This Saturday marks Local Comic Shop Day, a special event sponsored by the Comics Professional Retail Organization. In addition to encouraging consumers to support their local, small businesses, Local Comic Shop Day seeks to encourage face-to-face, consistent communication among nerds. For many fans of classically “nerdy” properties, particularly among geek communities in rural areas, local comic book shops are beacons of acceptance, hosting D&D and Magic: The Gathering nights and giving the weirdest Americans a place to feel at home.
In honor of Local Comic Shop Day, Inverse’s writers gathered to reflect on the shop that launched their obsession with comics. No two writers pointed out the same store, but many described the same sensation upon finding their local shop: the feeling that we had finally found our home.
First Comic Shop that Mattered to You: Collector’s Corner in Burlington, NJ. They’re now called Heroes Comics & Sports.
Why? Collector’s Corner was this catch-all nerd culture shop in the Burlington Mall that my dad would bring me to when I was a kid. I remember being really thrilled that he was letting me accompany him on errands. I remember being freaked out by the super sexual comic book covers, but this was in 2000 or so, and Fathom was big. All the female X-Men had these huge, angry, insane-looking breasts. Anyway, I was this little girl walking around a dimly lit store by myself. No one knew what to do with me, though, so I just slipped the comics I wanted onto the counter, when my dad bought his baseball cards and weird, dark books, like Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children or Spawn.
First Comic that Mattered to You: Cassandra Cain as Batgirl, by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott, blew my mind in 2000. She was the first character I felt anxious to follow, and I liked how it was okay for her to be angry or anxious or secretive. It was also super cool to me that she didn’t show her face in costume.
Comic Shop You Frequent Now: I visit Desert Island in Brooklyn a lot, but I still have my pull list at Comicazi in Somerville, MA. They ship me all my comics, and they send me regular emails asking if I want to add any titles. It’s incredible how they remember what I like. Also, I have to give a shout-out to AstroZombies in Albuquerque, NM. I visit them when I’m staying with my folks, and their posters and shirts and merch are unrivaled.
First Comic Shop that Mattered to You: Fallout Shelter in New Brunswick, NJ (now in Highland Park)
Why? Freshman year of college is hard on everyone, but it’s especially hard to make friends when you still live at home. While I struggled socially during those first few months, I was thankful to call the appropriately-named Fallout Shelter home, even for just a few hours between classes. I had been going to Fallout Shelter since high school — it’s when and where I got sucked into Blackest Night and Marvel’s first Civil War — but in college, I really needed Scott Snyder’s Batman to help me ease into my new surroundings. Fast-forward a year later, I’m with like 50 of my new fraternity brothers to attend a formal date night at a dance hall around the corner from the shop. It was emotional for me to see how far I’d come.
First Comic that Mattered to You: The Amazing Spider-Man #583, with newly-elected President Obama on the cover. I wasn’t interested in world affairs when I was 16, but I knew it was a big deal to see one of our most out-and-proud nerdiest chiefs with Spider-Man. I’m also protective of my run of Marvel’s Agents of Atlas, the ragtag team led by Agent Jimmy Woo.
Comic Shop You Frequent Now: I still pop into Fallout Shelter sometimes, which has relocated into nearby Highland Park where I also did a ton of growing up. But more often I find myself at Midtown Comics in Times Square. You can’t beat getting comics in the neighborhood comics were born.
First Comic Shop that Mattered to You: Atlantis Fantasyworld in Santa Cruz, CA
Why? Atlantis Fantasyworld was this old-school local comic store that’s been around for ages. Even their website is from the ‘80s! Families living in the city would grow up with that store, then take their kids there years later. It’s very much of a local establishment vibe. Also, it’s where they filmed the comic book shop scene in Lost Boys! Atlantis was the first comic shop I ever frequented regularly when I started college at UC-Santa Cruz. I remember going in with no comic book knowledge telling the shopkeeper, “Yeah, I saw Avengers and liked Iron Man? What are some good comics?” I felt like such a fake geek boy. She helped me out a lot though. Was always friendly during the years I lived there, even though I was a nervous spaz.
First Comic that Mattered to You: It’s where I bought issues of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run, still my all-time favorite superhero comic.
Comic Shop You Frequent Now: I now go to the Secret Headquarters in Los Angeles. It has a very different vibe than Atlantis, but good people.
First Comic Shop that Mattered to You: Bulletproof Comics in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY
Why? The first time I walked into Bulletproof, I was already a teenager and finally starting to get into the world on my own. I used to skateboard so the first time I went into Bulletproof was because it also has doubles as a skateboard shop, and my friend wanted to pick up some bearings for his board. Bulletproof was more than just a comic book store, though. As the only comic book store in the East New York, Flatbush, Canarsie area of Brooklyn, it was the only place that nerdy kids could go to be with other like minded individuals. The shop would host Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments and to this day, you could still walk in and see people playing Yu-Gi-Oh!. It’s kind of like what Pop’s Shop was in Luke Cage. With all the violence in the surrounding neighborhood, you knew you could go to Bulletproof.
First Comic that Mattered to You: Honestly, my first comic book wasn’t your quintessential comic book hero book. I used to collect The Simpsons comic books and still have them. I used to sit on my couch and laugh for hours at Bart’s hijinks.
Comic Shop You Frequent Now: When I decided to pick up reading comic books again, the first place I went to was Bulletproof. When I’m in Manhattan, though, Forbidden Planet is definitely the place to go.
First Comic Shop that Mattered to You: Clint’s Comic Books in Kansas City, MO.
Why? Clint’s is a small, nondescript looking space shoved into a flat-faced grouping of buildings in downtown KC. Up until I was about 16, I’d gotten all my comics from larger bookstores — Barnes & Noble-type things. But one of my closest friends, Gabe, took me in one day and I very quickly fell in love. I only went back a few times because, as a teenager, comics weren’t really something I had money to spend on. Despite my brief love affair with Clint’s, I still credit it as the first shop that meant something to me.
First Comic that Mattered to You: An issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that I found in my grandparents’ basement when I was growing up. I was probably eight years old or so and pulled it out from in between a stack of board games. I’m pretty sure it was my uncle’s from when he was a kid; I’ve never asked him about it, but I still remember the creased cover and how the bright colors had faded. The details of what specifically happened in the issue are fuzzy, but Peter Parker dragged me down hard into the world of comic books after that.
First Comic Shop that Mattered to You: Empire Comics in New Albany, IN.
Why? Empire is your typical small-town hole in the wall. It’s tiny, but it was and still is, to my knowledge, the only comic shop on the Indiana side of the river. Perhaps most annoyingly, the door opens to a slight drop, meaning anyone that’s coming to the store for the first time inevitably misses a step and shocks themselves awake. I spent years playing Magic: The Gathering in Empire’s back room. I take a look whenever I’m in town, but each time it seems even smaller.
First Comic that Mattered to You: I spent my teen years mostly doing board games and D&D rather than buying the comics at my local shop. The first comic that really, truly mattered to me might have been Y: The Last Man. I read all of it on my computer over one truly hot summer in Wisconsin. I’d spend hours every day sitting in the middle of a studio apartment without air conditioning, sweating on the bed and getting lost in Brian K. Vaughan’s world.
Comic Shop You Frequent Now: Austin Books and Comics. My wife actually works there.
Photos via Flickr / hugochisholm