My first furtive, uneducated fumblings in Forbidden Planet were nervous affairs. It was a coming out- an acknowledgement of my love of pen art and adventure and character driven writing. The thrill was as close to the forbidden dens of my youth, the under aged drinking, the shebeens and the crossing over into dangerous forbidden territory across the border or in West Belfast or across into other territory I was always told I shouldn't go. But I'm like that. I explore. I taste. I experience. I jump. Well, I used to. I'm 50 now and have inclings of mortality, so comic shops are perhaps as daring as it gets these days.
Was I really going back to my teenage love of comics? Would someone see me there? One of the shop assistants in the shop, today, professed a love for Abba and Queen, and said he didn't care who knew. That's life as it should be. Living la vida loca. Be you. Disco dance to Joy Division.
Be seen reading 50 Shades or Harry Potter and the Burning Saltire... That was after a while, the view I took at my love of comics. I am a comic user and am proud. I mainline graphic novels. I drink deeply from the font of Garth Ennis and Marvel and DC.
The shop became a place of therapy. A world of characters I hated, loved, wanted to swap places with, was glad I wasn't, and a place in which I could scan imaginations as eclectic and bizarre and colourful as my own not so hidden madnesses. And I found it when I needed it most, during a time of upheaval in my work life and my political work. It fuelled my need for narrative when my own inner narrative was all over the place. It transported me to other planets, other lives, other countries, other times. What other shops can do that?
The shop is a weekly treat for me every Thursday or Friday. I have less time in it I would like, but dream of a holiday day when I can scan the shelves for an hour or more, though I already spend far too much dosh in it as it is, so that could be dangerous.
The staff are great. They know their stuff and are friendly when prodded. I've had some great recommendations from them (as I only recently re-entered the comic world after quite a few years of absence). No bum steers. Just turns into different cul de sacs or onto long, winding highways...
The back catalogue of must reads are all there. Novels and collections of all kinds from the odd through to political and just sheer exhilarating from times gone by through to the most up to date brilliant pieces of work from all over the world. And authors who should all be writing for the screen.
The choice of music in the place along with the smell of print and the narrow walkways give the place a real Indy feel and I love the mix of people scanning the titles, from obvious cos players, emos young and old, people from all over the world-mangas of every nation- and a few "norms," of which I hope I don't fit in with TOO much.
My one complaint is the low shelves- for 50 year olds like me scanning a-z can be a dizzying affair. I would not be surprised if a few have fell faint to the floor after jumping up too quickly from c to d...
My treat of the week is buying a collection (like this week Jessica Jones, Alias book 3) and nipping across the road to Tinderbox for one of their wonderful custard tarts and a large black Americano and scanning pages of great art and dialogue.
Coffee, comics, great music and a universe to explore- you don't get that on every high street.