It's no secret among my friends and family that I'm a comic book freak. Truth be told, I'm addicted to the little bastards; I visit comic book stores weekly; I pay out the ass; and I sometimes skip meals to support my obsession. When I told my lady friend, through gritted teeth and bitter tears, that I had quit comics, "and quit them for good!," I started hiding them around the apartment—in the couch, under the floorboards, down my pants—like packs of cigarettes. But with its near endless supply of comic book stores, Chicago is a hard-to-ignore enabler of my habit, so I've given up and given in to my passion. Don't be ashamed, people; succumb to the dorky embrace of Batman, Green Lantern, the X-Men and countless more.
The aptly named Chicago Comics—because it's located in Chicago and sells comics—really should be called "Awesome Comic Shop in Chicago." But, unfortunately, that name was already taken. A hodgepodge of vibrant visual styles—from neo-cyberpunk to the gothic stylings of Tim Burton—makes up the decor. The shop stocks comic books, action figures, posters and more; not a single space is left unused here, like an American Indian version of a comic book store (which can be a problem when it's really busy). The coolest thing about Chicago Comics, though: You can sell your own comic on their shelves, if you so desire.
Graham Crackers Comics (Loop)
Graham Cracker has less to do with quasi-cookies and more to do with high-quality comic-book selling around Chicagoland. If my words don't convince you, the giant, cartoonish sign that reads "COMICS" above the door, coupled with the oversize-cardboard cutouts of The Hulk, Iron Man and the recently dead Captain America (he'll be back!), should more than suffice. As soon as you walk through the door, you'll enjoy a bright, colorful and utterly welcoming vibe. Comics are organized first by publisher (DC, Marvel, Image, etc.) and second by alphabet; the graphic novel section is as vast as they come. There's even an ATM inside the store and a revolving door, which is greatly appreciated come negative-20 degree days with wind chill. The only downside is that they close at 6 p.m. on weekdays.
Evil Squirrel Comics
At first glance, the moniker "Evil Squirrel Comics" seems to be a name without meaning—words that only sound cool. But take a closer look, and you'll realize that the name says everything. Tucked away in Rogers Park, this comic book shop is small but feisty, with the kind of atmospheric exuberance more often attributed to bigger, more blatant stores like Chicago Comics. Small though it is, it stocks pretty much everything, and if you're lusting for an item it doesn't have on offer, the friendly employees will hunt it down for you. The owner and staff are some of the nicest, most talkative fellas you'll ever come across in a comic book shop, a 180-degree difference from your typical "Comic Book Guy," a la "The Simpsons." Also, if you're interested, the store hosts Friday Night Magic (FNM) games at 7 p.m. for a $5 entry fee.
Brainstorm Movies, Comics and Gaming
Brainstorm Comics (painted yellow, red and blue on the inside like an old-fashioned comic book!) is a self-described "Geek Safe-Zone." Now, I'm not sure that this affirmation is unique to Brainstorm, as I'm pretty certain every comic book shop earns geek safe-zone status (except for maybe "No Geeks Comic Shop" on Michigan Avenue). What does make Brainstorm unique is its enormous collection of hard-to-find superhero movies, like the straight-to-video "Captain America" or the original, somehow even cheesier version of "Fantastic Four" (sans Jessica Alba). On the comic book side of things, Brainstorm goes to the trouble of bagging and boarding all issues before they're placed on the shelves, which ensures that you won't read them without paying and protects your comic books for nary a penny.
Comix Revolution in Evanston looks like a nihilist's dream, with all the sleek grays, pitch blacks and dim spotlights sporadically peppered amongst the colorful comic books and posters. The black-and-white checkered floors will even further convince you that you've stepped into a 1990s commercial for Calvin Klein's "Obsession." Thankfully, looks can be deceiving. Though it has been called "pretentious in all the right ways," Comix Revolution is anything but nihilistic. The truth is, the staff cares more about the quality of a book than they do about its mainstream appeal; they place an emphasis on graphic novels (over 2,000 in stock), superhero-themed and not, without skimping on the weekly comics.