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Forbidden Planet

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by Karys McEwen (subscribe)
Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
Published May 5th 2011
Not to be mistaken for the 1950s feature film of the same name, Forbidden Planet is a store crammed with the cream of cult entertainment. It truly is every sci-fi nerd's wildest dream come true. As the world's largest and best-known science fiction and fantasy retailer, they are the leading UK stockist of the latest comics and graphic novels.

Forbidden Planet has 9 stores across the country, with perhaps the most famous being the renowned London Megastore on Shaftesbury Avenue. This shop is a Mecca for comic geeks. From the most loved super-heroes to their wickedly villainous enemies, it's a whole world of Battle Royale, Dragon Ball Z, Fantastic Four, Hellboy, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men and much, much more.

Other than comics there are also toys and collectables and accessories, a huge range of DVDs of cult films and television programmes and in terms of gaming they stock core rulebooks, supplements and fiction from the world's most popular and alternative games. They also have an incredible accumulation of books on science fiction, science fact and cult and pulp titles that you simply will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. And although I cannot promise that Tolkien will be signing your copy of The Return of the King, they do host frequent book signings with the finest names in the genre and stock a range of previously signed copies.

If you do journey to Forbidden Planet, let's hope the force is with you. The store is a challenging maze and if you're looking for something specific then you may have some difficulty navigating the seemingly random display. Luckily the staff are impressingly well-equipped enough to know where everything is by memory, so do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Looking for Manga? Basement, left-hand corner. Seeking a life size Battlestar Galactica figurine to complete your collection? First floor, turn right after the stack of Doctor Who DVDs. Seriously, the team behind Forbidden Planet are amazingly shrewd and wonderfully friendly too.

The store may be missing that somewhat local comic store vibe and therefore certain dedicated comic geeks may get uppity and refuse to enter, but Forbidden Planet has everything and you will probably find it difficult to leave empty handed. And while it is sometimes cheaper and more convenient to purchase online, there really is nothing quite like seeing the sheer magnitude of the megastore and losing yourself among the merchandise and literature. Plus having the time to browse and ability to flick through the books is much more delightful than merely glancing at pages on the net.

So whether you'd head straight to the basement to devour the entire Batman catalogue or browse the products awkwardly, it is worth a visit. Even if you are really not a fan of sci-fi, it doesn't matter. Pop in for the experience and you may just find yourself curiously roused by the overwhelming collection of figurines and comics. It's all very, very niche but regardless whether you fit into that niche or not then you might just stumble across something that takes your fancy or at the very least kill some time marvelling over the sight of roof-high shelves of books and giggling at the geeks drooling over the newly released Star Wars collectable.

I am certainly not an expert on the subject; I can't say that I particularly know my Gandalf from my Green Goblin, but I do know a good store when I see one and Forbidden Planet is one of the largest and most exceptionally stocked comic books shops in London. It is a treasure trove of everything you would ever want to buy of an alternative persuasion and more. And if it isn't here, you're probably not going to find it; that's how well-stocked they are.

Already visited and are hungry for more? You can keep on the cutting edge of what's happening at the store by visiting their website, or joining the Forbidden Planet Newsletter to get up-to-the-minute news about signings, events, new releases competitions and special offers.
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Why? Because as far as comic book stores go, Forbidden Planet is definitely in a world of its own. Sci-fi geeks beware: you may collapse from the rapture.
When: Monday to Wednesday 10am to 7pm, Thursday 10am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday 10am to 7.30pm, Sunday 12pm to 6pm
Where: 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden)
Cost: Free
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