Fanboys have several excellent options for getting their comic book fix in Manhattan. There are small stores and big stores, stores with extensive DVD collections and stores with toy collections that cover entire walls. Whether you’re looking for a hard-to-find back issue, hunting for a six-inch GI Joe figurine, or just trying to keep up with the endless string of X-Men books, Manhattan’s best comic book shops can accommodate your needs.
By far the biggest and most extensive comic store in Manhattan is Midtown Comics (www.midtowncomics.com). With two spacious locations ideally situated for commuters at 200 West 40th Street (at the corner of 7th Avenue)-just blocks up from Penn Station-and at 459 Lexington Avenue (at the corner of 45th Street)-just to the northeast of Grand Central-Midtown is the 800 lb. gorilla of New York City comics. Neil Gaiman promoting a new novel? He’s sure to appear at Midtown. Need a Batman cowl or a Daredevil T-shirt for Halloween? Midtown will have it, probably at both locations. Just about every comic published hits the shelves at Midtown on Wednesday, including magna, adult titles, alternates, and even a fair amount of first edition fantasy and sci-fi books. In addition to this is Midtown’s impressive array of comic-related toys, posters, and clothing. Of special interest to nostalgic fans is the impressive DVD selection at Midtown. On floor-to-ceiling racks just up the stairs from the street (both locations are on second stories) is an amazing offering of classic cartoons, 1970s superhero dramas, and little-known comic character movies. Midtown completes its dominance of the Manhattan comic market by offering repeat customers, in effect, a 20% discount on all their comic books and graphic novels-for every $100 of purchased books, Midtown gives the buyer a $20 credit.
Comparable in size and selection to Midtown but of a decidedly different style is Jim Hanley’s Universe (www.jsuniverse.com). Located across from the south side of the Empire State Building at 4 West 33rd Street, Jim Hanley’s carries almost as much as Midtown, with the exception of toys and DVDs. Jim Hanley’s also differs from Midtown, and every other comic store, in its layout. Instead of presenting books by company or publication date, with a separate section for graphic novels and such, Jim Hanley’s is arranged alphabetically. For those in a hurry to grab a favorite new book before catching a train, this can present a challenge. However, the layout is perfect for browsing and catching up on the lesser-known titles of a favorite character. Other features of Jim Hanley’s include an adult section that might surpass even Midtown’s, and a collection of vintage back issues that can make collectors drool. Unfortunately, Jim Hanley’s does not offer the same credit deal as Midtown Comics. Buying $100 worth of books at Jim Hanley’s will get you just that, not $120.
Down Broadway from Hanley’s just off of Union Square comic fans will find plenty of NYU students at Forbidden Planet (www.fpnyc.com). A comfortable, friendly store with a great staff, Forbidden Planet is the only second street-level option to make this Best Comic Shops in Manhattan list, with a storefront on the corner of 13th Street at 840 Broadway. In addition to offering all major and underground comic books, Forbidden Planet also has an impressive toy selection and enough role playing game equipment to put both Midtown and Jim Hanley’s to shame. One thing not to expect at Forbidden Planet is back issues-except for certain graphic novels they don’t carry any books more than a few months old. An added perk at Forbidden Planet is the store’s nighthawk hours: Wednesday through Friday, the shop is open until midnight.
Perhaps a fifth the size of Forbidden Planet, small but lovely Cosmic Comics (www.cosmiccomics.com) at 10 East 23rd Street nonetheless manages to make the list of Best Comic Shops in Manhattan, if only on style points. Tight but not to the point of being cramped, situated up two flights of questionable stairs in an old office building, Cosmic Comics is your old small town comic shop, complete with cantankerous owner but knowledgeable and friendly staff (sometimes even a cute and knowledgeable and friendly staff-hard to believe at a comic shop, but true). Cosmic can’t offer the same range of toys as Jim Hanley’s, or the guaranteed-to-have-it aura of Midtown, but they come pretty close. They even get their fair share of celebrity signings, perhaps because of their location in comicdom’s silver age stomping grounds. Any new book worth having is available at Cosmic, including most small press and alternate titles, and the quality and intimacy of the shop’s comic talk gives it a cozy quality not found at gargantuan Midtown or at scattered Jim Hanley’s. Add in the sometimes witty, always accurate “Staff Picks” at Cosmic and comic readers may find themselves happy to put up with the close quarters. In addition, Cosmic offers the same $20 credit for every $100 spent on comics and books for repeat customers as Midtown.
Two notable Village stores round out the Best Manhattan Comic Shops list. First is the East Village’s St. Mark’s Comics at 11 St. Mark’s Place, which promises a thorough if disorganized array of underground and alternative books, as well as a great selection of back issues. Just be sure to leave your bag a the desk-the staff will bite. Equally stocked with back issues but so cramped they had to install mechanized shelves to make space is Sleep of Reason Comics, just west of Washington Square Park at 47 West 8th Street. Both are great stops for serious comic collectors if only for their individual, non-corporate charm.