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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Kansas City's comic book community is enormous. Start with this guide to local shops

Closeup of a pair of hands holding a comic book titled "The Amazing Spider-Man." The cover shows an unmasked Spider-Man clutching a woman and both are looking scared.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
William Binderup displays an issue of of "The Amazing Spider-Man" at Elite Comics in Overland Park on March 9, 2023.

From super-powered heroes to exaggerated political cartoons, comic books have reflected a fantastical view of society for over a hundred years. And the art form has generated generations of fans. Learn about the local community of comic book stores.

This story was first published in KCUR's Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Comic books are more than leaping tall buildings in a single bound, the snap of Thanos' fingers, or a Dark Knight seeking vengeance. Comics, at their essence, are about community and always have been.

In the Platinum Age of comics (1897-1938), comics rallied us through political cartoons and satire — and yes, kids' stories. Comics evolved and matured during the Golden Age (1938-1956). Superman introduced himself to the world in “Action Comics #1” (1938), Wonder Woman brought us truth (1941), and Captain America battled Nazis (1941). Westerns such as the Lone Ranger rode on Silver, Turok battled dinosaurs, and Shock Suspense Stories delivered intrigue.

As communities formed around the medium, comic book stores became hangout spots — including in the Kansas City area — where customers browsed the racks of new releases and debated the origins of The Joker or who was the best Green Lantern.

It’s worth reflecting on Kansas City’s own comics history as the city welcomes Planet Comicon Kansas City and Naka-Kon this spring.

Held March 8-10 at the Kansas City Convention Center, this year marks Planet Comicon's silver anniversary. Meet Jason Aaron who has worked on Wolverine, PunisherMax, Thor, and The Avengers. Get an autograph from the Vision, Paul Bettany or Hellboy Ron Pearlman.

And then make sure to visit these comic book shops right here in Kansas City to keep connected with the local community — and grab some of those issues and graphic novels you’ve been hearing about.

B-Bop Comics

Exterior view of B-Bop Comics in a brown brick building with blue awning and orange sign.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
B-Bop Comics was started in 1997 and has two locations.

Frank Mangiaracina started B-Bop Comics in 1997, and it now has locations in Overland Park and up north near the Kansas City airport. Six-foot tall racks line the walls that have about every comic you could think of, including Superman, Batman, and X-Men. But Mangiaracina has also curated one of the best collections in the country.

You can find "Journey into Mystery," which contains the first appearance of Loki. Mangiaracina also has the first appearance of the world-eater Galactus in the “Fantastic Four” comic.

Step back in time to the Golden Age and browse some of those masterpieces that have been collected and republished in book form for today’s audience. “Shock SuspensStories” was published by Entertaining Comics in 1952. That was before the Comics Code of Conduct in 1954, which limited the content that comics could publish — including banning “smut” and vulgarity, forbidding the words “horror” or “terror” in titles, and stopping the use of vampires, zombies, and many other creatures. Steven Spielberg, who grew up as a “nerdy kid who loved the escapism,” wrote the forward for this republished collection.

Maybe most notably, Mangiaracina founded the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund all the way back in 1986, to defend the First Amendment rights of “comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers.” Neil Gaiman, known for his comic "The Sandman" (which was recently adapted by Netflix) and book “American Gods” (now on Amazon Prime), is on their advisory board.

B-Bop is a great place to start exploring your comics passion, and they offer 10% off subscriptions for customers who pick up in their shop.

Elite Comics

Wide-angle photo of the interior of a comic book store. In the center of the frame is a Silver Surfer statue decorated with St. Patrick's Day merchandise. Surrounding the statue are thousands of comic books on shelves, in boxes and facing outward for display.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A display of comics surround the Silver Surfer, decorated for St. Patrick's Day, at Elite Comics in Overland Park on March 9, 2023.

Elite Comics has been around so long that the owner, William Binderup, likes to joke that one of his staff first came to the shop riding his bike.

