Orbital Comics was one of the three comic book shops of Central London, accompanied by Gosh Comics and Forbidden Planet round the corner. It won the Spirit Of Retailers Eisner Award and for years was my comic book store of choice coming into London. First emerging from the wreckage of B-Hive on Denmark Street, it set up shop in a basement on Old Carnaby Street in Soho beneath a tattooist. It moved above ground to Charing Cross Road close to Centre Point, until that was demolished to make way for the still-being-built Crossrail tube extension. Then it moves into the old Photographer's Gallery next door to the Arts Theatre and within spitting distance to Leicester Square tube station, it became the most convenient shop for being coming into the city. Also being right next door to where Diagon Alley is in the Harry Potter movies guaranteed a steady stream of pop-culture geeks discovering it existed. For years it also supplied review copies of comic books to Bleeding Cool, week in, week out.
A coupe, of years ago, everything changed, a falling out with Diamond Comic Distributors led owner Damien Keeng to pull his account and the shop became a graphic novel store, hosting another comic shop with an existing Diamond account to supply the weekly Wednesday Warriors of customers, as Damien tried to reinvent Orbital Comics as Orbital Space, a pop culture environment. He lost a lot of staff, for many the heart of the shop, with that change. But Karl, the longest working comic store clerk in the West End back to the early nineties, and the model for Bernard Black in Black Books, remained at the store and kept that heart beating. Damien began to use the gallery space inherited from the previous occupants more, installing a coffee shop and barista, a vinyl store, gallery prints, and the like, while still selling comic books. They became the exclusive vendor of Robert Crumb's most recent work, and regularly held art shows and launches. The store closed during lockdown, but did not reopen when the others did, as it underwent remodelling. The new-look Orbital Space was featured on Bleeding Cool, as the great and the good discovered a post-pandemic social and artistic life. But the new business model found it hard to prosper in London where people were working from home, tourists were scant and the West End was suddenly a lot emptier and the exhibitions seemed to flounder. Karl left, and with him, a bunch of customers. And now it seems enough is enough. There are rumours that Orbital may reopen (again) in the new year, and there are signs that Orbital as a name will continue online. But as a London West End shop, there is currently a space and the landlords have taken over-occupancy. A number of folk have been sharing their memories at the news online. I reached out to Damien this week, without response. But I did head by the place tonight on the way home.
It was indeed closed, even though Orbital's opening hours said otherwise.
There was unanswered, unpicked-up mail in the lobby.
But there was a light still on at the back…
- Dom Galliano: Found out yesterday that Orbital Comics in London has finally shut down. Really sad to see what was an Eisner winning, focussed on welcoming new comics audiences, come crashing down over last few years. Hope everyone that's been caught in this is doing ok. Also I lost £30 of credit! Big hugs to those that may have lost loads more. I wish I could have bought my stock back….
- Mike Collins: Bugger, really liked the shop always made a bee line to it when I was in London
- Paul B. Rainey: I've just learned that @orbitalcomics is closing. Orbital has been very supportive of my work for well over a decade. One time, I did a personal appearance there with @Paul_Cornell Another, I launched my GN There's No Time Like The Present. Thanks for everything.
- David Ziggy Greene: Gutted to hear Exhibited my work in their gallery & did book signings many times at Orbital. Staff were or became great friends. Bought so much great stuff there.
- David Baillie: Really sad to hear that London's Orbital Comics is no more. Enjoyed a few signings there, podcast interviews, launch parties, life drawing sessions… I'll miss that shiver I used to feel when people would rest a complimentary drink on top of the back issues.
- Danie Ware: End of an era – how absolutely tragic :(
- James Peaty: Not a shock. Used to be a great store. But they'd all but vacated the business before the pandemic hit… And more to the point: I met some great people who worked there down the years.
- Rob Williams: Aw no. Shame. Lots of good memories of Orbital.
- Dan McDaid: Rip the great Orbital Comics
- Ellie Egleton: Such sad news! I have wonderful memories at Orbital Comics including meeting @gregpak who signed my copy of Phoenix Endsong, a writer's workshop with @misscecil & meeting the cast of the Dark Phoenix film! I also sold copies of Power Punch Boot Camp at their @SmallPressDay event!
- James Benmore: Really sorry to hear this. One of my favourite shops to visit when I'm in central London.
- Colin Maxwell: Such a shame. My go-to comic shop in central London any time I visit. It shall be sorely missed.
- Chris Hurst: When I worked in London Orbital was my LCS. Stopped in most Wednesdays at lunch. Sad to see it go.
- Mat Greaves: Shame that. They used to have a great small press section.
- Joe: Absolutely tragic, but about time. That thing was limping along like a wounded animal, strung along by the owner of the business who didn't care for his customers in the end. How the mighty have fallen, used to be such a wonderful and welcoming experience
- Raz: That's a real shame. Before the recent changes it was the last "proper" comic left shop in London. Always visited in when I was in the big smoke . A really great store. Will definitely be missed.
- Alan Jones: Really sad but not unexpected. Not sure what was going on, but over the last couple of years, it kept changing – and every change seemed designed to discourage their customers from coming in. Seemed to be turning into a modern art gallery. No idea who they thought the markets was
- Martyn Waites: Really gutted to see that @orbitalcomics has closed. My favourite comic shop in London and one of the best anywhere. So sad.
- Tony Lee: Gutted to hear that @orbitalcomics has apparently closed down. Hoping it's not for good. They were the place of my first ever London signing and have always been good to creators.