Every Comic Shop on Sunset Strip/Greater Cleveland Area

20 Apr
By Kevin Czap

Ed Rusha's Every Building on Sunset Strip
When I took a trip to New York City at the end of last year, one of the strongest impressions I came away with was about the comic shops. I wasn’t able to go to every single one, but that’s beside the point. This is a city that loves comics in the universal sense. Sure you’ve got Desert Island covering the fringes and Bergen Street which is a handsome, diverse boutique, but even Midtown and Forbidden Planet, the more mainstream-y stores, had a selection that made me weep from euphoria. Who needs the internet in such a place?

Of course, the separation anxiety began to seep in as I returned home to Cleveland. New York is probably an unhealthy comparison for any city, but sometimes you can’t keep those kind of thoughts out. Since then I’ve heard other people talk about the less-than-diverse offerings in their own cities, further establishing that week in the big city as a special case. Still, it got me thinking. If you’ve been checking out my posts here on the Cube, you’ll know that I’ve been all about local scenes lately, so it makes sense that my thoughts have been centering on the make-up of Cleveland’s comics scene. Comics shops, being the physical locations of input, are a large part of any scene’s ecosystem, naturally.

Over the 8 years I’ve lived here, my visits to each of the various shops has been intermittent. This was largely because of the few stores there are, each one is spread out across the various neighboring suburbs, with about a 20 minute drive between them. Add the fact that most of us kids didn’t have cars and you have the result of being taken to some far-off store only once in a blue moon. When I tried to return to the first Cleveland store I ever went to sometime last year, I found it was now selling plumbing hardware. So yeah, things change. I now can drive and own a car, and live a few blocks away from a comic shop. While it certainly does its best, and has been doing well for decades, their selection isn’t always my cup of tea. Finally deciding to go forth and see what this city has to offer in comparison, I did just that and have returned to report to you cats and mice what I learned. Here we go:

Comic Heaven

4847 Robinhood Drive, Willoughby | website
The home base, Comic Heaven puts in a solid effort. Mostly a superhero shop, they usually get the Big Two and a handful of popular mainstream titles, with the occasional experiment thrown in (for example, Glamorpuss). There’s a pretty fair selection of back issues and the walls are well-stocked with trades, although the organization isn’t readily apparent. The sizeable amount of manga they had in the past has dwindled to just over a bookshelf, but the good news is a lot of what they still have is on sale for super cheap. There’s also t-shirts, role playing games and collectors items if that’s something you are into. I always gravitate towards the alt/art comics section, which is a couple selves worth of various random titles collected over the years, including your Wilsons and Acme Novelty Librarys and your Jasons. Interesting stuff but not too many “must own” pieces, in my opinion. The clerks are pleasant and it’s a nice place to stroll into, but I usually find myself going there based on proximity and a feeling of responsibility to my surrounding area.

Comics & Friends

7850 Mentor Avenue, Mentor | website
This store opened up about a year or two ago in the mall. Super-hero oriented, there’s more of a curated quality to the alt books they do have. Overall, there’s a lot of kid friendly stuff, as the name might imply. The real power to this shop, though, are the old and rare comics they have. Comics & Friends was started up by a serious collector, and the stuff they have reflects that. Collectors prices, of course, but it’s still pretty cool to see all the old books they’ve got, again including a lot of kids and licensed stuff. I was really impressed by the old comics and fan magazines they have, including issues from the first volume of Heavy Metal.

Mr. Cards-N-Comics

5646 Mayfield Road, Cleveland
There’s a reason comics gets second billing. This is mostly a place where folks get together to play card games, despite the walls lined with trade paperbacks. This is where I got my copy of V for Vendetta several years ago, but other than that, there hasn’t been much of a reason to stop over. They had a couple unorganized boxes of back issues that had some surprising stuff, and I was excited to walk away with the complete run of Prez. The shopkeep was very nice, so that’s always a plus.

A & A Comics

5021 Turney Road, Cleveland
I went to this place years ago when my good buddy Hector Andres Mountains surprised me with a Cleveland visit. It’s changed a lot since then, but I have to give it mad props for not only having the newest issue of Orc Stain but also several back issues, so I was able to catch up on most of the ones I’ve missed (still need #3). This is more of a manga and anime store (and super heroes, of course) with some gaming stuff. Lots and lots of action figures. It seems like the kind of place if you spend some extra time in you can find something pretty cool. Quite a bit of back issues, though they don’t seem to go too far back in time.

