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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.

I love stores in New York that are jammed into every little spot they can find

Everyone's trying to avert their eyes from the nerdy store in their midst!

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.

This has a lot more space than Forbidden Planet

The tiny entrance masks the vastness within!

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 like an obstacle course just to get into the store!

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:

Yeah, I could spend some time and money here

This was taken from the stairs leading up the second floor

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.

You can't see my bright blue khaki pants all that well, but they're groovy!

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!

20 Comments

When I visited New York last year, I managed to do some shopping in both Forbidden Planet and Midtown Comics on 40th. Could have easily blown all my holiday money in a very short amount of time. Thankfully I was able to show some restraint, and saved my money for NYCC.

You made a big mistake passing by The Strand, down the block from Forbidden Planet. It’s the best bookstore in all of New York City, and their comic book section has gotten better in recent years. And their prices can’t be beat. I’m pretty sure they had at least 3 volumes on The Starman Omnibus for $30 each. (I’d say they had 4, but I bought their only copy of volume 6 last week).

Woo! Jim Hanley’s. That’s my shop. Well, I actually go to a tiny shop around the corner from my apartment, but I hit up Jim Hanley’s at least every two weeks…it’s a great shop.

I’ve never actually been to Midtown Comics, but always hear good things.

I agree with Steve above Greg, next time you get to NYC, check out The Strand as they have a great selection of just about everything, and their comics selection has really grown of late. Good prices too. Although, don’t check the new $50 headphones you just bought at bag check, because they WILL steal them from you. Bastards.

Sounds like you had a great day. :)

Steve (and Kelly): Dang it, I walked right past the Strand. Didn’t realize they had comics. Oh well – next time!

Strand not only has comics, they have a lot of trades dirt cheap. I’ve gotten some good trades there for like 75% off. My best find was a brand new copy of Jonathan Hickman’s Nightly News for like $3.

All great shops but the hidden gem for rare back issues from the silver age to the present in NYC is a little dive I frequent called Rogers Time Machine on 14th Street and 7th Avenue right off of the 14th street 1,2,3 subway entrance. Prices are a steal and Roger will give you great deal if you buy a handful of books. Downside: cash only.

You were at Forbidden Planet and didn’t check out the Strand?

I lived in NYC for a bit and I’ve visited my sister’s Manhattan apt A LOT over the past 15 years, and I’ve always been a little underwhelmed with Manhattan comic shops as a fan. I like the customer service at Forbidden Planet and the layout of Jim Hanley’s. The Times Sq Midtown is worth checking out just for the scale of it. St. Mark’s seemed good, but I’ve only been in once so I’m not very qualified to give an opinion. Those are the only ones I remember off the top of my head, and honestly, I don’t have a preference for any of them. I vaguely recall being in the 14th and 7th shop that Grandaiza mentioned, and I also remember shopping at a small store store on 23rd between 7th and 8th… but I’m about 100% sure that store closed down years ago.

As a self-publisher, I feel even worse about Manhattan comic shops. I was in NYC last summer for a couple of days and I contacted a bunch of stores to see if they’d carry a few copies of my books. I was shocked at how unresponsive the stores were. On the whole, Manhattan was the worst area I’ve encountered in this sense (granted, I’ve only hit up Pittsburgh, Boston, San Antonio, Austin, and a few non-city areas, so I’m not talking about a huge frame of reference here). Maybe my expectations were too big. I dunno. But St. Mark’s was the only store that was receptive.

Travis Pelkie

May 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I believe that everyone agrees with Roxy Music, when in NYC, do the Strand!

Oy, I hate myself.

Anyway, I like this piece. I haven’t been in NYC for any amount of time since, jeez, ’97. And then I didn’t get to any comic stores.

(I was in NYC 2 weeks ago on the way to Boston for the Comic Con, but was only at Port Authority, changing buses. NYC looks great from underground. Well, not really.)

Either the booth I bought from just had bags from there, or Forbidden Planet had a booth at the Boston Comic Con. I think they were the ones I got stuff from the first day, maybe, which was 3/$10 trades.

I had also gotten a card for a discount at Midtown Comics online store, but I spent all my money in Boston.

While in Boston (which I didn’t mention in my guest post), I hit Cambridge up to see the New England Comics there, and the Million Year Picnic. Both stores were decent, with more minicomics then I ever see in my area, but stores seem to be weeding out back issues in favor of trades and books. I did pick up a few cool things, though.

I need to find a bunch of back issues, too. And yes, I need issues of Xero. Actually, I have doubles of a couple issues, but I can’t remember which ones right off. Email me and I’ll look ‘em up, Greg.

Jim Hanley’s Universe does stock back issues, though. In addition to keeping older issues on the shelf longer, they have back issue bins in the rear right of the store. The real motherload of back issues has been moved into the basement, which isn’t always open to the public, so you might have to ask the staff to take a look for you. I know that isn’t the most intuitive method of finding back issues, but I’d just thought it worth a mention.

Time machine is fantastic.

I used to stop in at St Mark’s every time I was in New York. It’s a pretty cool shop. Some good bars around there, too.

Stefan Wenger

May 15, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I’ve lived in the city for most of my life, and I’ve never thought to look in the Strand for comics. Actually, that’s not true – thinking about it, I did years and years ago – but it sounds like they’ve expanded their selection a lot, so I’ll have to check it out again.

