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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

San Francisco's Top 8 Comic Book Stores

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 10:30 AM

ALL PHOTOS BY CASEY BURCHBY
  • All photos by Casey Burchby

As one of the primary foci of the underground comics movement beginning in the 1960s, the Bay Area has a well-documented tradition of fostering comics creators large and small. Robert Crumb (Fritz the Cat, Zap Comix) lived in San Francisco throughout a key period of his career, and just across the bay in Oakland, Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, The Death Ray) continues to create complex pictographic narratives. It would follow that San Francisco and environs would boast a strong collection of comic book retailers -- and indeed it does, including a handful that have been nominated for the prestigious Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. Here are our top eight comics outfits in the city.

8. Two Cats Comic Book Store
320 West Portal (at 14th Ave.)

Having just opened in March, this small but charming West Portal shop is a little cramped, but its location and friendly atmosphere are conducive to browsing -- and the selection is big enough to allow for a little discovery-making. The narrow, bright space manages to make room for independents, along with several racks' worth of new issues.

Amazing Fantasy
  • Amazing Fantasy

7. Amazing Fantasy
650 Irving (at 8th Ave.)

This small but well-stocked Inner Sunset shop boasts a display of Iron Man helmets along the left wall as you enter, showing the progression of this hero's design over the years, from anthropomorphized garbage can to ultra-slick corporate shill. Lots and lots of new issues and the biggest heroes get their own shelves. There is a decent selection of independents and back issues toward the rear of the store.

Whatever...
  • Whatever...

6. Whatever...
548 Castro (at States)

The Castro's comic shop is a single, high-ceiling room containing a deceptively large inventory of graphic novels, new releases, and back issues. Although independents are not much in evidence, mainstream shoppers are certain to find what they are looking for in this cool, quiet space.

The Comic Outpost
  • The Comic Outpost

5. The Comic Outpost
2381 Ocean (at San Leandro Way)

On the south side of Balboa Terrace, The Comic Outpost is, as its name suggests, one of the city's more remote comics shops. It's also among the most atmospheric. Its high ceilings accommodate big displays of classic back issues going all the way up each wall. Deep into the shop, you'll find old (but functioning) arcade games, a couple of TARDIS mock-ups, and expensive-looking life-sized figures of Superman, Spider-Man, and the Silver Surfer. The selection leans heavily toward mainstream comics, but the unique décor more than makes up for any lack of breadth.

Green Apple Books
  • Green Apple Books

4. Green Apple Books
506 Clement (at Sixth Ave.)

A full-service bookstore that goes out of its way to spotlight comics, Green Apple offers a very large selection of graphic novels. Although it doesn't carry new individual issues, there is a shelf of indie and self-published comics. A large, over-stuffed space, Green Apple has a somewhat ramshackle atmosphere. You never know what you'll find, although the graphic fiction section is robust and inclusive.

Mission: Comics & Art
  • Mission: Comics & Art

3. Mission: Comics & Art
3520 20th St. (at San Carlos)

A comfortable layout and great breadth in terms of selection make this Mission shop stand out -- not to mention the gallery in the rear that features a regular rotation of comic-inspired art. The bright, well-appointed store has plenty of places to sit (not every comics shop necessarily encourages on-site reading). The diverse selection of new releases on the display table up front announces the store's intention to celebrate the medium in its many variations.

Comix Experience
  • Comix Experience

2. Comix Experience
305 Divisadero (at Page)

The oldest, and one of the most lauded, comics stores in the city is a multiple-nominee for the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Awards. Proprietor Brian Hibbs is highly regarded in the industry not only for being a comics advocate, but for stocking his store with a very broad selection of work from across the medium. You'll find mainstream, independents, and underground work well-represented here. It's a well-organized, spacious, and clean shop that hosts signings and special events on a regular basis.

Isotope
  • Isotope

1. Isotope
326 Fell (at Gough)

Winner of an SF Weekly Best Of award this year, Isotope styles itself "the Comic Book Lounge," and that's appropriate given the bright, Pop Art decor and its penchant for hosting after-hours events (with cocktails). Owner James Sime is friendly and flamboyant in all the right ways; he and his stylish staff have turned Isotope into a place to be, not just a place to shop. The walls are lined with original artwork. It's a comfortable shop that welcomes you to read for a while or engage in a friendly debate with the effusive staff about the newest canon-shattering change in the DC universe.

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Casey Burchby

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