Sheffield sci-fi and comic store that lived long and prospered

One of the oldest science fiction, fantasy and comic book shops in the country has just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Friday, 11th January 2019, 10:56 am
Updated Monday, 14th January 2019, 16:37 pm
Dave Bromehead and his dad in the current shop in about 1987

Sheffield Space Centre was established in 1978 on London Road on Heeley Bottom and moved to the Wicker, its current home, in 1986.

First owner Peter Hammerton sold astronomical art and NASA images, hence the name of the shop, plus science fiction books and comics.

A Crisis book signing held at the shop around 1988

Current owner Dave Bromehead was dealing in comics part time at comic cons and via mail order from 1978. He took over the shop in 1980.

Dave said: 'I decided to take the jump and go into it full time because I enjoyed it all and I still enjoy it.'

Dave became interested in comics as a boy and said they helped him to learn to read. The shop has also helped to pioneer a schools reading scheme using comic books and graphic novels.

He said: 'I always liked that medium. When I was a kid, it's what taught me to read. My dad and my older brother used to read comics to me, then they got fed up reading to me all the time.

The original frontage of Sheffield Space Centre

'I used to read all the favourites like The Dandy, The Beano and The Valiant and a few years later I discovered the US comics.

The British ones were in black and white and the US ones were appealing because they were all in colour.'

He added: 'They teach you to read quite well because the vocabularies are quite varied, with words such as thermo-nuclear devices, especially the Marvel comics back in the 1960s!'

The shop supports the Excelsior Awards for children's literacy, involving the godfather of modern comics Stan Lee, who died last November.

A visitor from outer space? No, a cosplayer costume enthusiast browsing at Sheffield Space Centre in 1981

Ex-teacher Dave said: 'Each year we select a range of graphic novels. We include superhero stories, historical books and sometimes illustrated versions of classic novels.

'Any school that wants to take part gets a set. The schools vote on their favourites and every June we announce who got the most votes.'

Dave added: 'It started off in Sheffield but has now gone throughout the country, involving 100-plus schools.'

The recent spate of superhero films has obviously hugely increased interest in comics.

Dave Bromehead at the counter of the London Road shop in about 1981

However there's definitely something for everyone: 'There's huge varieties such as romance and history and all sorts of genres.

'A lot have been turned into graphic novels, where they collect six to 12 issues together.'

Japanese publishers have created hugely popular genres such as manga and anime.

Dave said: 'We probably did one of the first manga and anime conventions. We ran three of those and they're all over the country now with thousands of people attending them.'

He said that TV comedy The Big Bang Theory's portrayal of comic book stores as full of mainly lonely men who are obsessed with something unpopular is pretty out of date.

'That was the image you had back in the 1980s and 90s. Now it's completely different to that and manga is popular with women in particular, probably 70 per cent of manga fans are women.'

Inside Sheffield Sapce Centre in 1987

Comic books and graphic novels are still popular in the digital age, said Dave: 'People like to read a good story and enjoy the art. The impact of opening a book is much more than switching a screen on.'

He added there is also plenty of cross-fertilisation, with TV shows and films being turned into graphic novels and shows such as The Walking Dead originating in graphic novel form.

So how have Dave and hhis knowledgable team celebrated the big anniversary? Dave admitted: 'We've been so busy we haven't had time, we've just put up photos on Facebook.

'A lot of our customers have been with us a long time and now bring their kids along as well.'