Entertainment

Black-Owned And Operated Comic Shops That Will Level Up Your Fandom

The boom era of comic book adaptations has continued in 2021, bringing the long-awaited Zack Snyder cut of Justice League, Black Widow, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home to the big-screen (or whatever screen you choose, in some cases).

As for television proper, we were blessed with WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, Sweet Tooth, Invincible, and several others.

Watching these superheroes and super-villains onscreen, and in live-action and animation can and often does inspire fans to seek out the comic books that inspired these stories. Though there are many bookstores for these fans to give their money to, those stores usually aren’t owned and operated by minorities, and any comic-book fan who isn’t an able-bodied white man isn’t always made to feel as welcome or appreciated when they come through the door. Nor are they likely to find as many curated options from indie creators of color who are trying to get some much-needed exposure. That’s why we wanted to create this list, highlighting some of the best and most celebrated Black-owned and Black-operated comic book stores across the country, giving you an opportunity to seek them out and spend your money there while discovering stories from both familiar and all-new characters and creators.

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse (Philadelphia, PA)

Since it first opened its doors in December of 2015, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse has gained media attention for being the first Black-owned comic-book store on the East Coast owned by a Black woman. “I want to be very proactive and conscious to make sure we are carrying diverse titles,” stated Ariell Johnson, the store’s owner in a 2016 interview with CNN. “The smaller stuff, the independent stuff, the more diverse stuff that you really have to look for and I think it’s worth it. Seeing people representative of you can be important in your development and your self-esteem.”

In addition to shopping Amalgam, you can also help support operations as the shop continues to weather the pandemic via their GoFundMe.

Challenges Games And Comics (Decatur, GA)

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For those fans who love tabletop games as much as they do comic books, Challenges Games And Comics has a large selection to choose from. Games such as Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering can be found next to the usual Spider-Man, Batman, and X-Men books. And the store’s owner, Tony Cade, is never not busy, getting into the comic book publishing space as the founder of Terminus Media (here he is talking all about that effort with Bleeding Cool in 2014) and conventions as the promoter of The Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo.

Destiny City Comics (Tacoma, WA)

Not many comic-book stores can claim to be owned and operated by a professional wrestler, but Destiny City Comics can thanks to Ethan “HD” Diaz, who has been running the store with his wife, Stephanie, since 2019. (The store originally opened five years earlier.)

Diaz is excited about the increasing diversity in comics, telling We R Tacoma in February 2020 that, “growing up as a comic book fan in the 90s, every hero was white or an Asian who knew karate. I remember being a fan of Luke Cage because he was the only black superhero I knew. He must have been special because they gave him superpowers. Now, seeing this more diverse palette – and seeing how women have developed in comics – is great for people to see themselves in comics.”

Not only is the store openly supportive of the African-American and LGBTQIA+ communities, but Diaz also views the store’s importance in convincing readers to care about and become invested in certain topics when they’re discussed and detailed in comics, as opposed to textbooks that seem more intimidating and less appealing due to the massive page count and the lack of imagery. “A lot of times the imagery can help set the tone and give you a feeling and gravity about what’s going on. I think when you can put a face to things or you have visual aids it helps you imagine,” he told Rosie Mendoza Bautista of the Tacoma Ledger in June of this year.

Acme Comics (Greensboro, NC)

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Acme Comics is an Eisner nominated shop that’s been a community fixture in Greensboro, NC since it opened in 1983. But they haven’t rested on their laurels, branching out with a podcast, an appearance in the documentary My Comic Book Country, and various other media appearances led by its operating manager, Jermaine Exum, who even has an alternate identity as Lord Retail and the super ability to engage fans of all levels. So much that those talents even grabbed the attention of legendary comic-book writer Brian Michael Bendis, who connected with Exum through his Jinxworld message board, and was impressed with Exum’s passion and knowledge whenever he shared his thoughts about anything and everything related to comics. Which then resulted in Bendis doing a rare in-store appearance and book signing at Acme Comics. According to Bendis, by way of a quote he gave to Greensboro.com‘s Joe Scott for a 2015 article on Lord Retail, Exum’s enthusiasm is one of the things that sets him, and by extension, the store apart. Something that will surely be noticed if you have the chance to check out Acme Comics.

Megabrain Comics And Arcade (Rhinebeck, NY)

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After the boredom of office life led to him co-creating an unfortunately short-lived comic book, Jean David Michel was struck by another lightning bolt of inspiration, and decided to open up a comic-book store like the ones he regularly shopped at when he was younger. One that would be a resource for the community and for creators.

“It was important for me to have a well-stocked LGBTQ section, a really good selection of BIPOC comic books and graphic novels, and, as a Black man, a wealth of Black comic book creators,” Michel told the Times Union’s Juliet Izon in a May 2021 interview.

Not only was he able to make this dream a reality by opening Megabrain Comics in 2017, he soon became business partners with local contractor/rock musician/video game enthusiast Brian Tamm, and the back room of Megabrain Comics was transformed into a video arcade for customers who enjoy being pinball wizards and kicking ass in Street Fighter 2 as much as they enjoy reading about One-Punch Man kicking the asses of his enemies.

There are many other Black-owned comic-book stores that are deserving of attention and of business, including Comic Cosmic Collectives And Games (Bowie, MD), Game Over Comics (Burlington, NC), and Wizard’s Wagon (University City, MO). Those three, the above-mentioned shops, and any you can find near you are all a good place to get started for comic book fans who are in need of representation, not just in the stories they read, but in the places where these stories are bought and sold.

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