D.C. Comics: The District’s other bookstores

November 12, 2009

If you think comic books are meant for greasy, perma-pubescent mouthbreathers with no friends, stop reading right now. Go find Johnny Lawrence and Biff Tannen to talk about what it’s like being the villain in an eighties teen movie instead. Gone are the days of being stuffed in lockers. These days, comic books are pretty cool.

Hollywood studios can’t wait to option comics for film production. Watchmen is up front and center at places like Borders or Barnes and Noble. Hell, some professors teach Maus as part of an honest-to-God college curriculum. Like it or not, comic books are here to stay. So, grab some tights, strap on your favorite grappling gun, and think of a witty catchphrase—it’s comic book store hunting time!

Comic book stores are few and far between in D.C., but have no fear. The best bet for any Georgetown student who has an insatiable desire for word bubbles and inked drawings is Big Planet Comics, located at 3145 Dumbarton Street, NW. With additional locations in Bethesda, Vienna, and College Park, Big Planet is the king of the D.C. comic book scene. Unlike most comic book stores, Big Planet is tidy and organized, selling every genre of comic imaginable: superhero, mystery, science fiction, manga, alternative, or independent. You want it, they got it—or they can order it. Just ask nicely, because the employees tend to be prickly. Although Comic Book Guy would be proud, their attitudes can be off-putting. (Comic book store employees acting rude to customers? Shock of the century!)

Although it’s a trek, Aftertime Comics in Alexandria (1304 King Street) is worth a look. It’s a small place with comics stacked and shelved in every available inch, making it difficult to walk around the store when it’s crowded, but the employees are eager to make recommendations for both serious fans and casual readers. Aftertime Comics stands out because of its friendly atmosphere. Customers and employees share an occasionally obsessive interest in the medium—ask anyone in the store about Elektra. At best, the relationship leads to discussions about the merits of artists, writers, and storylines. At worst, it leads to a back-alley brawl to determine if Kyle Rayner or Guy Gardner was a better Green Lantern. (It’s a trick question: Hal Jordan was the best Green Lantern.) Check out Aftertime Comics to support an independent store, but also because you might see a real, live dork-fight.

Fantom Comics may not have a massive collection like Big Planet, or an inviting atmosphere like Aftertime Comics, but it’s good in a pinch if you’re around Union Station and you don’t mind tourists. Located at 50 Massachusetts Avenue, SE, Fantom carries a large collection of graphic novels, superhero comics, and manga, but not much else. It’s too far for too little. But, keep it in mind for those long train rides at the end of the semester.

Instead of buying two slices of Philly’s this weekend, cut back to one and pay a visit to a local comic book store. Who knows what caped crusader or masked menace you might find. But if you see any Star Trek fans, just back away slowly—Star Trek is for losers.

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