespeare or a lifesize cut-out of Han Solo (Sophie's Choice, am I right??) he graciously told me I was allowed to get both.
But anyway, back to London! When I asked for recommendations on comic shops I should visit while I was there, I was given these names:
What could possibly go wrong as we used this sharp tool to navigate the streets of busy West End? Actually, we IMMEDIATELY found Orbital and spent a good while browsing their rows and rooms. I picked up a couple of lovely things:
Marc Ellerby's Chloe Noonan, Monster Hunter. I thought this one was fitting, since we were in London and all. I love that she takes the bus and has zero powers, but she's cocky and she gets the job done. Also, she has other priorities like band gigs. And appreciates a good grenade.
Bucko by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen. I had NOOO idea what to expect from this going in, only that I've been a fan of Erika's work for ages. But then I also saw that it was about quirky Portland antics and I was intrigued. I'm also a big fan of Portland, and have been telling everyone for years that I'll be moving there soon. Those overcast skies, those powerful mountains, that dreary weather, that publisher of mine in the 'hood, those hippies with their progressive ways ... they all be callin' to me. But ANYWAY. Bucko ended up being a hilarious, unpredictable ride that kept me laughing/afraid to laugh and eager to turn the page. What started off with a scene reminiscent of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (and who DOESN'T love a Robert Downey Jr. / Val Kilmer flick) and turned into a fun celebration of everything that's right and so wrong about the world. The writer/artist comments on every page are a fun bonus since I never read it online. I think more comics definitely need commentary tracks.
Orbital had a great location, super helpful staff, and decent selection of indies. Even though I was too chicken to give them any of MY work, I was happy to have found it.
Finding Gosh was a little bit more of a challenge (see map above for reasons why). Yeahh when I set out to create little handy maps for us to use, I sometimes neglected to put in all those pesky side streets. Who needs 'em? So Heather and I spent a good while wandering down the streets of Soho, which is not a bad place to be, but still wasn't our primary purpose. Eventually we'd run out of time and had to meet up with my friend Katrina at the most glorious store on the planet - Paperchase!! No, not a comic book store but a glorious store filled with all your pencilling and papering needs. It took a lot of willpower to only walk out of there with a few purchases.
Luckily Katrina knew her way around town better than we did, so she successfully led us to Gosh. It was a cute, well-designed and well-lit store. I loved the central table piled with a selection of books, surrounded by shelves lit with track lighting. It reminded me of a boutique art gallery. Again, the staff was super helpful and I walked away with something I've been meaning to pick up for a long time ...
Faith Erin Hicks's Friends With Boys! I've been a huge fan of hers since way back in her Demonology 101 days. Along with Derek Kirk Kim, Scott McCloud, and Jason Little, she was one of my earliest webcomic inspirations. Faith's style has only gotten more powerful and expressive over the years, and I was blown away by how her work is able to be detailed and meticulous while still appearing sketchy and free-flowing. I tore through half of the story online but had decided to wait for the print version to finish it. The characters have an ease about them that makes them instantly identifiable - there aren't any forced personality "types". The story is moody, funny, and intriguing, and her large, expansive panels give plenty of room for your imagination to run around in. Selfishly I wanted the story to keep going, but at least I can add this to my collection of books to re-read. Thank goodness Faith is so prolific, so I won't have long to wait for a new book from her!
Thus ends my London Comic Shop Adventure. Sadly, I never made it to Forbidden Planet, but having gone to the one in New York City, I can say I've been, right? Oh well, I'll save it for the return journey. Because there WILL be a return journey to London. Oh yes, there will.
P.S. Can someone invite me to the Leeds Comic Arts Festival at some point??