Friday, May 29, 2009

In which I take a moment to pimp some comic shops.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things that kept me from die hard comic geekery for so many years was the lack of a decent comic shop nearby that dealt well with female customers. I know that I'm not the only "girl geek" who's had to deal with this (this was an issue I had in video game stores, also), and I know I'm not the only one that it got to. I may have thick skin, but I really really hate being talked down to or treated like I've walked into the wrong shop. The mall in my hometown had a shop called Treasure Chest Cards and Comics, and it was pretty cool, but I was there more to buy TPs and Magic Cards than individual issues, so the experience was different. Also it closed down after only a year or so. Sad.

So finding good comic shops is like manna from Heaven. (Not to be confused with mana, which refreshes at the beginning of ever turn. And, yes, I used to play Magic, why do you ask?) When my dad moved to Boston when I was a teenager, I discovered New England Comics. I went there from time to time, but mostly to browse (which they were nice enough to let me do), because I was too intimidated to buy anything. This was before BW (Before Wikipedia), so I had no idea where to even start.

Since moving back to Boston a few years ago, I've re-discovered NEC and have since become a card carrying member. They're a local New England chain, which I enjoy supporting, and I'd say that about half the time I walk into my local brance there's a woman behind the counter. Rock on. I wish they had a better website, with an online subscription-service sign up, 'cause it but it's got the important Wednesday List on it (and for some reason a lot of The Tick...), and I'm starting to learn that a lot of what I enjoy about being a comic geek again is physically going to the shop, browsing the new arrivals, and maybe picking up something I hadn't planned on.

[A small tangent about Newbury Comics, which a lot of non-Bostonians ask me about when I mention my local comic shop. No. I don't know if it started with a big comic selction, but the last time I went into one - and that was years ago, admittedly - the comics had been relegated to a ghetto in the back, and I had to wade through a combination of Hot Topic leftovers and CD racks to get to them. It's great for some things, but if you're ever in Boston and want comics, find the nearest NEC branch.]

So that's my main staple of comic book love. But while I was in the Pioneer Valley this last weekend, I needed a comic shop to get my fix at (I walked by the Marvel and Manga-heavy "graphic novel" section and Barnes & Nobles) and my iPhone pointed me towards Modern Myths in Northampton (I love that name, because it's so true and one of the reasons I love comics). The first thing in the google search result was the phrase: "majority woman owned," so I knew I had to check it out. I wasn't disappointed. There was a woman behind the counter, a few rousing D&D games going on in the back, and they have this really cool "Story Set/Full Run" shelf that collects the entire run of a particular storyline and packages it for sale (I picked up Green Arrow: Year One, because, well. Ollie.). I haven't seen that at any other comic shop I've been in, and I think it's completely awesome. They had some great runs in there, too, and it was all I could do not to plunk down a hundred dollars on various stories.

Like I said: for me the experience of physically going into the comic shop and browsing, interacting, and buying is a huge part of my rekindled love for the genre. It's not just about how well stocked they are, because they can always order stuff for you, but about how I feel while I'm there. Seeing a woman behind the counter is nice. Seeing a queer woman is super nice. But when I walk up to check out with my pile of comics, not getting a surprised look for my combination of Supergirl, Detective Comics, Captain America, Flash, and whatever else I've picked up that week, is what will keep me coming back.

(If anyone out there reads this, or stumbles on it sometime, I'd love to hear about good comic shops in other cities. I lived in San Francisco for 2 1/2 months before discovering there was a great shop right down the hill from me. The internet could have saved me sooo much time.)


  1. I usually go to Outer Limit in Waltham or Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square. Both are independant and usually have a good selection. Outer Limit sometimes sells out, but the guy who owns it is incredibly nice. And always remembers titles I like, which is cool.

  2. Thanks for the info. I tend not to be in Cambridge or Waltham, just from the part of Boston I live in, but I'll add those to my list of "cool places to get comics".

  3. I'm sure I am far from the first non-Bostonion to head for Newbury Comics only to find myself intrigued yet disappointed, comics-wise. But again, that was in the years BW.

    Should you ever venture north, the two big comic stores in Toronto are Silver Snail and The Beguiling.

    Both have much to recommend them. The Beguiling in particular is great for many folks because it has the most amazing on-going collection of independent comics I have ever seen, and does a huge amount to support local creators (like Seth and Bryan Lee O'Malley -- when no one knew who these guys were). And on its lower floor it has tons of really cool non-comic visual art books, cards, prints, etc.

    Still, I have been to these stores and others in this city over the many, many years that I have lived here, but never felt super comfortable in any of them.

    But then (like you I guess) I found the place I've been looking for and it was right down the street all along. A fun, friendly, unassuming shop in the east end simply called Comics 'n' More. Run by a guy who loves comics and who has female staff and customers, and who despite being somewhat shy goes out of his way to make anyone who walks in feel comfortable.

    Like the woman says, manna from Heaven.

  4. If you ever come to England I can recommend shops in Norwich (Abstract Sprocket), London (Orbital Comics), Brighton (Dave's Comics) and Colchester (can't remember the name but it's just outside the train station).

    All are friendly and helpful