The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.
This year, we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.
If you’ve visited Chicago before, you’ve likely come within a few blocks of Chicago Comics, assuming you haven’t actually been inside. It’s mere blocks from three of the city’s most prominent features: Lake Michigan, Wrigley Field, and Boy’s Town. You can feel the cool breeze, catch a baseball game, and enjoy some of the city’s best nightlife all within spitting distance of an incredible comics shop. That location has made Chicago Comics the premiere comics stop of America’s “second city,” and one that reflects the city’s diverse population.
The diverse array of customers has helped to encourage a shop with an equally diverse array of comics. While you can pick up the newest adventures of Superman or Spider-Man inside, they are only a small section on the shop’s walls. “We pride ourselves in being a shop that doesn't just carry the Big Two or the top 30 books; we want to provide an eclectic array of options,” store manager Raphael Espinoza says. In a shop that is much deeper than it is wide, that cultivation of titles becomes apparent the further you walk into the store. Each step reveals a new layer of what can be found in comics today.
If you walk all of the way to the back wall of Chicago Comics, you’ll find indie comics and self-stapled booklets that rarely feature at any comics store. They’re the bleeding edge of comics creation and creativity today. A few years ago you would have found the first printings of Jason Shiga’s Demon before it was picked up by First Second. “We try to keep a good stock of books by some of the hottest and up-and-coming creators not in the mainstream,” Espinoza says. That’s clear from a single lap of the store. If there’s a genre or type of comic you’re looking for, you won’t leave Chicago Comics disappointed.
The dedication of Chicago Comics to supporting artists of all stripes and inclinations likely stems from its owner. When you enter the store, you’ll notice various pieces of art on the walls and floor, including a golden centerpiece. All of these are creations of the store owner. “The owner's art permeates the shop and is very much one of the first things you notice when you walk into the shop,” says Espinoza. Chicago Comics is a shop about art supported by artists. The wide array of comics on display and immense pride in the off-beat states that this shop believes in comics as a medium that is more than pop culture and commerce.
Click ahead to learn more about Chicago Comics current audience and what else sets this local comics store apart.
Chicago Comics has staked its claim at the heart of the city for many years, and that has helped to secure it a persistent set of readers. There’s a large group of regulars who the staff see on a weekly basis. These are comics readers that have been familiar with the every Wednesday cycle of the medium for more than a decade, and make the effort to obtain their pulls on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean there’s a lack of new readers though. Espinoza points to a few key titles that have attracted new regulars, comics like Giant Days, Saga, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther.
“The newer readers are often a bit more diverse in backgrounds than the older readers who gravitated towards comics,” says Espinoza. However, nobody who enters Chicago Comics ever seems to feel like an outsider, no matter how “new” they might be.
Espinoza is excited by the diverse customer base at the store, and hopes it’s something other shops can cultivate as well. “Making sure you're aware of what your regulars and what your customers interests are help a shop thrive, the best way to do that is through dialogue, through conversation,” he says. Longtime Wednesday warriors can be depended upon to always pick up a new issue of Batman, but by listening Chicago Comics has discovered new regular readers for series like Lumberjanes.
When asked about the future of Chicago Comics as well as the future of comics in Chicago, Espinoza is sure to note that it depends as much on publishers as shops. “As long as publishers can continue scouting out new and brilliant creators and artists the shop will thrive,” he says.
Chicago Comics is always looking for the creators and ideas that attract readers. In a hot location like its own, foot traffic helps to bring in plenty of outsiders, but it’s the comics that ensure they will stick around. Luckily for both customers and the store, there are a lot of great comics being published today. As long as that continues, then the future looks bright for Chicago Comics.
And so at the heart of Chicago you’ll find the beating heart of comics thanks to the aptly named Chicago Comics. It’s a shop that covers the entire gamut of the medium from today’s hottest mainstream titles to some of the strangest indie offerings around. It’s a store where anyone is welcome, and you’ll likely find both natives and tourists talking up comics side-by-side. Chicago Comics shows that comics aren’t an outsider art as they still exist at the heart of the metropolitan experience. Whenever you’re in Chicago, you should consider a trip to this very special shop.
Click ahead to see full details and photos of Chicago Comics.