I’m not a big fan of shopping but I’m a sucker for a good comic book store. Growing up, going to a comic book store was one of the main things that I looked forward to. Aside from new comics, you could find boxes of 10 cent comics, random junk, posters, and the newest collectibles. Unfortunately there aren’t many decent comic stores around anymore. I think it has more to do with the personal connection that many of us had with the store owners and employees back then.
I was immersed in comic book collecting from a very young age. It all started with a back issue my sister picked up for me, Batman #349. It was 1985 and she bought it at the store that occupied the future spot of Heroes World in Woodbridge Center, I believe it was called The Paper Tiger. The cover is still etched in my mind and the style of Batman and Robin is still a favorite cover of mine ’til this day. I prefer Bronze Age Batman which is reflected in the ’70s and early ’80s comics books. For a better idea of these you can take a look at this site where you can find comic book covers of all kinds. I began collecting several Batman titles, some Superman, Supergirl, The Outsiders, and The Green Hornet to name a few. It was pretty difficult to find a comic book store before the Batman movie in ’89 created Batmania all over the place. Luckily, I started collecting before the Batman movie was on the horizon. At that time comics were getting more and more popular but they were still bought by a relatively small fan base.
My favorite shop, Comic Relief in Colonia, was where my father would take me every week. They had some really good people working there who would remember me and hold my “pull list” of comics for me back when I didn’t even know what a pull list was. For those that don’t know – they always remembered what titles I collected and which issues I was looking out for. Stores aren’t as personal anymore now that eBay and online shops exist. You don’t even have to go searching anymore, you can type in the issue and order it in a few seconds! Not to sound like an old fogey, but it was more fun back when you actually went to the shop and searched for a specific issue in the back issues boxes. It was a great feeling of excitement when you first walked in and saw all the new issues on display. What wasn’t fun was the point you realized you had a stack of 10 books and you were about to pay close to 40 bucks for them! Occasionally for a change of pace we’d go to Tommy’s Cards and Comics in Metuchen. Tommy, the owner, always acted real cocky and wore odd fishing hats. Not necessarily the kind of guy you want to buy your comics from.
Comic Relief in Colonia and Heroes World closed and I was constantly being jerked back and forth like I was on a bumper car. An avid comic collector such as myself was left without a store to get comics at. Heroes World became my destination for comic, collectibles, and action figures for several years. Later, Comic Attitudes in Menlo Park Mall was close to me and a decent enough replacement for a while. The people working there were kind of snotty and they were also overpriced probably due to Mall overhead. Eventually, out of the several locations of Jim Hanley’s Universe, the most convenient for me was the one in Fords near Vintage Vinyl. I liked Jim Hanley’s a lot more than Comic Attitudes since it catered more to the fanboy, not the mall shopper.
It wasn’t until I was about 13 years old that I discovered what I consider the mecca of comic book stores, Midtown Comics in Manhattan. I had an sensory overload when I realized all of the comics, shirts, toys, and hard to find bootleg videos they had. The only problem was that I only had the time and money to get to Manhattan maybe once a month. I started heading into Manhattan once a month to load up on comics. That was before I even had a license! NJ Transit back and forth. After the demise of Jim Hanley’s in Fords and Comic Attitudes, I started giving Adventure Planet in Edison a try. They had a great selection of books without all the glitz of other places like Comic Attitudes. It reminded me most of Comic Relief. In fact, I believe their store was originally a location of another Comic Relief. They also had a killer selection of used and new toys and figures. I used to sell a lot of my stuff to them.
I began this post basically saying there are no more comic book stores around here. That’s not really accurate, because they are around, they just aren’t the same. Or is it that I’m just older? Or is it that the personal touch and rapport that a frequent comic buyer and a store owner/employee used to have with each other?
We still have hope. I visited Little Shop of Comics in Scotch Plains and it’s a pretty decent little store. They have lots of collectibles and a wide selection of new and indy comics. Thanks to Miss Sexy Armpit, another store I visited about a year ago is actually called The Record Store in Howell. It’s pretty awesome and has a large selection of figures, comics, collectibles, and music. My buddy Rebecca reminded me that there was also Rogue Comics in Cranford, which is also a good stop. Classic Comics in Rahway is OK, but it feels like they’re watching you when you’re browsing. I hate that. Finally, I can’t leave out Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash which is a fun stop at anytime I’m in Red Bank. If you know of any great comic shops please post/link them. Thanks!