Face it. You’ve been waiting for Catwoman to come out of the closet ever since she first purred into your life. Add to that: Your bedroom is covered with manga posters and you’ve kept every wristband from every Comic Con you’ve ever attended. If you’re looking for the new DC Comic to complete your collection or simply want to marvel at an old favorite like Sin City or Ghost World, here’s a handy list of comic book shops for every Dark Knight devotee, graphic novel nut and Star Wars junkie in Philly and South Jersey region.
Three words: One-dollar comics. As one of the most popular comic shops in the city, more than a quarter-century old South Street’s Atomic City carries hard-to-find books and toys, as well as back issues, manga, movies and a slew of books for a buck. Since moving to a larger location five years ago, Atomic has installed old-school arcade games (hello, Street Fighter) and began hosting special events, including book signings and art shows. Owner Darryl Jones is a big sci-fi and horror fan, though the shop is perhaps best known for its collection of Japanese comics – quite possibly the largest in the state. One of the draws in recent years has been Jones’ personal collection. He’s slowly been selling off his own painstakingly curated collection of toys at the shop – catch it while you can.
Thomas Leavy literally lives his work. The two-story outpost in Drexel Hill is where the comic book shop owner lives and hangs his hat, and has for 15 years now. His love of all things comic book started with superheroes like Batman back in the 1980s. Since then, he’s become a go-to expert on books, merchandise and blockbuster films – all of which he discusses on his Facebook page. In addition to stocking an assortment of ever-popular Marvel comics, the shop also hosts special events throughout the year, like the anniversary of Hellboy and Free Comic Book Day the first Saturday in May.
Tucked away on Ritner Street in South Philly, Blue Line is a hidden gem in the comic universe. Not only does the small shop carry comics, trade paperbacks and graphic novels, but it also showcases rare Comic Con exclusives and must-have collectibles. The shop carries a big selection of toys, as well as TV and movie exclusives and graded figures (even Phillies merch). And if they don’t have it in stock, they’ll order it for you. The owner Tom Steele gets to know his customers personally and has an almost superhuman knowledge of all things comic, superhero and Dr. Who. Got a question? Ask. If on the off chance he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll find someone who does.
With two locations, one near the Book Trader in Old City and the other in Willow Grove, Brave New Worlds has been a staple in the comic book world for two decades. A place to hang out will fellow comic aficionados, the city shop is loaded with books, memorabilia, posters and toys with rows of new comics, collectible comics and grab-bag comics. It packs a lot into its Old City location, mostly new titles and even a special kid’s section with G-rated titles. The shop also sells t-shirts that appeal to both the comic lover and discerning graphic design enthusiast.
A stone’s throw from Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., this charming shop has been serving South Jersey since 2006. As a hub for all things comic and gaming, the store carries an assortment of books from both mainstream and alternative publishers, as well as graphic novels, board games and collectibles. Super fans can even tap into a discount subscription service that includes 10 percent off everything (with a minimum purchase of three books per month). The shop also does special orders and buys and sells pre-owned collections. And the shop’s employees share their own creative musings on a blog.
The former jeans factory was turned into a flea market in the late 1980s, but would eventually evolve into one of the more well-respected and largest comic book destinations in the city. A hidden gem in the industrial neighborhood of Port Richmond, the 7,000-square-foot shop got its big break when it was featured in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. Today, the expansive showroom is lined with display cases and tables touting trading cards, movie memorabilia and rows and rows of comic books. With more than 400,000 back issues of mainstream and indie titles (multiple issues are priced by condition), if you can’t find it here you may not be able to find it anywhere. Plus, one of the highlights of making the trek to North Philly is meeting Philly native and owner Bill Fink who’s known to regulars simply as “The Pirate.”
Don’t be dismayed by its suburban strip mall appearance. This popular shop in West Berlin, New Jersey, gets rave reviews for its friendly staff and fresh inventory. While most of the books tend toward the mainstream (think Marvel and DC), the shop really shines thanks to its collection of role-playing cards and games. The owners also regularly host special events, including weekly Yu-Gi-Oh! Tournaments, Star Wars games and launch events where customers dress up as their favorite characters. The staff even has its own podcast where they review new titles, films and TV shows, and provide their expert and often funny take on comic culture.
It doesn’t get any more neighborhood comic store than this. Located in the heart of East Passyunk Avenue’s emerging shopping district, this little shop carries comics, graphic novels, action figures and apparel. While the size of the store limits just how much inventory it holds, the collection is well curated with nods to both mainstream and indie interests. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask. Bagged and boarded back issues are stored in the shop’s basement. It’s also become a popular spot for gaming nights, as well as things related to Heroclix and Magic. The shop’s website and Facebook page regularly lists the latest comic book releases each week and timely news, like a spotlight on female heroes during Women’s History Month.
As the oldest comic book shop in the city, Fat Jack’s is loaded with the latest titles. The downtown storefront (there’s also a shop in Oaklyn, New Jersey) has an extensive catalog of back issues and even an adult section. But the real draw to this Rittenhouse Square secret tends to be the alternative and hard-to-find titles, which are expertly arranged in rows and rows of racks. You’ll also find some of the best graphic novels and even some work by local artists. Just make sure you say hello to the resident cats. They are very friendly.