B & L Comics Cards & Nostalgia

5591 Ridge Road, Parma
Man, Parma, for as much shit as they get from the rest of Cleveland, they are lucky. This shop was not on my original itinerary, but when I passed it, several blocks before it was supposed to appear (or so I thought) I had to stop in. Apparently there are two comic stores on the same street! This little store is mostly back issues, of a fairly diverse character. Lots of old Dell and Gold Key stuff, which I really like, if only for the great covers. I was very tempted to buy a copy of The Harlem Globetrotters they had on the wall…

North Coast Nostalgia

5853 Ridge Road, Parma | Facebook page
…and then a couple blocks down we have this gem. Apparently this was voted best comic shop in the city at some point in the recent past, and it’s not difficult to see where that judgement was coming from. Again, mostly back issues, but with a much more careful selection of important marks in comics history. The best part is that almost everything was marked down. Many issues were packaged as full runs, and I came close to picking up Halo Jones and Joe Kubert’s Rag Man. This was maybe the only place that had any Franco-Belgian albums, such as Asterix and Tin Tin. Lots of archived collections as well. Going off of the Nostalgia theme, there’s also a lot of older memorabilia that has nothing to do with comics, but are on a more mainstream pop cultural tip (I Love Lucy and Bing Crosby, stuff like that). I found some really swell stuff in the quarter bins, like an old Dark Horse Presents with a section of Madwoman of the Sacred Heart.

Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop

17462 Lorain Ave, Cleveland | website
Have to give these guys credit for hiring a talented graphic designer to handle their identity work. This is one of those modern comics shops, with a very comfortable atmosphere, wide open space, fancy bookcases and a section for kids to hang out and read age-suitable comics. Not to mention all clearly labeled, which is not always a given, it seems. While they focus mainly on the basic single issues, the aforementioned bookcases are packed tight with all manner of collections, trades, and graphic novels, including the really beautiful ones that Fanta and D&Q are putting out lately. The owners, Carol (who was not there when I went) and John, are very pleasant people, putting an accessible face on the comics selling business, the type who will recommend you a book and then hunt it down to show you. A long-standing establishment in the area (though quite a drive out from where I am), they recently moved to new digs, which they make much better use of then the grungy video store that was the former occupant.

Astound Comics Secret Surfin’ Spot

25943 Detroit Road (In the back), Westlake | website
The farthest shop on my map, Astound made a very very good first impression on me years and years ago. It was one of the first comic stores that had a vast and interesting collection of independent and alt comics. Because of its distance, I never got to return before they began a moving process, at which point things were a lot less organized and a lot of the great books must have been packed up. Anyway, these are the guys who founded and put on Cleveland’s Genghis Con, so it’s clear that the owner, Scott Rudge, has an appreciation for the small press and the comics creator. He usually sells the good stuff out in the hall way during Genghis Con, so I’ve no doubts about his taste level (which, as diverse as it is, doesn’t stray too far into the fringes. You’ll find AdHouse, but no such luck with PictureBox).

Anyway, as I mentioned, they’ve moved, and the nature of the store has changed drastically. Now located in the backside of the building, with only a tiny sign on the backdoor and a message on their website to indicate the switch, it’s less a comic book store and more of a warehouse. There is a whole lot of amazing stuff here, for sure, but you pretty much have to hunt for all of it. Full long boxes are stacked on top of each other 5 deep, without any labeling system or usually indication of price. This combined with the somewhat clandestine location makes it clear that this is for the Serious Comics Folk only. Finding what you want here requires patience, time and space (which is constrained by the physical layout). That said, this is pretty much the only shop in the area that sells minis, mostly purchased from tablers at Genghis Con. If you’re a fan of John G as I am, you’re in luck as pretty much everything he’s done is in stock here. But again, you have to dig.

Mac’s Backs Paperbacks

1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights | website
So those are all the actual comic book stores. Subtle nuances from shop to shop, but for the most part they’re all of the same type, generally. Whatever the comics-buying populace of Northeast Ohio thinks about the world of the comics medium, it would seem to be not so diverse. But there’s other places to go, as well. On Coventry, the great bookstore Mac’s Backs has a small but sweet bunch of comics. I saw Young Lions there once! You can usually bet on Harvey Pekar being well represented (it was his neighborhood store, and he was friendly with the owners), as well as other Cleveland-originals Peter Kuper and Derf. Somewhat recently, they seem to have purchased a collection of floppies from someone who was a big fan of Star Trek comics. So, you know, there’s that if you’re into it. Aside from comics, the shop’s got a great collection of prose and poetry, and even a basket of zines. A highly recommended stop on any visit to the city, especially the literary types.

Big Fun

1814 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights | website
Right next door is the novelty and nostalgia shop Big Fun, which has it’s own custom filing cabinets full of super-hero back issues. I’ve already cleaned them out of Bill Sienkiewicz era New Mutants, but there’s other good stuff as well.

Visible Voices Books

1023 Kenilworth Road, Tremont | website
And finally we have this beautiful little store in beautiful little Tremont. The kind of store of store any progressive or yuppie would love to spend an hour or two in, they’ve also got an interesting collection of GNs. The first time I ever went I walked out with a copy of Brian Chippendale’s Maggots, so that should give you an idea that you can get books here you won’t find anywhere else in the city. To further supply the context, the comics section is right next to the rock and roll section. These dudes know what’s up.

