When I was a kid, there was nothing like opening a new comic book. You’d slide it out of its plastic and there it was, so light and easy to take anywhere. I loved reading in the kitchen, sitting curled up next to the wall heating vent. Comic books are popular for a reason; specifically, they are transportable, easy to read, and can satiate the desire for written and visual art simultaneously.
Comic book stores also have their own devotees, and the origin of the first comic book store is hotly contested. According to reporter Dan Gearino, author of 2017’s Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us a New Geek Culture, knowing which came first really depends on how a comic shop is defined — are you looking for a location that sells purely comics, not books or other items? Many of the first places that sold comics were more junk shops than anything else. Read Gearino’s breakdown, and it will take you on a fascinating tour of early comic shops and their respective cast of characters.
Comic book shops can be so much more than just somewhere that sells you a beloved comic title, so I’ve compiled this list of unique comic stores across the USA. Some host events or game nights, have zine collections, sell merch, and have online storefronts so you can support them from afar. But what they all have in common is that they provide their customers with a variety of goods and a memorable experience.
Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash
The Stash is owned by director Kevin Smith and named after characters played by Smith and Jason Mewes. Avid comic book fans can find it at 65 Broad Street in Red Bank, New Jersey, but if that’s too far for you to travel, it also has a very convenient online shop. The store sells valuable comic books, books, signed editions, as well as comics from Secret Stash press and an absolute plethora of merch from Smith’s films. If you do need an incentive to visit, The Stash also hosts book signing events. Their hours vary a bit; scroll down to the bottom of their webpage for the details.
Quimby’s Bookstore is a Chicago-based comic haven, specializing in indie zines and underground comics. The original Wicker Park location was founded in 1991, but the store is currently located at 1854 W. North Ave. Hours are Thursday — Monday: 12-6. Some items are sold by consignment, so any aspiring comic/zine writers out there should check the website. As their website promises, they are “specialists in the importation, distribution, and sales of unusual publications, aberrant periodicals, saucy comic booklets, and assorted fancies. As well as a comprehensive miscellany of the latest independent ‘zines that all the kids have been talking about.” You had me at aberrant, Quimby’s.
Floating World Comics
Floating World Comics, based in Portland, Oregon, is bound to be extra rad due to the city’s love of all things arty. They are so much more than just a comic shop — they also have perpetually changing art on their walls, and they have hosted hundreds of events, signings, readings, performances, and exhibits. Additionally, Floating World has created its own press and is part of a wider publishing collective. The shop itself has comics for all ages, children’s picture books, small press and self-published works, mini-comics, and zines. They will take items on consignment. Visit them at 400 NW Couch St on Monday to Saturday 11-7 and Sunday 11-6.
Cartoon Art Museum Bookstore
This comic store knows its history as it shares space with San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum Bookstore. The original location moved spaces to 781 Beach Street in 2017, and alongside the galleries, there is a screening area, education space, store, library, and collections facility. You can find a wide range of comics here, with shelves packed with Edward Gorey compilations, art history, do-it-yourself books, and comic and cartoon merch.
Los Angeles’s Secret Headquarters is my pick for the best-named and best “about” page. Clearly, the team wants to have fun as much as they want to sell you comics. They recently reopened at 3137 Glendale Boulevard, and their online and brick-and-mortar shops provide zines, art books, graphic novels, pins, patches, and more. Visit their freshly opened location between 11-7 every day.
Comicazi has been around for 20 years and there are events at the shop every night. Just a small sampling of what they host includes board game nights, Magic tournaments, comic book clubs, and much more. You’ll find them at 407 Highland Ave in Somerville, Massachusetts, and they are open from 11-8 every day except Sunday. On Sunday, their hours are 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Since 2013, Comicazi has been publishing works by Bad Kids Press, a collective of comic book writers, artists, and novelists.
Desert Island Comics is unique for its lack of rules on consignment. Artists set their price and split the revenue with the shop, a DIY move that embodies the shop’s championing of artists. You can discover their rad collection at 540 Metropolitan Ave, Wednesday to Friday from 2-7 and Saturday and Sunday from noon until 7 p.m. — or visit their web store if you can’t make it in person.
Vault of Midnight
Vault of Midnight has three locations in Michigan: Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Detroit. They sell comics, manga, zines, board games, and collectibles, and the store also hosts game nights and provides recommendations and subscriptions. Plus, they have a rockingly adorable social media presence that makes their store seem like a peek into a modernized Empire Records. The three stores are open between 11-8 between Sunday to Thursday, and on Fridays and Saturdays they stay open till 10 p.m.
Now that you know about some of the most unique comic book stores in the USA, perhaps you’d like to know about some of the coolest bookstores in the world.