My series of posts about comic book shops has been limited to London, because that’s where I live and have done for quite a few years. However, I have also lived elsewhere and found places to buy comics in these cities; I thought I’d share some memories to keep up the theme.
It makes me feel old by writing this, but twenty years ago I went to the University of Bristol. I had a great time, and Bristol is a wonderful place in its own right, but it was also great in that it had a comic book shop on Park Street. Park Street is a steep road going down from the Wills Building (part of the university) before it becomes College Green towards Bristol Cathedral. Book shops, record shops, restaurants and other non-chain stores filled the street, which saw a lot of visitation from the students because it was so close, and for me because it had the comic book shop.
The comic book shop was Forever People, about halfway down on the right hand side as you walk down. It was an old-fashioned shop, nothing fancy or trendy, just a packed interior with two levels, which could be seen as you entered the store. There might have been merchandise, but I only remember the comics because (a) that’s all I was interested in and (b) I couldn’t afford anything else at the time – I was a student. I remember that it wasn’t very well lit, even though it had a big window to let in sunshine.
My memories are not as sharp as I would like – I don’t recall the layout and I don’t remember the people who worked there – but I know it existed (even if I don’t have a photo of it) and my collection shows that I was buying books from that time. A specific memory I have is of reading Peter David’s The Incredible Hulk for the first time in the shop – I think I must have read of it in the pages of Comics International; I was a big fan of Chris Claremont’s X-books at the time, so the thought of reading anything else was quite novel for me. Unfortunately, my finances wouldn’t allow me to get an extra book, so I had to wait for a while before I introduced the book to my collection and went back to get nearly the whole run. The shop never seemed to mind people reading the comics on the racks, but that could be because they were on the upper level and they couldn’t see you so easily. It was a charming old shop, the type you don’t see any more, and I was very fond of it.
The shop is no longer there – I don’t know when it closed or what happened. I recently returned to Bristol for a reunion with old university friends and got the chance to wander the streets of my college days. Although the old shop isn’t there, a comic book shop has taken its place – a Forbidden Planet which, by the look of my photo (which is not the greatest; it was very difficult to get a decent angle, and there is a bus stop right in front) and my walk through the store, is part of the Forbidden Planet franchise but does not appear on its website. It has the same layout and design, and looks exactly the same as the London shop I posted about in this post. It warmed my heart that Bristol had such a big shop (it takes up a lot of space) and in such a prominent location, at the top of The Triangle, just up from Park Street. I’m sorry that Forever People no longer exists, but I’m glad that the students of Bristol can waste their beer vouchers on comic books and related merchandise.
[Edited to amend the name of the original comic shop to ‘Forever People’, which was thanks to Simon Pegg’s Nerd Do Well – Simon went to the University of Bristol at the same time as I did, and is a huge fan of 2000 AD.]