Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The 'Show

After 26 years, London comic shop Comic Showcase is closing its doors for the last time…

Another London landmark freighted with memories is going to disappear, as my ever-evolving metropolis chews up some more real estate and spits it out looking like, no doubt, another Starbucks or something else the Big Smoke doesn’t really need.

As a young boy, when I was first hypnotically entranced by the monthly adventures of Stan Lee’s radioactive children, like many, many others, I used to depend on the local newsagent for my regular fix of sound effects that could shatter panel borders, with the reassuring sound of a “Thwip!”, a “Snikt!” or a “Bamf!”, or the rallying battle cries of “Avengers Assemble!” or “It’s Clobberin’ Time!”

But newsagents weren’t enough. It was easy to miss issues to the byzantine distribution methods that got American comics into British newsagents. But I discovered an alternative: shops that sold nothing but comics!

Occasionally, I managed to get my Dad to take me to two places that were ceiling to floor, wall to wall, four-colour picture palaces. The original Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street, and the original Comic Showcase on Neal Street, nestled in the margins of Covent Garden. Both stores were slightly crowded, messy, dusty, shambolic and utterly magical. I was always slightly awed by the Comic Showcase logo, a Brian Bolland-designed Joker fanning a deck of cards. I still absolutely love that picture.

Fast forward, and Comic Showcase relocates to its current and final resting place on Charing Cross Road, a prominent strip packed with book shops, and a perfect spot for passing trade, from locals to tourists. At the beginning of the decade, when me and many, many others were making a good living working in what was laughably referred to as “New Media”, before the dotcom bubble burst, Comic Showcase was a perfect central meeting point for lunchtime shenanigans.

Many a Thursday morning was spent with e-mails and IMs fired across London between B and I.

“Meet you 12.30pm at the ‘Show?”

After scooping up a small stack of comics, we would move on for coffee or pizza or maybe even a cheeky beer. But it started with an amble around The ‘Show.

Nowadays, I just don’t have the time to go and hunt down comics on a weekly basis. I just get them delivered to my door. But whenever I was in the vicinity, I always popped in to browse the racks.

And on Saturday, June 17th, it’s all over. By all accounts, the reason for closure is a 50% increase in rent, the leaseholders want to redevelop the area, and the management have decided not to relocate. (Another one of my favourite Charing Cross Road haunts, Murder One, has already moved across the street away from that strip).

Forbidden Planet may be bigger, Orbital may be cheaper, and Gosh! may have a broader selection of indies, but there was always something reassuring about Comic Showcase sitting right there in the middle of them all. I’ll have to make some time to get over there before they close to grab some of their going-out-of-business sale stock.

Farewell, Comic Showcase. Excelsior!


b unchtime said...

Let me know when you're going, and I'll meet you down at the 'Show one last time.

[PS: My Word Verification for this comment is "legegd" - as in "Comic Showcase was legegdary", presumably.)

AKA said...

Man, that would be Awesome! I'll e-mail you...

kyran said...

I've got a very dim memory of a comic showcase location before the neal st one - up some stairs I think & really cramped and stacked high - would like to know where that was