New York’s comic book store giant, Midtown Comics, just opened an outlet store, located in Queens, with what can best be described as convention prices for books and collectibles alike. It’s a deceptively small space with two levels filled with back issues, discount action figures and statues, manga, and Funko Pops. All things considered and taken as is, this store is a small slice of heaven for comic book lovers.
The shop opened its doors on Saturday, March 7th, 2020, just across the street from one of the Queens Public Library branches in Astoria. It’s snuggled into a quiet corner, quaint and inviting. A sign proudly reads Midtown Comics Outlet. It hangs above a short ramp that leads to the main floor, which puts you smack in the middle of discounted toys and Funkos.
Action figure collectors will find reasonably priced options for some of the most popular toy licenses currently in the stands. Marvel Legends, DC Multiverse, and various video game toy lines from McFarlane Toys were up for grabs, although the selection is not focused on those hard-to-find action figures certain collectors like to hunt down. What’s there is certainly what Midtown has either too much of or wants to get rid of, which is the entire purpose of an outlet store. This isn’t a knock on the store. Just a disclaimer.
Opposite the toys section—that also included Midtown merchandise such as shirts and mugs—is a generously stocked graphic novel and manga section. It’s all organized by alphabetical order and it carries both newer trades and out-of-print trades. They’re all mixed in with oversized books and omnibuses, all discounted extensively (up to 70% off) and in good shape. Batman books, for instance, ranged from $4.99 (with the New 52 and Greg Rucka and David Hine runs among them) to $12.99 (which counted No Man’s Land and other late ’90s/early 2000s arcs among them).
I wasn’t expecting the graphic novel selection to be as varied as it was, especially when considering I was in an outlet store. I would recommend taking your time exploring this section, though. What’s best here is to be surprised by books you either forgot existed or didn’t even know existed before landing on them on the shelves.
Looking for something specific might not yield the desired results. This isn’t necessarily a store for buyers looking for the first trades of a particular series or for people looking for an introduction into comics. But it doesn’t alienate them either, so long as the expectations are fair. There’s still a lot to pick up to start on a personal comics education.
This was the case with Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya, one of those surprises I was talking about. Child of Dreams is a manga that sends Batman to Tokyo on the hunt for a new drug that’s leaving dead bodies behind. The book was originally published by Kodansha between 2000-2001, with DC releasing it for the American market in 2003. As soon as I saw it on the shelves, I immediately grabbed and felt as if I’d found a secret book. It felt like a special discovery.
Right across the trades section is a set of stairs that leads down to the heart of the store: its back-issue section. This lower level is filled with rows of boxes holding either Midtown-exclusive variants, specific character and series single issues, $1 comics boxes, and complete set bundles that collected the original Superman: Red Son books, the original V for Vendetta series, Infinite Crisis, Spawn arcs, Wolverine arcs, and the series I was hoping to find and did, Marvel’s Truth (the classic black Captain America story by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker).
Rare comics lined the walls in this section, propped up behind glass cases. These weren’t as cheap as the rest, but they weren’t necessarily exhibited as such. The same applied to a few boxes with European comics in them, 2000AD and English sci-fi magazines among them.
As to be expected, the $1.00 comics boxes brought in the larger crowds. They included fairly new titles along with the older assortments, ranging from week old comics to months old comics. I was lucky to find Tom Taylor’s new Suicide Squad #1 in one of these boxes, a comic I wasn’t quick enough to get when it came out. It doesn’t seem like there’s any guarantee newer comics will be consistently and reliably brought in a week’s time, which would defeat the purpose of the main stores. But with careful planning, there’s money to be saved.
In my single visit, I managed to find a Walter Simonson Beta Ray Bill comic, Truth, the Asamiya Batman book, Dark Blue (Warren Ellis and Jacen Burrows’ first comics collaboration, for a dollar), and a few other single issues I had wanted to get my hands on for a while now. The trip was not only worth it, but it made me think about the potential of other stores having their own outlets. The prices are just too good to pass up and the mindset—which tricks the mind into buying comics as if the world’s ending the next day—is different. It adds a lot of value to back issues.
The store is basically a permanent version of Midtown’s warehouse sales, and it does feel like you’ve stumbled into a secret sale you just have to take advantage of. Just remember to allow for surprise finds rather than surgical searches. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Midtown Comics Outlet is located in 32-11 41st Street (off Broadway), Astoria, Queens, NY.
The store will allow customers to pick up new releases in-store so long as they order them at their online store at midtowncomics.com. This service, though, wasn’t available at the time of this writing.