So there’s my tour of the city’s comic shops. Keep in mind that this is told mostly from an outsider’s point of view – I did some research beforehand, but there’s every possibility there are some great hidden treasure troves that you need to be a real Cleveland aficionado to know about. Also there are plenty of used bookstores and vintage shops, like Suite Lorain, that tend to have more Playboys and Mads than strict comics, but every now and then you can find gold. If I find anything good in the future, or if you savvy Clevelanders out there have any recommendations, I’ll make an addendum to this list.

The title of this post and the first image is from Ed Rusha’s Every Building on Sunset Strip, one of my favorite art pieces/handmade books.

9 Responses to “Every Comic Shop on Sunset Strip/Greater Cleveland Area”

  1. Mike Lynch April 20, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Wow! Great job! Someone should do this for every city.

    I lived in NYC for over 20 years, but before that, I lived in Cleveland. My hangout (way back in the day) was Tony Isabella’s Cosmic Comics, located in the Colonial Arcade on Euclid. It was a great comics shop. Just the other side of the arcade, across Prospect, there was a big used book store whose name escapes me.

    Thanks for bringing back all the memories. Now I gotta go back to Cleveland to check all these out!

  2. darrylayo April 20, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    How big is Cleveland? There must be a hundred shops listed in this report!*

    You just went above and beyond, Kevin. I like where you are taking your local culture theme. I just read something from a guy from Trees&Hills, the New England comics collective and I’m startin to taste the flavor of the air. Somehow, paradoxically, the high-tech interconnected nature of the internet has yielded a resurgence of local, tribal culture. This is thrilling to me; I’m starting to smell it in the atmosphere.

    Trees&Hills are doing this thing that is uniquely theirs, you’ve got Providence/post-Fort-Thunder, there’s a weird thing happening somewhere out west that I don’t quite have a name for, Philly’s got a style and voice…comics are coming into a nice wave of personal, localized, neighborly culture.

    The thing that is sticking out to me is that with all of these big internets, big conventions, it’s harder for small press and independent cartoonists to be noticed. But at regional conventions, they have smaller venues to shine in. And it is working. It is growing.

    Even with the internet having supposedly closed great distances, people are gravitating toward their neighbors and are building their own worlds.

    It might have something to do with the sheer number of people interested in comics as more than a casual pasttime. Comic scholars, hundreds, if not thousands of cartoonists being pumped out of cartooning schools…it’s a logical progression. There are so many people working that they can’t all exist on the wide scale…but they CAN thrive in smaller, more intimate local scenes.


    Thanks, Kevin.

    *NOTE: Darryl Ayo failed math in high school.

    • kevinczap April 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about this tribal culture thing. I mean, mass culture is great, but it doesn’t include everyone, by necessity. I think there’s a lot of value to these little atomic tribes, building up a lot of strength and unity where you are, and then being able to use the internet and regional shows to connect with the other tribes.

      Solidarity! It starts at home.

  3. jamesasmus April 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Thanks for the round up! I go back to Cleveland a couple times a year, and this will be my guide next time I’m around.

  4. Benjamin Denison April 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    This post was most dope, man. I, too, have been to most of the comic shops in Greater Cleveland, and I think most of your assessments are pretty accurate. Unfortunately, I also have to agree that Cleveland isn’t much of a comics city in comparison to New York or Chicago or Seattle. Well, to clarify that, I suppose I mean more in terms of indie and small-press books. You do find a handful at some shops, but I find myself having to use the Internet for a looooot of stuff. Still, whenever there are big 2 books that I want, I try to get them at a shop and support local retailers.

    But anyway! There are actually a few more that didn’t make it on here. Here are the ones I think are the most noteworthy:

    Ground Zero Comics (Strongsville) – Waaaay out of the way, but really cool in my opinion. It’s sort of messy and dingy, but in an independent record store kind of way. Lots of weird, unusual 80s and 90s junk in there.

    North Coast Nostalgia (Lyndhurst) – These guys actually have a second store in addition to the one in Parma. There are slight differences between the two, but I won’t get into it here (splitting hairs).

    Half-Price Books (Various Locations) – Not strictly a comic shop, obviously, but I’ve been to several that have very substantial sections of graphic novels and floppies and manga. I think all their stock comes from trade-ins and book store overstock, so every one is different. I’ve honestly been stunned by the rarity and quality of some of the stuff I’ve found here.

    Thanks again for the post. It’s really cool to see original stuff coming out of Cleveland comics people.

    • kevinczap April 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

      Hey Ben, thanks for your comment! I didn’t realize there was another North Coast there, I’ll have to check that out.

      I had thought about putting Half-Price on the list, but I haven’t had super memorable comics-buying experiences at any so thought I’d pass (they’re included in the blanket statement at the end, just not by name)(But now that I think about it, I did get a Mark Beyer book there once).

      I haven’t heard about Ground Zero, but it sounds pretty great. I kind of set a distance filter on this list, so Strongsville is probably outside of that. There was another shop in Parma, but it was like an extra 20 minutes away from the other two, so I let it slide.

      All in all, thanks for your additions. Always good to hear from other comics folk in the area.


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