Black Books ‘inspiration’ comic shop celebrates 25 years

Gafin Austin in his Deadhead Comics shop. Picture: Scott Taylor
Gafin Austin in his Deadhead Comics shop. Picture: Scott Taylor
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IT’S the chaotic comic book store that’s thought to be the inspiration for cult TV comedy Black Books.

Now Nicolson Street’s Deadhead Comics is celebrating its 25th year in the Capital after more than two decades of ramshackle adventures.

The shop, which has welcomed an array of famous faces through its doors since it first launched in 1990, is home to thousands of comics and has built up a solid reputation among aficionados and casual fans alike.

But it has not all been plain sailing, with owner Gafin Austin admitting he was often so broke when the store first launched that he and his girlfriend slept alongside the comics.

And its riotous early existence has fuelled rumours over the years that Irish comic Dylan Moran based his hit Channel 4 comedy Black Books on the shop after visiting in the early 1990s.

A critical and cult favourite, Black Books follows the uproarious and frequently surreal goings-on at a London book store run by a dishevelled Irishman, played by Moran.

The similarities perhaps aren’t hard to see. On one occasion Mr Austin even chased customers out of the store with a broom after spotting them bending comic covers – a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in the off-kilter sitcom.

“When we started it was me and my girlfriend, and we had a Manny-type character that we couldn’t get rid of,” said Mr Austin. “Everything in that show happened in our comic book shop.

“It was quite unusual that Dylan Moran brought out Black Books after coming into the shop. But I don’t want to annoy him, he’ll be sending the lawyers round,” he said.

Mr Austin, who is originally from Cardiff, opened the store when he was just 24, after a string of odd jobs since his teenage years.

The 49-year-old is the first to admit the shop has had its fair share of ups and downs.

Two years ago, tragedy struck when friend and co-worker Mikie Jacobs – lead singer of local punk band Gin Goblins – died in tragic circumstances.

But despite the setbacks and difficulties, Mr Austin insists he’s never looked back.

“It’s been quite a while, and it’s not always been good,” he said. “When we first started, it was me and my partner at the time. We were living in the shop. There was no water or facilities. I had to start by selling my own collection, which was heartbreaking – I had a huge collection. The fact we have managed to survive these last 25 years is just absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t change anything, the bad or good.”