We'll admit it, buying and reading comics on an iPad is pretty convenient, but nothing can replace the sensation of stepping into a comic book shop lined with row after row of new issues (some featuring Chicago super heroes). Chicago comic book readers have plenty of stores to choose from, each staffed with knowledgeable folks who can help you find what you're looking for, whether you're a Marvel true believer, a DC devotee or an indie fanatic. Much like book stores, these are places where you can find some mind-expanding reading material.
Best comic book stores
Adorned with superheroes (and villains) this Logan Square/Bucktown storefront is immediately recognizable as a shop that is serious about comics. You'll usually find owners W. Dal Bush and Patrick Brower manning the counter in a shirt and tie, presiding over a selection of graphic novels that ranks among the city's best. The walls are lined with the latest issues while a separate room houses comics and toys for kids. If you like gabbing about comics as much as you love reading them, the store's monthly discussions allow you to join the conversation.
One of the most comprehensive comics shops in town, Chicago Comics has occupied its current space on Clark Street since 1995. The new issues lining the walls include all the heavy hitters as well as one of the better selections of indie and small-press titles you can find (no surprise given the shop's relationship with sister store Quimby's). The bins in the center of the front room hold a large back-issues collection, with more valuable Golden and Silver Age titles displayed behind the counter. The shop also carries a variety of toys, T-shirts and collectibles.
The downtown outpost of this Chicago chain is the only comic shop in the Loop, so don't be surprised if you see guys in suits updating their pull lists during a lunch break. You'll find the usual selection of new issues from Marvel, DC and the indies on one side of the store, while the other half houses a few longboxes worth of back issues and shelves filled with trade paperbacks. Graham Cracker stays open until 8pm during the week, so even if you're stuck at the office late, you'll still have time to go pick up your books before catching the train.
This small storefront facing the Logan Square Blue Line station houses a decent selection of comics, graphic novels and related merchandise. It's not the best place to go browse, but G-Mart offers one of the best subscription programs in the city, allowing customers to pre-order single issues and trade collections for up to 35% off the cover price. If you're a regular reader, that's a hell of a deal.
Hyde Park's First Aid Comics has served neighborhood locals and University of Chicago students from this bilevel 55th Street storefront since 2011 (it was previously located in a hard-to-find second-floor space on 53rd). Keeping with the shop's name, owner James Nurss, formerly a manager at Graham Crackers Comics, will diagnose your comics needs wearing a doctor's lab coat. The shop also carries plenty of action figures, gaming supplies (with regular Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh! nights) and clothing—including, appropriately for the ’hood, a sizable supply of T-shirts featuring Alex Ross's Superman-inspired portrait of President Obama.
Tucked at the end of a gangway between a Starbucks and a Potbelly on Clark Street, this small but popular shop has been meeting Andersonville's comics-shop needs since 2011. AlleyCat offers the usual wall of new comics and a good selection of trades and graphic novels, along a smallish collection of back issues. Kid-friendly books are well stocked in the "AlleyKitten's Corner." The shop also hosts weekly Magic: The Gathering tournaments, game nights and movie nights.
Why hike up to Skokie for your funny books (though, come on, it's right off the Yellow Line)? Aw Yeah co-owner Art Baltazar is the kid-friendly DC artist behind Tiny Titans. His cartoon super cat covers the walls, behind the racks of toys and comics. The king of cute and whimsical is the greatest gateway to get kids into the art of comic books. The events, which draw big-name artists and writers, and industry-insider smarts will deeply satisfy the adult superfan.
Part comics shop, part gamers' haven, part idiosyncratic video-rental store and all, as the owners put it, geek-safe zone, Brainstorm has nurtured a loyal clientele that's followed it to the third floor of the Flatiron Arts Building, where it moved in 2013 after ten years in a North Avenue storefront. On the comics side, the focus is on new releases, which come bagged and boarded free of charge. On the video side, Brainstorm specializes in indies, classics and cult favorites; it even has a selection of bootleg DVDs (including the infamous Star Wars Christmas special) that can be "rented" for free along with your paid rentals.
It bears no official connection to Stephen King's gunslinger saga, but this Lincoln Square store may inspire journeys across the city with its towering collection of back issues. Weary travelers will also find plenty of single issues and trades, as well as a treasure trove of statues, action figures and other assorted collectibles.
The Evanston location of Revolution (there is a second in Mount Prospect) is about as tidy, organized and welcoming as a comic book store gets. There are no overwhelming stacks of bins and boxes of back issues to dig through, which might put off some hardcore collectors, but this is the perfect shop for casual (and primarily mature) readers. The week's new releases are front and center. An equal amount of space is given to trade paperback collections. The indie books are the first thing you see when you enter, which is a welcome change from being inundated with DC and Marvel fodder. The back room holds a decent selection of manga and art books, as well as some fiction and nonfiction.
Step into the brightly-colored interior of this small Edgewater shop and you'll find a healthy selection of comics and graphic novels, overseen by a friendly staff that is eager to help you find your new favorite title. Monthly comic book meetups provide a gathering place for anyone who wants to geek out about movies and books with likeminded individuals.
The little Wilmette store may be short on space, but makes up for it with taste. The Gallery cannot compete with the selection of a comic book megastore, but part of the charm of shopping at a quaint neighborhood spot is talking comics with the owner, Vern. The longtime reader smartly curates his shop, leaving the dumb filler titles from the Big Two publishers to others (though Vern will politely order your Deadpool spin-offs for you). This is the kind of place to grab all the cutting-edge Image stuff and debate how it compares to the Silver Age. The bundled back-issue collections run deceptively deep, and are values.