When I lived in Germany with my family, I always looked forward to the Sunday edition of the Stars and Stripes newspaper we got from a nearby military base, because it was the only time I was able to read the exploits of my favorite superhero: Spider-Man.

Written by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, The Amazing Spider-Man daily comic strip would be my introduction to Marvel, DC and the world of fiction. The epic struggles of good versus evil in single-issue paperback helped make me the lifelong reader that I am. What also drew me to reading and collecting comic books is the place best suited for housing them: the comic book shop.

As one of the first news interns for The Baltimore Banner, I will write about all that is happening in the city of Baltimore, including comics if that gets enough traction. The Baltimore area is home to some pretty good independent comic book shops. Heed my words: if you want to get comics both in single issue and trade paperback, do not go to Barnes & Noble or any chain bookstore.

If you want a curated experience from staff who know what they are talking about, while browsing in a space that isn’t sectioned to some unknown corner of a bookstore like they’re embarrassed to have it share the same space as “The Other Wes Moore,” go to a comic shop. From my experience, the people who work these shops are genuine and cool people who are a far cry from the stereotypical snooty comic geek.

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If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or the DC Extended Universe, if you’re the one person out there), I’ve come across four shops in the Baltimore area that will give you quality service, a curated stock and a great introduction into the world of comic books.

A selection of LGBTQ comics and books inside Dreamers & Make Believers in Highlandtown. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Dreamers and Make Believers

Currently located in the Highlandtown Arts District, this place is especially important for folks in the 21224 ZIP code because it is the only comic book store in that area, says owner Miranda Nordell. What’s more, this store specializes in comics and graphic novels made by Black, Indigenous, women and LGBTQ+ creators, which is a major step in the right direction towards promoting diverse and interesting stories. The space is very welcoming, with a fantastic stock of comics, graphic novels, books and collectibles. For a local, community-focused comic shop that highlights diverse and local creators, you can’t get much better than this. Nordell plans to move to Highland Avenue in the fall.

Amazing Spiral Comics and Games

For a more traditional comic book store, look no further than Amazing Spiral Comics & Games. Located on York Road across from the Senator Theatre, this store sells new and vintage comics as well as $1 comics, which is a great way to collect many issues while staying on a budget. Lizzie Jump, the store owner and manager, says that she plans on bringing back their Saturday Pokémon club in August as coronavirus restrictions ease. Jump said the store serves as an informal babysitting service for kids who want to have fun, and “can help a lot of families by giving parents time to run errands or relax.” A fantastic store and a great community service: what more could you ask for in a comic book store?

Universal Comics

Universal Comics is both a premier comic shop and a piece of Baltimore history, as it is the oldest comic shop in Maryland (50+ years) and a must-visit for a bit of historic sightseeing. While they do sell some toy figures, this is a pure stock comic shop, with “more rare, key, and back issues in stock than anyone else in the area,” according to their website. One thing that I like is that they have bundled issues of a comic run at discounted prices, so it’s great for those looking for a starting point or buying in bulk. Store owner Gordon Bull has a very organized comic shop, and with a wealth of back issues in stock — so if there’s a comic book you want, chances are they have it.

Cosmic Comix

For 31 years, Cosmic Comix has served the comic book needs of Ellicott City, where it was originally located, and now at its current Linthicum Heights location. The store is beautiful, with 1,400 square feet filled with comics, collectibles and a beautiful ceiling mural that highlights 44 moments in comic history (my favorite is Superman and Spider-Man squaring off). What’s more, owner Andy Bridges truly cares about the medium. If you tell him you’re a first-time visitor, you get a goodie bag with free comic book issues. Although it’s a ways outside the city, you owe it to yourself as a connoisseur to visit.

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