Dont bother denying it: Every time you see a trailer for a new superhero movie, you cross your fingers and hope it will hit that secret spot that only spandex-clad heroes can satisfy. Not to mention its the holiday season, and youve got buyin on the mind. So with The Spirit and The Watchmen both on the way, its impossible to resist the urge to buy yourself, er, your friends, some fresh comic books. But its also getting harder and harder to find a comic shop of your own (i.e., not Forbidden Planet or St. Marks Comics). These three stores are perfect for anyone looking to surprise that special fanboy who brays that Morpheus is the Hamlet of our time, or that no one gets a bum rap quite like the Martian Manhunter.
10 E. 23rd St. (betw. Broadway & Park Ave.), 212-460-5322
This second-story loft has a very accessible display of new comics and trade paperbacks (or graphic novels, if you prefer). Its very well lit and spacey considering its relatively tight space. One very tempting wall of shelves is devoted to new issues. If youre looking for a series to get started with, look out for the diverse and always fun to read staff picks or ask the ever-friendly help for recommendations.
Jim Hanleys Universe
4 W. 33rd St., (betw. Broadway & 5th Ave.), 212-268-7088
Though I prefer to stock up at Midtown Comics (200 W. 40th Street, 2nd floor) when I fall behind in my monthly comics or need the next episode in a series Im following (free membership gets you $20 off on every cumulative $100 in purchases), Hanleys is the best place to discover that missing back issue or find some great gateway titles, thanks to its supermarket-sized display of superhero and indie titles. If you need help deciding what to get, ask any of the geeks who regularly haunts the place. They may be loud, but theyll only coyly pause before supplying you with more information than you want regarding both comics and the world at large.
The Time Machine
207 W. 14th St. (at 7th Ave.), 212-691-0380
Forgive the pun, but once you see this place, youll understand why this is the comic shop that time forgot. Its the place to go for your hard-to-shop-for geek, the one who constantly complains that superhero comics just aint what they used to be. If youre willing and able to dig through the boxes upon boxes of comics and magazines spanning the golden age to the present, youre bound to find some great buried treasure. The stores prices are fair, especially if you buy a bunch of issues in one trip, which is easy to do without even realizing it. If you really want to impress a geek, this is the place to go. Buying them a story arc collected in graphic novel form from Amazon is nice; but the gift is far more heartfelt if you get the original set, even if it is missing an issue or two.