I'm a London-based freelancer who writes about costume design, performance art, pop culture deconstructions, literary evaluations, reviews and bucket lists on my blog Diary of a Self-Confessed Nerd
Published October 14th 2012
Nerds arent just for the weekday, nor just for basements
Forbidden Planet is located on Shaftesbury Avenue, London, and is perhaps one of the largest collection of nerd, geek and subculture material in Central. A huge complex of two floors, stuffed with merchandise ranging from busts and statues to hoodies and rayguns. If it is geek, nerd, or sci-fi related you are guaranteed to find at least something in Forbidden Planet.
There is a great tourist draw to this particular store because of how varied the selection is. The very front display cases reveal the reach of nerd and geek cultures, inviting you in now thanks to the explosion of superhero and comic paraphernalia now on the Hollywood screen. A life-sized Batman or Spiderman statue greets you at the door as well as the airtight display cases that always catch my eye. There is always a great range in price too; it is easy to find Superman figurines worth over £100, but it is also just as easy to pick up a Game of Thrones mug for £15.
The whole place is well lit, always busy and generally a decent environment to explore. It can be difficult to find staff who know about the graphic novel in your hand (but honestly it would be silly to think that any one person could and would be able to memories every comic and novel coming out each week), but they always have recommendations and I've never had a bad experience. I find the staff couldn't be more friendly and approachable when you are looking for products, (most recently I had a lovely gentleman who went around the back and looked through something like 300 comics to find the single issue I wanted.) or would like to see something outside of a display case. It is appropriate to remember that for a large store is only has a small team of people who need to serve a wide number of customers, so it is understandable that they are a little clipped at the tills when it is busy but a majority of the time everyone is as polite and friendly as you are to them; just the way it should be.
Oh yes, I forgot to specify one of the greatest features of Forbidden Planet; the literal basement of comics. I will refrain from making a joke about nerds and geeks being basement dwellers because that stereotype is so last decade. If you have an interest in comics, graphic novels and sci-fi/fantasy in general, then this is perhaps the first place you should go. Forbidden Planet boasts one of the largest collections that can be browsed, looked over and brought with ease. They have a huge backlog of graphic novels and collected editions, while also a wall-to-floor New Release section as well as a broad single-issues division that updates with every Wednesday. Another important part of heading down to Forbidden Planet for me is how often book signings are held and how easy it is to just turn up, head downstairs and meet the authors or pick up an already signed novel if you missed them. A lot of the time there are repeat signing and appearances because of how key Forbidden Planet has become to the author-audience relationship within London.
Being able to physically look at books and comics is handy, especially for a new audience who aren't quite sure where they would like to begin in their own reading adventure and superhero discovery, but it is something that is best enjoyed with a friend rather than experienced alone because of how daunting it can be. I especially like the convenience of being able to go into London, pick up a comic or two without having to wait for it to arrive in the mail, and then get on with the rest of my day. Forbidden Planet is also great if you are looking for a gift for a friend who is into popular sci-fi shows, movies with comic book origins, video games, or in general a hobbyist of the geeky kind. It always has something quirky like a Pac-Man hat or a Harry Potter wand which would make a great and completely unexpected birthday present.
Overall a recommend store not just for the convenience but for the environment and service.