Occasionally I think that I may have spawned a tiny comic book nerd. Even more occasionally, I think that I may have spawned two tiny comic book nerds…and today was one of those days when I was mainly thinking the latter. We left the house with a masked-up Spiderman in tow and a Quidditch player aboard her brand new Nimbus 2000, cloak alternately flying in the wind and dragging in the mud. We were all exhausted after Eva’s birthday celebrations but we had a mission of a day ahead of us.
It’s Free Comic Book Day and for the last two years Nathan as braved Soho on his own with both kids because I was teaching English, in an unfortunate clash of schedules. Reuben would put air quotes around the “unfortunate” at this point.
But this year, I had no convenient excuse and I had a reason to head into town as we were meeting an old friend from across the seas for brunch at Bills in Brewer Street. If I was going to do FCBD I was going in prepared, and that meant sausages and coffee for me and a giant stack of pancakes for Nathan and our friend Leanne. Eva nibbled on a slice of toast (for £1.25 – she’s a cheap date) while Roo destroyed a kids’ breakfast. They’d put on the fanciest table, under a chandelier and with giant comfy green chairs. I could have stayed there a while longer, and moved on to the prosecco, but Nathan and the kids were keen to get their hands on the bounty of FCBD so we moved on.
Our first stop was Gosh in Berwick Street. It wasn’t planned that way but I’m starting to think that Nathan hadn’t planned this at all. We milled around the shop for a while before being brave enough to ask where the free comics were. And the answer involved joining a large queue some way outside the shop, stretching back as far as So High Soho. It began to dawn on me why a man with two onesie-d kids had called to us “prepare yourselves for a long queue” as he’d passed us on the way. So we joined that queue.
I’d made some miscalculations when leaving the house, like not checking the weather. Or thinking about whether we would be standing in the street for an hour. I thought it looked sunny out so I’d chance it with the Spring jacket and no cardigan. My logic was that I didn’t want to be carting an armful of winter coats round Forbidden Planet in the musty warmth of many men gathering in a small space. Sound logic! But it meant that I was chilly and the kids didn’t have coats either, so they were similarly chilly. It was sunny out, as I’d thought, but not warm and sporadically raining. I think there was a gale at some point. As I said, miscalculated.
So we had some oreos and played an alphabet game based on the Avengers version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, which Roo now knows off by heart. You see why I keep suspecting that he might be of the geeky persuasion? We also took the opportunity to get some action shots of Eva and Roo on the broomstick. Roo’s is more convincing than Eva’s because he can do proper
jumping flying and her feet barely left the ground. Still, it killed a few minutes.
Eventually we got in, and Nathan and the kids went downstairs to the Room of Comic Wonder while Leanne and I hung around upstairs trying to warm up. Leanne noticed a guy perched on the edge of the table we were at, and pointed out that he was signing a stack of books. She asked me whether he was a writer. I was pretty sure that if he was, it would be someone I had never heard of…until I realised that the books he was signing were “Looshkin” novels and that probably made him Jamie Smart, of “The Phoenix”. I had a sudden flash back to Reuben waving his comic in my face a week or two back and excitedly telling me that Jamie Smart had a new strip coming soon. I HAD heard of him! My kids had heard of him! Eva has her own “Bunny vs Monkey” book. Now, that was pretty exciting. I had a quick chat to him, to make sure I was correct and as soon as the kids came back upstairs I told them who I had found and they were pretty excited too.
So we left with them clutching a brand new, signed book each as well as their freebies. Everyone’s a winner.
Having got all the comics they wanted, there was little point in going anywhere else but I didn’t think my opinion on this would be welcomed so we went to Forbidden Planet. There, I trailed around after Eva, picking her robes up so they didn’t get trodded on. She already was starting to resemble a Quidditch player on a particularly muddy day. Leanne, Eva and I browsed the toys while Reuben and Nathan broke away from us and emerged later on with “The Infinity Gauntlet”, which will be a present for Roo’s birthday. And when I say “The Infinity Gauntlet”, I mean the graphic novel and not the £1200 prop replica in the window. Though trust me, Roo wanted both.
Reuben also got papped and tweeted out by Forbidden Planet, which he was super chuffed about. Spidey!
After all that it was time for coffee and the kids to have lunch. We left Forbidden Planet in the face of a gale force wind, which snapped off bits of tree and threw them down Shaftesbury Avenue and into my face. The first likely coffee stop I could see was in the newish St Giles development so we ran across the road and found a Caffe Nero we could hole up in until the storm passed. Which was about 5 minutes later, because the weather was crazy today. But it was good to sit down on their fanciest sofa (oh yes, we were living it up today) and have some restorative coffee, hot chocolate, sandwiches and cake before trying one more shop.
As I said, we hadn’t really planned this well. Last year, there had been cosplayers at Orbital Comics so the kids were keen to go back there to see them. But I now realise the cosplayers were there early doors and the free comics – along with the crowds- had gone by the time we were having coffee (1ish I think). So next time, we should probably head there first…or maybe to Forbidden Planet to get the grab bags first to have something to read in the queue. But if we’d done that this time, we wouldn’t have met Jamie Smart. Oh, the dilemmas!
So Orbital was quiet and we had everything we needed by then anyway. The kids browsed the kids’ corner for a while, with Roo/Spidey perched on a toadstool but we were all feeling the need to move on. On the way out, Eva started to read an age-inappropriate comic about a dolphin but a canny staff member stopped her before she got to the disturbing bit. Teach me to read the cover properly first next time.
As we’d gone down Charing Cross Road, we had noticed a group of people gathering outside a sweet shop, with a guide telling people to go in and buy their Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. I smiled wryly as we went past, with Eva still in full Quidditch gear but thought nothing more of it. Then we passed them again on the way back up towards Denmark Street and this time the guide clocked the Small Seeker and yelled “That’s perfect for this tour! Everyone follow her!” And just like that, Eva was leading a Harry Potter tour through the West End. No sooner had we parted ways from them than we spotted the Silent Disco West End tour dancing down the other side of the street, led my by one-time cinema buddy Shaun in a spangly jacket. It was the strangest of times, it was the weirdest of times. I might have dreamt it all.
After all that excitement it was a bit of a comedown to trawl the music shops of Denmark Street looking for chromatic tuning pipes while telling the kids to just STOP TOUCHING the instruments, and even more of a comedown to go home via Liverpool Street because we needed to check the lost property for a certain boy’s mobile phone. But we ended the day in a pub in Walthamstow, celebrating a friend’s birthday and the kids happily read their new comics for the duration of at least two pints. Happy days.