My favorite shop in the city is Jim Hanley’s – the staff is great, the layout is fantastic and makes it MUCH easier than any of the other places to find recent issues I somehow missed, they’re usually playing cool music, and you’re much likelier to find rare stuff than at the other larger-selection stores, FP or Midtown… but I actually usually shop at Midtown (Times Square), because of the 20% discount. And Midtown is quite well-organized, the staff are friendly, and they are by faaaaaaaaaar the best in town in terms of ordering enough stock. It usually takes them a week before they sell out of almost anything. (If they do under-order, Hanley’s can sometimes pick up the slack – when all the other shops sold out on Infinite Vacation, the day it hit the stands, Hanley’s still had several copies five days later).

The shop on 23rd street Nick mentioned is Cosmic Comics, which closed down at the end of last year. They had a picture of Concrete on their business card, and had a Christmas sale I never missed as long as I was in the city… but the staff weren’t nearly as friendly as most of our other shops here, and there was always a fairly inaccessible vibe about the place.

St. Mark’s is where I found all the old Desert Peach trades, and I’d definitely say it’s the place to go for indie comics. I’m in there less often though because they’re less generous about letting people read in the store. Say what you will about that – for me, that’s how I decide what to buy – I start reading, and if I can’t put it down or I know I need to digest the story more fully than I can by just flipping through it in the store, then I’ll buy it. And for some reason their bag check system always rubs me the wrong way, even though Hanley’s doesn’t.

Finally, a subject I know a lot about! Here’s the ones you missed:

Roger’s Time Machine: Best shop in NYC. Great back issue selection, awesome owner, and he;s always getting more books. In today’s climate of stores dumping off back issues, this is key.

Alex’s MVP Cards and Comics: The farthest uptown store in Manhattan. Tiny, but cool owner.

Gotham City Comics: I was taught that if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything…

The Little Lebowski: OK, not a comic shop per se, but they do have back issues in the back. And if you love the Dude, you have to go.

Manhattan Comics and More: They took over the space that was Cosmic, but haven’t done anything remarkable with it.

Midtown Grand Central: The other Midtown.

Midtown Downtown: The other other Midtown.

St. Mark’s Comics: Good trades, back issues are pricey if not on sale.

Just a note: If you’re ever looking for comic shops, try http://www.the-master-list.com

I updated NYC myself, and they can always use more people to confirm that things are open or put up new shops.

Tom…I think you hit it on the head…4 or 5 closed up shop over the past 2 years between Manhattan and Queens but I try to hit all the shops in a “comic crawl” once every month….

Greg I find the fun is in the interaction with the staffs of the shops and regulars. My regular shop is on the border of Queens and Long Island but to head into Manhattan and getting so many different viewpoints about comics and fantasy related topics is a joy along with finding lost “gems”….

Now if we’re talking Queens…I would say go somewhere else. Queens has some of the worst shops I’ve ever been to…and one good one.

Silver Age Comics in Astoria is excellent.

The one in Ozone Park and the one in Woodside…avoid.

Well Tom, I live closer to the Long Island side of Queens so I hit SuperHero Comics in Little Neck which is my home base…. but in addition to that:

I have gone to Silver Age and I use that to get a bead on trades that are out of stock everywhere else….

Grasshopper Comics in Wiliston has a lack of back issues but they has a tremendous selection of trades

Time Warp in Hewlett is great with both back issues and trades…

These 3 places I find are extremely helpful and knowledgeable in knowing what is coming out an even trying to order what you need…

I think that is a sign of the times.. All the uptight places in terms of service I find have either folded or disappeared…

Ugh totally forgot about Crazy Scondo’s which is the closest shop to me…. yet another shop where the owner does everything to help customers out….

While today’s NYC comic shops are indeed the equivalent of the modern super supermarket, they’ve really got nothing on the old comic shops of yesteryear. The original 12th Street Forbidden Planet set the new standard, years before Midtown Comics hit the scene, but Manhattan also had Village Comics and St Mark’s Comics, not to mention perhaps the best of them all, The Comic Art Gallery which was on 53rd St (and I think on 57th or 56th before that?). They had stacks and stacks of original comics pages, of who knows what origins (I’m talking circa 1978), which were priced mostly above my means but usually weren’t more than $25-$75!!!

Out in Queens, there was the famous Little Nemo shop, which was often referred to as the first comic shop (though Village Comics goes back a long way too, perhaps even being established earlier), as well as Mike’s Comic Hut (from the mid-70s on), and the Overstock Books chain sprinkled around the boroughs (my local location was known as Bargain Books, in Flushing). Amazingly enough these old stores were originally designed as back issue shops, along with ephemera (posters, fanzines, and a bit later what evolved as the graphic novel, portfolios etc), with no new issues. The new stuff started rolling in when Phil Seuling really got the direct market thing going, which took a long time to do. Great suppliers of comic related material back then were Bud Plant, Seuling, Pacific, Sal Q Productions and a few others.

Further out in the ‘burbs in the late 70′s was Heroes World, which at one point expanded to a chain of at least 12 stores (these were slick and neon in the more modern mode, as opposed to the funky atmosphere most comic shops had when I was growing up)…these guys of course ended up as the giant distribution firm eventually gobbled up by Marvel. To my memory, heroes World was the first store I remember to take advanced orders on incoming items…I remember putting in a reserve order for the forthcoming Weirdworld magazines and then Epic Illustrated no. 1 to make sure I got them!!!. Ah memories

Thanks for your experience! I’ll be in Manhattan this summer, it’s really helpful!

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