Comics can be obtained in many ways, some of which will be explored in other guides, but one way to find a community around comics while supporting the industry is buying physical comics from your local comic shop.
Benefits of Comic Shops
Before we can delve into getting the most out of your local comic shop (sometimes abbreviated “LCS”), we must confront the reality that many people are justifiably intimidated by comic shops due to a subset of shops that are hostile to women, minorities, and/or new readers. If the shops in your area make you feel unwelcome or unsafe, we absolutely support turning to online ordering, whether from a remote shop or the publishers themselves.
However, a friendly and welcoming shop can be an invaluable resource as well as a treasured community center.
Comic shop staff are often experts in the vast and confusing field of comics. In addition to tackling questions about specific titles or characters, shop staff can provide personalized recommendations.
Many shops also host events where you can meet like-minded readers, such as book clubs. Some of these book clubs are exclusive to women (and nonbinary people) to address the difficulty of finding comic book spaces that are not male-dominated, or they are themed, e.g., feminist comics, diverse comics, etc.
Finding a Comic Shop
If you have decided to find a comic shop near you, there are a couple of resources that can help with this process. A simple online search may suffice in turning up shops in your vicinity, or you can try entering your zip code into the Comic Shop Locator.
Another resource specifically focused on finding inclusive shops is Hater Free Wednesdays, which publishes positive and negative shop reviews. If you use Hater Free Wednesdays to find a shop, note that their masterlist of recommended shops is often based on a single reviewer’s experience.
Once you have found a shop, it’s time to buy some comics! You can go ahead and browse the shelves like you would at any other store, but most comic shops have a couple of other ways of getting you the books you want.
If you don’t find what you want on the shelves, we recommend asking an employee if they can special order it for you.
Typically, how this works is the shop takes down your contact information, orders the item, and contacts you when the item arrives. Then, you show up to the shop in a timely manner and purchase the item. Policies may vary from shop to shop. For example, some may require a deposit for pricier items.
As long as an item is available from the shop’s distributors, most shops will be happy to special order it for you because that is a sale they would otherwise not have made. However, note that most comic shops are small businesses, and abandoning your order can hurt the shop, as they may not be able to sell it to someone else.
If you find a current or future series you would like to follow, whether in single issues or paperbacks, you can ask your shop to set up a subscription, or “pull list,” for you. What this means is that the shop will order and hold a copy of each issue or paperback just for you.
Subscriptions are good for shops because subscribers become regulars and because it makes monthly ordering more predictable. Subscriptions are good for you because you don’t have to worry about an issue selling out before you get to the shop and because shops will often incentivize subscriptions by offering discounts to subscription customers.
Policies vary greatly from one shop to another. Some take a deposit on the pull list. Some take credit card information so they can bill you if you never pick up your comics. When signing up for a pull list, make sure you know how frequently the shop expects you to pick up your subscriptions.
Lastly, a pull list is a contract between you and your shop. Again, most comic shops are small businesses, and abandoning your subscriptions can hurt the shop. Single issue comics tend to become unsellable after the couple of weeks, so by the time a shop considers a pull list abandoned, they simply have to take the loss.
That’s all for now! Be kind to yourself and to your shop, and happy shopping!