Welcome to Explicitly Graphic, a column from Cynthia Clark Harvey (who's working on a graphic novel of her own). From time to time, Harvey will review graphic novels, talk to artists, and dive into the scene of all things explicitly graphic.
I've taken to drawing my own comics, and even though I spent two weeks last summer at what I call "Cartoon Camp," I just couldn't make myself go to one.
My age and gender seemed to mark comic shops as foreign territory, like paintball or World of Warcraft: might be interesting, but a definite learning curve to master before it could be fun.
Yesterday, I started the climb up that learning curve. I set out on my comic book store quest looking for two things: minicomics (or self-published comics) and graphic novels.
Here are four places I'd recommend to get your feet wet in the local scene...
4. Jesse James Comics
10620 North 43rd Avenue #6, Glendale
The parking is easy at Jesse James Comics once you figure out which store it is: the signage is minimal. What they saved in not having fancy signs, they also held onto by not having fancy display racks and lighting. Most of the stock is on tables or in bins in the cavernous main room. But they do house a good selection of local minicomics respectfully displayed on some of their few racks and spinners.
A number of the minis were, according to their covers, produced for sale at last year's Phoenix Comicon. Nope, I've never been to a comicon either, but that's where most minicomics get bought and sold. The selection of hardcovers, or graphic novels, was small and seemed mostly to be collections of previously published series.
3. Hero Comics
13616 North 35th Avenue #2, Phoenix
When I asked where the "Indie" comics were, I was pointed to a section of racks where there were titles like "Spawn." Yes, I know that's not DC or Marvel, but not exactly what I was looking for, either.
Hero Comics had a larger selection of hardcovers, including a couple of authors and titles I really want to check out further.
2. Samurai Comics
1051 East Camelback Road Phoenix
The third stop was Samurai Comics on Camelback, where they have a really nice corner devoted to "Buy Local" cartoonists, including a sweet hand-lettered sign promoting the comics of a former Samurai employee.
There was a decent selection of graphic novels too, but the challenge at most bookstores and even most libraries (more on this in another post) is the ability to browse. Since everything hardcover, with the exception of instructional books, is shelved together, it better have an attention getting spine or it's not getting a look from me.
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1. All About Books and Comics
5060 North Central Avenue, Phoenix
Last up was All About Books and Comics, which, in keeping with its name, had the largest selection of graphic novels of the four stores I visited. Again though, the challenge is browsing: everything is shelved alphabetically by title, which makes perfect sense in Comic Book World but not in Literature World. But that's part of the learning curve: next time, I'll be out there having fun, searching out great new books and authors.