In 2014, my wife, my in-laws, as well as my sister-in-law and her husband, took an April trip to New York City to see the sights. Only a couple of us had been there before (I twice previously) so it was a fun time to see one of the world’s great cities and get to do touristy stuff, see some Broadway shows, and eat good food. One of the other things I wanted to do while there was to visit at least one of the world’s great comic book shops, because this was an experience I had missed out on during my two previous visits. And there was one I knew I had to visit, because of the high likelihood of it having a wide selection of TARDISes.
Back in July of 1986, during my first visit to NYC as a kid, my dad, sister and I were just traveling through on our way back to Mississippi from a trip we’d made to Maine. We arrived, mid-afternoon. Dad had already asked me what I wanted to do while we were in the Big Apple and I’d said I wanted to visit a comic shop. I’d had scant little experience with comic shops of any sort, but knew that they existed in the world. I figured a New York City comic shop would be the ultimate version of one. Only, I had done no research in advance (how could you as a kid in 1986, really?) and was left guessing as to how to find one. Did we start our search by looking one up in the phone book? No. Didn’t occur to us. Instead, we consulted the advertising section of Ambush Bug #1, which I had brought with me on the trip. It featured a tiny yellow ad for an outfit called Centor Comics, located at 122 E. 42 Street. Sounded like a comic shop.
Dad drove us there, we found parking, and then discovered the address was located somewhere within a high rise office building, (which Google Maps now indicates is called the Chanin Building, I think) located next door to the Chrysler Building. Kids in tow, Dad ventured inside, consulted an office directory for Centor Comics, and we soon found ourselves riding an elevator up more stories than I’d ever climbed before. We shared the elevator with a middle-aged guy. When we reached the floor we were looking for, the guy got out too and we went our separate ways. It took us a little bit to find our way around the hallways of the floor until we reached the door of Centor Comics. It was not a comic book store. It was an office, complete with pebbled glass door. We knocked and who should open it but the guy we’d ridden up with in the elevator. Turned out, he was not associated with Centor Comics, itself, but shared the office space with the guy who was. It was a very tiny office and looked to consist of a single room and, I assume, a bathroom. He explained that Centaur Comics was not a retail outlet at all, but a mail-order business. He invited us in and opened up a file cabinet drawer to reveal a row of comic books neatly bagged with backing boards. I had no idea that people stored their comics in filing cabinets. I’d never even seen a bag or a backing board in my life. I also had no idea what comic book I might want to buy, should they have it, and since this wasn’t the guy’s business anyway Dad decided, wisely, that it was time for us to move on.
Back in the car, we regrouped and decided that if Centor Comics had not worked out, maybe we needed to just go to the source of my favorite books and head to DC Comics headquarters. We already knew where it was, because its 666 5th Avenue address was printed in every DC book, including my Ambush Bug issue. Surely they would have comics, right? If nothing else, I might get to meet my hero Keith Giffen, creator of Ambush Bug. Unfortunately, we were in town on July 4, 1986, which was not only the 4th of July celebrations but also one of the days of the three day Liberty Weekend celebration marking the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty (still covered in scaffolding from its then ongoing restoration). And when we arrived at the DC Offices, located another elevator ride up another tall building, we found them closed for the holiday. I was still able to look through a window in their office door, where I could see a dummy of Clark Kent seated in their reception area, reading a copy of the Daily Planet. It was disappointing, sure, but still cool.
I was out of ideas after that, so we decided to try visiting the Empire State Building.
Here’s where it gets officially weird.
After we pulled out of our parking space near 666 5th Avenue, and turned onto 5th Ave itself, we suddenly found that our red 1976 Chevy Nova was the only car on the street for as far as the eye could see. We headed south west, curious as to how we’d suddenly found ourselves in a seemingly deserted Manhattan. It was exceptionally weird and very Twilight Zoney. Then, suddenly, there were flashing lights and sirens and three long black limousines filled with guys in dark glasses, flanked by at least a half dozen motorcycle cops, went flying by us in the other lane. The guys in dark glasses all turned and looked over their glasses at us with odd expressions on their faces. Then, just as quickly as they had arrived, they had passed us and had vanished into the distance.
When we reached the Empire State Building and parked again, Dad found a cop and asked him what had just happened to us. It seems that the entirety of 5th Avenue had been blocked off so that President Reagan’s motorcade could make the trip south to lower Manhattan, where the Statue of Liberty celebrations were soon to begin. We had managed to slip through the secret service’s security efforts entirely by accident. They’d blocked off 5th avenue and all of the cross streets to traffic, but had no control over cars that had already been parked on the street within that secure corridor. Somebody probably got fired because of us.
With such a disappointing lack of a NYC comic shop experience already under my belt, I was determined in 2014 to remedy this. I did my research well in advance and had a target in mind: Forbidden Planet. It’s one of the world’s most famous names in nerd shops, with the original London FP location being at the top of the planet’s nerd shop heap and land of Doctor Who merchandise. My bet was that FBNYC would have a pretty wide selection themselves, and in that I was not wrong. Just about any recent release of the Character Options toys and the Eaglemoss figurines were all on display there, save for the Eaglemoss TARDIS, which had sadly sold out. They had a couple of other TARDISes I decided to go home with, though.
The first of these was part of a two-piece set of official Doctor Who porcelain salt & pepper shakers. The set includes a porcelain TARDIS and a porcelain Dalek. Being porcelain, the TARDIS has little in the way of hard corners. Everything is smooth and rounded and glazed. But it’s a high quality product, with nice-looking print on the door and roof signs, and enough highlighting and lowlighting in the paint work for the panels that it gives the whole piece better visual definition. It’s clearly modeled after the Eccleston/Tennant TARDISes. A very satisfying piece. The Dalek is similarly glazed and smooth, with a stumpier than usual eye stalk, but respectable plunger and gun arms. There’s not much in the way of paint detailing beyond a bit of gray on the arms and stalk and on each of the two lights on its head, which are pointy and look kind of like devil horns. I have a mind to repaint it, just to add some more detail. I mean, really, in how many stories were the Daleks jet black? Rarely, and when they were it was usually with silver or gold Dalek-bumps.
Looking at my new set of salt & pepper shakers, I had to wonder, though, which one was intended to be the salt shaker and which the pepper? There was no labeling whatsoever. Then it hit me: for the entirety of their existence, Daleks have been described as looking like angry pepper-pots. Of course the Dalek was the pepper shaker. To quote one of my comedian heroes, Jimmy Pardo, “That’s a nice piece of business.”
I’ve yet to put salt or pepper in either.
I give the Shaker TARDIS four TARDi.
As to the second TARDIS I purchased, we’ll have to wait for a future post for that reveal, but even then I won’t be able to say much about it for reasons that may be obvious to those who have seen the episode in which that particular TARDIS featured.
(TO BE CONTINUED)