I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Quest takes me to London

For the last three years I have lived in Newbury near the M4. That has been a bonus as a comic collector because I am just over an hour to Bristol, and all the goodies held at Forbidden Planet, Excelsior! and Area 51. Keep going, and you head towards Cardiff, which will be a subject of a very long blog. Further south, and within striking distance there is what I consider to be the best kept secret on the south coast: Ian's Comics and Books that is based in Portsmouth.

Of course, I am even closer to London which takes about an hour on a train. And in the last 3 years the comic dealers there have made more and more money out of my need to buy comic books. It's gotten so bad that I have developed a strategy as to where I need to go and what I want to spend. Now, if I was to blow decent cash on trophy books I would visit 30th Century Comics in Putney and Krypton Komics in Tottenham, trouble is with these guys are quite a lot out of the way getting to and from the centre of London and I have to be in a serious mood to be spending the extra coin.

I'm moving away from the south shortly, and I decided that the last London haul (for what might be a long time) should be one where I pick up the most stuff I could get for the best price, and this would utilise the second strategy. That means getting into Paddington station and then take the tube straight to Leicester Square to visit Orbital Comics.

Orbital appears to be changed a lot in the last 3 years, and I think the first time I went there would've been in the old shop, when they moved into a much sexier site off Great Newport Street. Before laying into them too much, I will state for the record that I believe that Orbital is the finest comic shop that I have visited in the UK. Why? It just feels that somebody somewhere has thought about how a comic shop should look in a retail world of soft lighting and cool merchandising in the 21st Century. Nowadays, I get the impression that they are slimming down the amount of back issues that they carry as well as the fact that they don't have as many of the high end books they used to. Also, sadly, they very don't seem to have new stuff appearing in the back issue boxes (which has all ways astounded me as they have loaded longboxes underneath the main merchandise which must be exclusively opened for comic marts). This is a shame because the visit I made today meant that I was unable to spend a bean in there, and believe me I tried.

Walking out, I head north, past Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue (few back issues held here!), and move up to to World of Comicana... But it doesn't seem to be there. I mean there is a comic shop on the site, and it seems to be manned by the same geezer that ran Comicana. Wow, we have a new shop called A Place in Space. And boy-oh-boy, after a lick of paint and a serious re-fit, what an improvement. I genuinely felt sorry for the guy who ran Comicana, it was poorly lit, stank of rotting cardboard, and it was freezing in the winter. As a result it, was never a particularly nice place to shop, but after a refit and lots of newer merchandise I was able to fill a few spaces in my Batbooks, as well as those in other collections.

Out of A Place of Space, I wandered towards the British Museum and went to Gosh! Comics. Always, I head past the graphic novels and descend downstairs to the Back Issue department. Gosh! is a bit odd, as their back issues policy is keeping the amount of back issue stock low yet the quality of the books are high. If anything is there too long, then they knock it down to a £1 or 50p. This was how a load of Nightwings and Detective Comics were snapped up and I didn't have to break the bank.

And then I went upstairs and something quite special happened. I overheard a few blokes chatting about a documentary they were doing. As a natural response, and knowing that media types frequent Gosh! (rumour has it, Gosh! counts Jonathon Ross as an owner) I rolled my eyes until I heard a familiar voice. A low, Northampton accent bellowed across the store. I walked past the three middle aged men, and I look at them individually. Could it be? I put my comics on the counter, I look at the cashier, he looks at me. I look at him as if to say that's him isn't it, and he looks at me as if to say yeah it is, and he's kind-of-a-regular. I look down at the counter Dodgem Logic is spread over the counter. I pay for the books. I get butterflies in the stomach, and I take a step back. Bear in mind I've never 'marked out' to this extent before, I decided that this is an opportunity that couldn't and shouldn't be missed.

I politely wait until the three men stop chatting and then I make eye contact with one of the most important creators in comic history. What should I say, what should I say... Have you seen Mallrats when Brody goes absolutely postal upon finding that Stan Lee was at his Mall? Well, I'm British we don't do that, I had already decided that I wasn't going to randomly buy a copy of Dodgem Logic and get the great man to sign it as that would be incredibly crass. I move forward and I offer my hand and I say:

“I just want to thank you for all the enjoyment that you've given me over the years.” And he takes my hand shakes it and tells me that he thanks me for being very kind! And then the Great Beard leaves the shop and seems really happy that this skulking 33 year old man has marked out in a totally understated way.

As I leave the shop, a couple a moments later, it dawns on me: I've just shaken Alan Moore's hand. I've met Alan Moore. And I've personally expressed gratitude to one of the most important comic book creators in the history of comics. Alan Moore. It's Alan Moore. Yeah!!!!

A trip up the Northern Line, I get off at Camden Town and to Mega City Comics. Cool shop, managed to refrain from spending £6K on Amazing Spiderman #1, and bought this trips earliest books for today's Quest Batman 428 and 429 for a coupla quid. Now I get to find out if why the readership of Batman at the time ordered the hit on the Jason Todd. And, that was the end of the haul!

So, what did I get:

Batman: 428, 429, 474, 554, 555, 556
Tec: 720, 721, 825, 826, 827, 829, 830, 831, 832, 833,
Shadow of the Bat Annual #1million
Legends of the Dark Knight 1992 Annual
Nightwing: 21, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 39, 49, 51,53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60
Azrael (v1): 8, 9, 18 and 55
Azrael (v2): 1
Robin 3: Cry of the Huntress: 4 and 5

Check em out...

This haul was excellent as I hoped it would be as I knew I wouldn't be in London for a long while, although that wasn't the best bit of today. Shaking Alan Moore's hand was.

(originally this was published on the 14/5, but I somehow deleted it!)