Where in this vast city can one find Public Enemy action figures, the latest issue of Martian Manhunter, and a comprehensive volume of Bettie Page prints? At Chicago Comics on Clark Street, angsty zinesters, the chillest of chill manga perverts, and any variety of eccentrics can always find rapture. Only a few blocks from the Red Line Belmont stop, this comic book store carries an admirable assortment of all that is noteworthy in today’s small press.
While the store somewhat lacks that makeshift-cozy atmosphere that makes other comic book stores so appealing, it is compensated for with its bare brick, its high ceilings, and the enchanting plaster women emerging from the walls. The vibrant colors of action figures, comic art, and customers’ hair are intoxicating. If you find yourself lost in this rabbit hole of hip lit, look to the immense, watchtower-like counter, where young oddball employees are more than willing to guide you. (They are especially interested in assisting you if you have a pre-1970s comic book to sell or an independently published piece of literature to distribute.)
Comic book collectors are likely to undergo cardiac arrest upon viewing the massive selection of superhero comic books spanning the store’s longest wall, the several cardboard boxes containing an antique medley of comics, priced from fifty cents to fifty dollars, and the thousand-dollar editions carefully displayed behind the desk. Chicago Comics is known for its large inventory of back issues and for carrying hard-to-find publishers, such as Slave Labor, Sirius, and Aardvark-Vanaheim.
Even more notable are the store’s efforts to keep the city’s zine scene alive and well. Zines—short for Fanzines—are the product of media-snubbing punks and the Do-It-Yourself movement. Suicidal teens, housewives, and prison inmates the world over have been the driving force of the independent magazine, with the help of such vendors as Chicago Comics, its sister store Quimby’s, and other underground merchants. A wide variety of local and nationally well known zines are shelved at the back of Chicago Comics. The store holds a D.I.Y. publishing workshop, called Gutters, on the last Sunday of every month.
Those with more unabashed aims will find a choice collection of adult magazines, erotic manga, classic pinups, and other heady materials on display. Whether your intentions are artsy or kinky, inquisitive or debauched, your needs can be met here. Only steps away is a more innocent variety of pop culture action figures, repugnant plush dolls and novelty toys.
If you are interested in delving into the world of underground pop lit or finding a refreshing read, Chicago Comics is the place to be.
A few recommended titles:
Burn Collector by Al Burian
Burian (of the punk band Milemarker) writes this witty, contemplative zine from the perspective of his Roman childhood and his visceral post-college life in Chicago.
Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore
Winner of the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Best Comic Book in 1997 and the GLAAD Award for Best Comic Book in 2001, SiP’s charming characters and heart-wrenching drama are undeniably addictive. (www.strangersinparadise.com)
Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine eds. Robert Williams & C. R. Stecyk III
This stunning homage to low brow art is one-of-a-kind and never fails to inspire. (www.juxtapoz.com)
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Sprouting out of Thompson’s attempt to describe what it feels like to sleep next to someone for the first time, this sweet and increasingly popular graphic novel is his own, true coming-of-age story.
3244 North Clark Street
Gutters workshops are held in-store every last Sunday of the month.