Interested in animated storytelling? Read more comics and sequential art. At DIY Animation Club, we truly believe that there’s no reason to ever buy comics or graphic novels from megacorporate brick-and-mortar bookplexes, that one digital comics monopoly holder, nor their everything-store corporate overlords. We shop small and buy local. As a resident Glendalian, I’m going to share my favorite local comic shops, and the small-business mail order options I choose when I can’t find what I’m looking for locally.
1. My favorite comic shops in the L.A. area:
Small Silverlake shop with a carefully curated selection of indie graphic novels, hard-to-find small press titles, even self-published minicomics. All of the clerks give great advice, so this should be a destination for any curious LA-area comics reader, even if you’re not looking for anything in particular. These folks also have a wee, unstaffed pop-up shop inside of The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA, but I prefer the mothership, in Silverlake:
The Secret Headquarters
3817 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
As someone who works primarily in pen and ink, my main era of interest is Bronze Age (1970-1985) titles, into black and white boom and early Modern, with a focus on artists and not writers. I am a unabashed quarter bin bottom-feeder. I don’t care about whether something is collectible – if I love the art style, or a few page layouts inspire, I’ll pick it up. There are fewer and fewer shops around that have extensive dollar and quarter bins. Of these, Speros is the best I’ve found in the greater LA area. They advertise having “Over 100,000 comics from every era at 50 cents a pop”, and that’s no exaggeration. Head straight to “the back room”, with its floor-to-ceiling shelves, loaded up with long boxes labeled by publisher. Speros’ is a great place to show up with a very modest budget, dig and see what fun things you find.
21037 Devonshire St,
Chatsworth, CA 91311
2. My favorite mail-order comic shops in the U.S.
Though I’ve only made it there in person once, I absolutely love this Downtown Portland-based shop, and have continued to order from them through the mail over the last few years. Incredible selection of everything from mainstream indies to deep obscurities and self-published gems. Super knowledgeable staff. They’re not just a shop — they’re also a publisher. Follow them on Instagram to get the scoop on new arrivals, then snag them from the webshop, from wherever you are.
Floating World Comics
400 NW Couch St
Portland, OR 97209
Classic Pittsburgh shop with an emphasis on indies. I’ve picked up so many gems from their webshop – many of them titles I had never even heard of until they posted about them on their Instagram. Bookmark the Sales! page and check back frequently. And check out the shoot interview Cartoonist Kayfabe did with owner Bill Boichel.
The Copacetic Comics Company
3138 Dobson Street – Third Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Shop, publisher, Comic Arts Brooklyn organizer, and Instagram host of the early-pandemic, 9-panel webcomic anthology, Rescue Party. They do a secret monthly subscription box called Mystery Mail?!, and also offer consigned issues from self-published creators (though I assume those types of titles are easier to find in person). Check out their excellent webshop.
Desert Island Comics
540 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Bookseller and publisher with an incredible selection of graphic novels, from the big indies to small press, including imports, plus visually wild art books galore. They’ve got two killer IG feeds, one for the shop and one that feed that shares rare illustration inspo.
50 Watt Books
41 W. Nippon St.
Philadelphia, PA 19119
Comics and graphic novel publisher-distributor from experimental comics artist and journalist Austin English (Gulag Casual, Meskin and Umezo). Domino also carries small-batch imported Euro titles (from publishers like Frêmok) that would be impossible to purchase for the average American comics reader due to prohibitively expensive shipping costs. Follow Domino on Twitter to keep up with new arrivals.
3. Bonus Recommendations: My Favorite Comics and Illustration Research Spots
I get a lot of my recommendations from the IG and Twitter feeds of the shops mentioned above. Beyond that, I’m an avid reader of Monster Brains, and do my best to keep up with the latest from Cartoonist Kayfabe.
The ultimate comics YouTube channel, from comic artists Jim Rugg (Street Angel) and Ed Piskor (Red Room, Hip-Hop Family Tree), who are occasionally joined by their colleague Tom Scioli (Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics). The average Kayfabe episode is Jim and Ed flipping through a favorite comic or obscure quarter-bin find, offering Criterion commentary on every page. Their Shoot Interviews are long-form conversations offering often unprecedented access to comics greats, from the mainstream to the deep underground. Subscribe and turn on notifications to watch new episodes as they appear and mitigate the Kayfabe Effect — a sudden price bump that hits pretty much every title these two discuss, as hundreds of subscribers hunt for their own copies on eBay.
DIY Animation Club co-founder Dave Merson Hess taught and developed animation curriculum for Aurora Picture Show’s youth workshops, 2014-2018. He also started Rush Process, a Gulf Coast-based festival celebrating animators who work with physical media, which ran from 2015 to 2018. Dave is currently an MFA candidate in Experimental Animation at Calarts.