I can’t think of a better story to end this year with than that of Ariell R. Johnson, reportedly the East coasts first black female comics shop owner. Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse opens in the and coming Kensington part of town and will offer not only comics but a cozy coffeeshop vibe.
This “geeky” hybrid hopes to contribute to the burgeoning Kensington section of Philadelphia. Amalgam hopes to build community around comics, coffee, and relaxing with friends, and also through hosting geeky and diversity-themed workshops, movie/TV screenings, book signings, and BYOB nights.
“I got the idea for the shop about 12 years ago, when I was still attending Temple University,” said Amalgam’s owner, Ariell R. Johnson. “My favorite coffee shop was directly across the street from my comic book store of choice. So, each Friday, I would buy my books at Fat Jack’s, go across the street to Crimson Moon, and read everything I bought.
Johnson hopes to highlight diversity in the shop—along with quality caffeine:
t will be a legit store, so expect to see the heavy hitters that we all know and love,” she said. “But in addition to those usual suspects, we want to showcase diverse comics, creators, and characters. We think that comics are for everyone and anyone that loves comics-women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. We will actively look to stock titles that showcase people in these groups, right long with Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Thor.”
This story encapsulates everything that happened in comics in 2015: women in comics as characters, readers and carters were no longer a pleasant surprise but the way things are; diversity was often contentious and controversial, but widening the audience was not only a way to get more readers but in general, the right thing to do. And while we were saddened to see Locust Moon close shop in Philadelphia, hopefully Amalgam will carry the torch for indie comics. Also the coffeehouse/comics shop model is one that I’ve seen a few places. Having a “chill out” area seems to be essential to the community building that has kept local brick and mortar stores alive. It’s also part of the book shop tradition…and in 2016 comics stores are indie book stores not the Android’s Dungeon, something that the entire industry needs to embrace.
I saw this story posted everywhere on my FB feed over the last day or two, so people are getting the message and supporting it.
Congrats to Ariell R. Johnson and wishing her the best of luck for her store.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.