A quick tour of some of the comic book shops in Manhattan
Or, How To Spend A Chunk Of Cash In A Very Short Time!
So yesterday (the 14th of May) I took the train from Trenton to Penn Station and spent about nine hours wandering around Manhattan. My mother accompanied me because she digs Manhattan. The reason I wanted to visit New York is because my cousin, Kim, lives there (she’s a designer and artist, in case you want to hire her), and it’s been 14 years since I’ve seen her and she was only 13 then and I was 26 and we didn’t have a lot to talk about. She’s a lot more interesting these days, I must say. (I’m probably less interesting, but that’s neither here nor there.)
We went down to Bread at Spring and Mott Streets in Little Italy for lunch and then we walked up Broadway looking for clothing. I have recently decided to get some new dressier clothes because I haven’t had a job for so long that I’ve gotten too fat for most of my nicer clothing and the few pants and shirts that still fit me are kind of shabby. Sonia’s recent column about London Fashion Week and, in particular, her marvelous clothing at Emerald City has inspired me to be a bit bolder, so I’m looking for primary colors in my wardrobe. I am so far behind the fashion curve I may have looped around to the back end of it, but I’m trying, man! The nice thing is because I don’t really need to wear nice clothes, I can take my time and find something I really like. I hope by the time San Diego rolls around to have at least one stylin’ outfit, if not two. I very much doubt if I’ll look as awesome as Sonia does, though.
We walked from Broadway and Spring Street north to 13th Street, which is a pretty good hike. At that corner we found Forbidden Planet, the first comic store I would visit. I don’t have any interior pictures of the store because it’s really crammed into a small space and it’s packed with stuff and, on Saturday, with people. Obviously, they have a large selection of superhero trades, but also with a lot of other genres. They also had a bookshelf of art books, which was kind of neat. I was showing my cousin some of the stuff I like (she likes comics but hasn’t read a ton of them, but she digs Local, which makes her all right in my book!), and she was really digging Rob Guillory’s work on Chew (because, let’s be honest, it’s awesome). I could have easily spent hours in each one of the stores I visited, but I forced myself to purchase some stuff and move on. I bought the first two Starman Omnibus volumes because I haven’t often seen volume 2 and didn’t want to leave it behind. I guess this means I’m slowly starting to replace my single issues with trades. I own all the issues of Starman, but I didn’t get all of the ancillary comics that Robinson tied into it, which these volumes reproduce. I also bought Paul Pope’s Year 100, which Our Dread Lord and Master loves. Well, so do others, but he really digs it. Unsurprisingly, it looks fantastic.
We hopped on the subway and went up to Midtown, where we would spend the rest of the afternoon/evening. The next comic book store I visited was Jim Hanley’s Universe on 33rd. The store was not crowded and had less stuff than the other two, but it did have a ton of independent comics, which was very neat. They have an entire shelf devoted to PictureBox comics, for instance, and they have a few comics that I’ve received in the mail from self-publishers. Once again, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of time to go through all of their shelves and find some of the gems therein, but if you’re really interested in comics that are way off the beaten path, you should check the store out. Kim, for instance, thought Henry & Glenn Forever looked terrific, which it kind of is. I ended up buying Detectives, Inc. there, because even though I believe Other Greg said it wasn’t that super, I loved the Marshall Rogers and Gene Colan art (Colan’s is just pencils without even inks, and it looks superb) and the book is full of cool extra stuff, so I figured if McGregor’s stories were at least solid, I’d enjoy the book.
The final stop of the day was at Midtown Comics on 40th. Midtown has that tiny little entrance and then, leading up to the store, a long, narrow, and steep staircase:
It’s so narrow it’s hard for people going up and coming down to occupy the stairs at the same time, but they manage. Once you’re up the stairs, however, you find that Midtown actually has a lot of space:
I spent a long time looking for stuff here, because they also had a large selection of trades from many different genres. It was pretty exhausting, because the store was packed as well. I kept seeing stuff I really wanted but had to put down, because I would like to be able to pay some of my bills. I did go upstairs briefly, but they have mostly toys up there, and I’m not interested in that. It was a well-organized store, and I had no trouble finding a bunch of stuff. They even signed me up for their rewards program – if you spend $100, the next $20 of merchandise is free. They have a pretty big mail-order service, so the fact that I don’t live anywhere near the physical stores doesn’t matter. My mom was jazzed by the large selection of Archie comics they have, both new and old, because when she was ten she had a ton of them, and Kim was checking out some of the art in the various trades – there’s something for everyone! I purchased comics at Midtown, as well – I bought David Lapham’s Murder Me Dead and the third volume of The Doom Patrol Archives. Yes, I have a lot to read. No, I’m not doing much else right now except reading and hanging out at my parents’ house. It’s a perfect storm!
Each comic book store offered a ton of stuff that I often don’t find in Arizona. My personal comic book store is great, but they are more geared toward superheroes and even more geared toward single issues, so they don’t have a ton of trades sitting on shelves and if I want something weird, I have to order it. There’s a lot that’s published that I don’t even know about, much less order, so I was happy to see some of the stranger stuff at Jim Hanley’s Universe and I really wish I had had more time to shop there. Even Atomic Comics, which is a bigger place, doesn’t have a ton of very off-beat stuff, although they do carry some. Plus, I imagine that the diversity of the readership in New York means that the stores can confidently stock a lot more variety than the stores in Arizona, because they know they’ll sell. The only slight disappointment was that the first two stores didn’t stock back issues and Midtown’s selection wasn’t very large. In this age of trades, that’s not surprising, especially given the space restrictions in Manhattan, but I was hoping to find some comics that haven’t been collected in trade yet, and I didn’t. That’s okay, though, and the vastness of the trade paperback selection meant I had plenty to choose from. But I’m a bit sad I couldn’t find those issues of Xero that I’m missing.
So that was my tour of a few comic book stores in Manhattan. I missed some of them, of course, but I didn’t have all weekend to shop, so I think I did a pretty good job. New York is a good place to do any kind of shopping, so of course the comic book stores are pretty keen, too. We had dinner and we took the train back to Trenton. Maybe next week I’ll head down to Philadelphia and check out some of the places there.
Forbidden Planet is at 840 Broadway. Jim Hanley’s Universe is at 4 West 33rd Street. They also have a store on Staten Island, but does that really count? Midtown Comics is at 200 West 40th Street, and they also have stores at 459 Lexington Avenue and way downtown at 64 Fulton Street. Just in case you’re planning a trip to New York soon!