April 2004

Michael Farrelly

independent bookstore profile

Independent Bookstore Profile: Comix Revolution

A few years back the president of Marvel comics got into quite a bit of hock with comic’s retailers by telling them to sweep their stores and clean up their messy overstock. Truth be told, while his critique lacked style or courtesy it was not without a ring of truth. It is so trite to say that most comic book stores are dingy ugly places. It is a primitive version of the big box electronics stores that are so popular. At one store in the Chicagoland area, you cannot even see the floor and you often climb over stacks of old, Babylon 5 figures to get at the latest Eddie Campbell or Cerebus. You have to mine through a lot of nerd-ore to get at what you want. It is embarrassing and degrading. Why should shopping for comics and graphic novels have all the sensory pleasure of walking into a seedy adult bookstore?

Comix Revolution (in Evanston, Illinois is a comic shop that gives your comic buying experience dignity and class. Evanston is a classy suburb just north of Chicago, if you keep driving on most North/South roads in the city you will end up in Evanston, known mainly for the presence of Northwestern University. With a huge mentally hungry student population to serve there is a great deal of literati friendly stores. Comix Revolution slings the usual comic books. You will find your Superman/Batman spandex fix here. But only the last few months’ worth. Comix Revolution is the first comic books store I have ever been in where there were not stacks of those white comic long boxes. A second location in Randhurst handles the back issues. Rather than turn off the college audience or the casual day shopper with a bunch of blank white boxes Comix Revolution fills its store with well-organized graphic literature and face front-shelving. Comic book boogeyman Warren Ellis has been making the point for years that any store interested in moving graphic novels should put them face-front and not spine out.

Comix Revolution is a clean and open space. It is an attractive store laid out in just the right way to snag your dollar. Just as you walk in there is a huge rack of independent comics, a far larger selection than most comic book stores carry, and graphic novels. On the left side of the store, you can browse all those brainy magazines you are reading, or want to be reading. Bitch, Adbusters, The Believer (yes CR is a McSweeney’s dealer) and other provocative titles are just sitting there to be thumbed and purchased. I think about all the time I wasted at chain bookstores looking into the dead eyes of some poor wage-slave asking for a copy of The Comics Journal and I want to kick myself.

There’s a huge rack of comics from the mainstream comics press as well. However, comics aren’t all you’ll find at this shop. Are you looking for T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey or the latest micro-press book on Howard Zinn or perhaps a hard to find edition of something by Philip K. Dick? Comix Revolution might just be able to help you. Adding alternative press books to a comic shop isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that got lost in the shuffle somewhere between the waning years of R. Crumb and the rise of Image Comics. Comics as a visual art form are bursting with radical new ideas all the time, adding some solid textbooks into the stock is a solid idea.

There’s manga there too, and weird action figures and role-playing books and statues and anime and sweet t-shirts of a nerdeliscious variety. All of it well stocked, easy to access and ready to separate you and your cash. Even the store’s bags are cool.

The staff of Comix Revolution is the one of the real treats. These are easy-going knowledgeable hipsters who spin cool music in the store and are willing to bend over backwards to get you the item you want. You’re not dealing with comic book store guy here.

Comic books are such a mentally stimulating form of literary expression it’s sad that they’ve had to molder in the poorly-lit and stuffy dungeons. A store like Comix Revolution brings comics out of the dark age and into the light.

Putting it more simply, and with a touch less sophistry, if you want to feel cool when you pick up your comics go to Comix Revolution.

The Comix Revolution (Evanston)
606 Davis Street
Evanston, IL 60201
Telephone: (847) 866-2800