So you want to check out what one of those fabled comic book stores is really like. Like record stores and gaming stores, comic book shops are all over the globe - offering the latest comics from Marvel and DC, popular manga releases, the beloved Dog Man graphic novels, and more. In many cases, comic shops stock decades-worth of older comic books and merchandise related to your favorite characters.
According to industry estimates, there are over 2,500 comic stores in North America alone - that's a network of independent businesses that's sometimes referred to as the 'Direct Market.' That's more than there are Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Millions, and independent bookstores combined. While in some cases there are regional comic store chains, local comic shops are predominantly owned by people just like you - people that love comics.
In an era when digital comics have become just as readily available as print comics (and in some cases more), comic book shops allow a more personalized experience and direct contact with comic book fans and experts (while observing local COVID-19 safety ordinances, of course). Find out what makes each local shop unique, and become part of the local community of comic fans in your area.
Here's what you need to know - some you may not even know you need!
Are comic book stores friendly to new comic fans?
Despite myths propagated by The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory that comic stores are unwelcoming, on average they're the polar opposite - an inclusive place with a diverse array of comics of all genres and eras.
One of the most unique facets of this informal network of comic shops is that generally, no two comic shops are alike. Beyond just the name, each comic shop decides on its own focus, sometimes catering exclusively to comic fans, while in other cases branching out to RPG enthusiasts and card collectors - heck, there are even a few comic shops that have working coffee bars!
When do new comic books go on-sale at comic shops?
Comic book shops normally put new comic books on sale Tuesday and Wednesday - Tuesday for products from DC, and Wednesday for Marvel, Image Comics, and the remainder of the comic book industry. There are occasionally exceptions to that rule, so check with your local comic shop to learn how they handle release dates.
Where do I find a comic shop?
One of the larger North American comic distributors, Diamond, has set up an easy-to-use website called ComicShopLocator.com to help people find nearby comic shops. There is even a separate feature to find comic shops outside of North America.
And if all else fails, there's always Google.
Do comic shops do online ordering with in-store pickup?
In some cases, comic shops will offer this option - it depends on the store, and the item. More and more, some shops are using third-party services such as Pullbox or ComicHub to offer online ordering.
Do comic shops ship comics by mail?
Some comic shops do offer this service, where you can get your comic books and graphic novels mailed to you weekly, monthly, or on your own schedule. Again, these services may be offered on a case-by-case basis, however, some comic shops such as Midtown Comics and Mile High Comics have robust mail-order services - which include shipping back issues, collectible comics, and comics-related merchandise along with up-to-date releases.
If you're looking strictly for comics by mail, those stores - as well as Discount Comic Book Services - can handle almost all your comic book needs.
Do comic shops hold seasonal events?
Comic book shops have become such a community that they actually have their own holidays.
While Hallmark has yet to come up with a greeting card for any of these observances yet, the first Saturday in May is traditionally Free Comic Book Day - a day organized by Diamond Comic Distributors where participating publishers produce free comics for comic shops to give away to encourage reading. The next Free Comic Book Day is scheduled for May 7, 2022.
Meanwhile, Halloween has become a comic-centric holiday thanks to Halloween Comic Fest. 2021's event has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however when things get safer expect free Halloween and horror-themed comics at participating comic shops in the month of October.
Rounding out the year usually is Local Comic Shop Day in late November. Like Record Store Day, Local Comic Shop Day is meant to benefit comic shops. This year's event takes place on November 24, and will include exclusive items from Marvel Comics, Brian Michael Bendis, and even rapper Chuck D.
Are you shopping for the comic book fan in your life? Check out Newsarama's gift guide.