We’re living in an age where comics, however rare, however collectible, however new, are really just a swipe away on a smartphone, which is pretty awesome… sometimes. But what about the feel of setting foot into an actual comic book store? What about the bin rifling, the collectible figurine gawking, the retro gumball machines in the doorway experience that says so much about who we are as a culture? You would think that with all the online bargains, places like that would be long defunct. But they aren’t. In fact, cool comic book hangouts are on the rise. They’re doing better than ever.
Would you like to know why? It’s because they’re powered by readers who value experience over a price tag. So while the bookstores have all but faded into the background of society, the comic book store, with its basement gaming parties and secret Magic: The Gathering meeting nights, lives on.
Even though we still value these stores, the accessibility and convenience of Internet purchasing have changed what we’re shopping for. We used to be shopping for comics, just comics, which gave the megastores a major edge. But we don’t have to be nearly so picky now that the world has morphed into a great big shopping oyster where you don’t even have to leave your living room in order to uncover a collector’s edition.
Comic book shopping is all about the experience. It’s about finding those little obscure shops with a million “secret rooms” and pulling up to the curb with butterflies, wondering what’s inside. It’s about rediscovering our love of the classics and developing a taste for variety. Today, we’re journeying into indie territory; we’re flipping through the pages of unorthodox graphic novels and venturing past the caped heroes. Some of us are looking for the Silver Age legends. Some of us just want the newest thing hitting the racks. But all of us who are pulling up into comic book shop parking lots today are seeking something special. We’re seeking a community, a place where we can, as Philadelphia shop owner Ariell Johnson so aptly put it, “lay out our nerd stash” with pride.
Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy, Austin, TXPhoto: Dragon's Lair Austin / Facebook
If the gaming aspect of nerddom appeals to you and you like a side of humor on your comic book jaunts, it’s high time you gathered at the Dragon’s Lair. This shop gains notoriety because of all of the cool nerdy things that are happening between these walls. An event is set to take place each and every night in this fine establishment. There’s no shortage of comics or comic paraphernalia when the dice are being tossed around, either. Here, you’ll find a wide array of comics, toys, posters, figurines; even comic book high heels are in stock. Not sure where to turn next on your journey through the comic realm? Check out their rotating light box of staff selections.217Agree or disagree?
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Philadelphia, PAPhoto: Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse / Facebook
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse is a sneaky little piece of awesome. Hidden in plain sight on an unsuspecting Philadelphia side street, it is the full embodiment of nerd culture. Diversity really drives the atmosphere and, of course, the events list runs the gamut from art to book signings to screenings of The Walking Dead. The sophisticated modern interior features exposed brick and pops of color, bringing that comic book dynamic into the ambiance of the building, which is a nice little twist that automatically makes it feel like home. Patrons are encouraged to hang out with their nerd stashes and enjoy some coffee and community conversation. This is a must see for comic book enthusiasts on every level of readership.218Agree or disagree?
New Dimension Comics, Pittsburgh, PAPhoto: New Dimension Comics / Facebook
Pittsburgh is a secret hub for atypical art forms and often pays homage to graphic novels. If you enjoy cruising dead malls, participating in Dungeons and Dragons tournaments, Pokemon contests and “magical gatherings” and you’re always on the hunt for rare collectibles, you’ll love New Dimension Comics. As one of the last stores standing in a declining, mile-long mall, this hidden gem hosts several well-publicized events, including the 3 Rivers Comiccon. Its close vicinity to other popular comic book landmarks like Toonseum adds to the allure.146Agree or disagree?
House Of Secrets, Burbank, CAPhoto: House of Secrets / Facebook
This place is literally covered in comics from the floor to the ceiling and it’s well-known among the locals for the knowledgeable staff and genuine atmosphere. If you’re looking for a California comic shop with a neighborhood feel and a sizable collection of well-placed goods ranging from toys to games to collectibles, you’ll want to unravel this House of Secrets. The strategic Burbank location allows them to feature free parking as an added bonus and from there, the drive to LA should take under 20 minutes.119Agree or disagree?