There is something charming about the ageing comicbook store, with it's first edition of Marvel antiques or its ubiqituous collection of cherished heroes. However, at a time when CGI reigns over cartoons as the norm for the animated medium, ushering the emergence of three dimensional aspects, our long forgotten friend the comic book, seems to have little or no place. This may seem to be the case, but if you dig a little deeper, or blow off the dust so to say, you find that not only does the heralded comic book remain intact, but as testament and loyalty to the great page-turner, the comic book store still withstands todays technologic torrent with even more strength than ever.
Gosh! is a prime example of riding the storm by still managing to maintain the niche industry. The London store has lived comfortably for 25 years in Bloomsbury; where some may have faded away, Gosh! have gone from strength to strength, reinventing, revamping and upsizing to their new store in Soho. It's this kind of good news that grabs our attention leaving us to nimbly direct a few questions in their direction.
Dazed Digital: Why have Gosh! decided after 25 years to move 'home'?
Josh Palmano: Our part of Bloomsbury doesn’t have the vibe it had 25 years ago when the reading rooms were still in the British Museum. Many of the second hand and specialist bookshops have been replaced over the years by purveyors of tourist tat – mugs, T-shirts, fridge magnets baring the grinning face of the Queen Mum. Plus, the building we’re in recently changed hands and our new landlord wants to redevelop. This was going to result in a lot of disruption with very little gain for us at the end of the whole dreary process.
DD: Throughout your time on Great Russell Street, what has been your most memorable moment?
Josh Palmano: Maybe not memorable in the conventional sense; but with the help of the uplift that the first Tim Burton Batman film created, we cleared our loan with the bank in the summer of ‘89. Being free to make my own decisions without needing to justify my actions to moneymen is something I’ve cherished ever since.
DD: Callum Lumdsen, who is notable for designing the Tate Modern and British Museum's bookshops has now designed your store. Why was he important in the Gosh! revamp?
Josh Palmano: When we opened in 1986, the benchmark for comic shop decor was set pretty low. We decked ourselves out with the same fittings used by the high street book chains and that was enough to differentiate ourselves within our field.
I poked around on Google looking for a kindred sprit and came across a Bookseller article on ‘what the 21st Century bookstore should look like’. Callum was quoted in the article and had some things to say on the subject that resonated with me... Luckily he was an avid reader of comics as a kid and was happy to take on the project. It’s great working with someone who shares your own sensibilities, something I wouldn’t have found working with a traditional bookshop designer.
DD: What's going to be different about your new-look shop?
Josh Palmano: Aesthetically we’re going for an industrial feel with large old factory lights feeding down from a concrete ceiling, through the sort of air-con system that looks like it’s taken off the set of Alien. We’ve had a shelving system custom made with a raw galvanised finish and the overhead wooden stock shelves, sales counter and tabletops are made out of old desktops from a school in the East End. Sorting through those was a challenge – the chewing gum plastered to the underside had stuck fast when the sheets were piled up and it took real determination and effort to prize them apart.
The history of the wood has been retained in the messages the kids scratched into them over the years. The new shop is also much larger – the ground floor alone is a bigger space than our current two floors combined. We’ll also have room to stock more lines. I’m keen to carry some of the better street art books and there are some great zines out there that we haven’t had room for up until now.
DD: Storyteller Alan Moore, most famous for his creation The Watchmen, was clearly a huge finale for you and a perfect way to wave goodbye to the old shop. What do you wish now for the future of Gosh?
Josh Palmano: Gosh! is, as ever, a sum of the people who work there – their personalities, their tastes, their expertise. It’s a shop with its own identifiable character, and one that I’ve never encountered elsewhere. We’re carrying that smack-bang to the heart of Soho where we’ll just have a lot more space to do it in – Gosh! on a larger scale. We’ll continue to trumpet the best our industry offers, while hopefully making a living and having fun while we do it.