When you walk in, make sure you say hi to the life-size Silver Surfer statue, who is outfitted in seasonal decorations. Right behind the cashier is a custom-made pinball top, from which The Incredible Hulk glares down.

Start your visit on New Book Wednesday, which is almost like a weekly holiday for readers and collectors. Like all comic book shops, you can create a “pull list” with Elite Comics. For example, if you want anything related to Spider-Man across his many titles. Binderup and his staff will put them aside when the books come out on Wednesdays. All you need to do is stop in.

Elite Comics also carries a large collection of graphic novels and other books to browse. Graphic novels are longer than comic books and aren’t serialized monthly like comic books – although some graphic novel series run for years. You can also find completed storylines in graphic novel form, without having to search for all the back issues. “The Walking Dead,” for example, contains serialized comics, graphic novels, and a TV show with spinoffs.

It’s also worth noting that comics and graphic novels go well beyond the worlds of superheroes and supervillains, with genres spanning fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, and many more. Check out this list from Rolling Stone of the 50 best non-superhero graphic novels.

The graphic novel series “March,” which tells the story of U.S. Rep. John Lewis and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, holds a special significance for Binderup. For every copy of “March” sold at Elite Comics, Binderup donates a copy to a school district of the buyer's choice.

For 31 years, Elite Comics has given the best it has to its comic community, and it continues to do so. The business runs a toy drive, with the goal of collecting $1,000 for each year they’ve been open. That means trying to collect an impressive $31,000 this year, but Binderup proudly says, “We never miss.”

Nerdstalgia Collectibles and Comics

A display of X-Men comic books.
Nerdstalgia Collectibles and Comics
Nerdstalgia Collectibles and Comics includes current and hard-to-find titles.

Nerdstalgia Collectibles and Comics is the newcomer in town. Best friends Greg Henry and Chris Johnson have known each other since they were six, and their love of comics brought them together.

On the walls of their Overland Park shop is much of their personal collection, and you can almost track their friendship through the titles. Currently, one of their rare comics is the "Amazing Spider-Man" featuring the villain Kraven the Hunter.

Published in 1966, that issue at Nerdstalgia is rated a 9.2. That number may mean nothing to non-collectors, but it reflects how the comic is scored based on page condition and color. You’ll find expensive items like this inside a plastic case called a slab – like the “Mona Lisa” being kept behind a plate of glass so it doesn’t get damaged.

Nerdstalgia also carries a rack of pulp fiction books, a throwback to the days of novels that were mass-produced and meant to be read quickly. Easy on plot but high on action, it’s a trip down memory lane.

But some of their real treasures of Nerdstalgia are back in the boxes of back issues. Carefully placed inside plastic bags with a cardboard backing, many comics have notations on top — showing you, for example, the first appearance of Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy, or the first appearance of The Living Tribunal that appeared in “Strange Tales Doctor Strange.”

Comic Coffeehouse

A paper coffee cup with the cardboard sleeve for Comic Coffeehouse is flanked by a Supermand action figure and a Batman action figure.
Comic Coffeehouse
At Comic Coffeehouse, find mainstream and indie titles, as well as coffee.

Over the years, comic book shops have evolved into a place where people combine passions. Collectibles and action figures dot many of the walls, shelves are filled with card games like Magic the Gathering and role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer 40K. (Check out our Adventure! guide to playing D&D and other RPGs around Kansas City.)

It’s that combination of loves that spurred Michael and Vania Gladney to open Comic Coffeehouse.

“My wife always wanted to own a coffee house,” said Michael. “So we did it, and then she told me to decorate it how I wanted. I was big into comic books. That’s how we got here.”

Not only can you get a great cup of joe at Comic Coffeehouse, but you can also browse one of the most eclectic comic book collections in all of KC. One wall holds Michael’s personal library with unusual titles like “Congo Bill” from Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Comic Coffeehouse is also a great place to begin to get into the indie comic scene, which are series not associated with some of the bigger companies (DC, Marvel, Darkhorse, and Image). Indie comic book artists may self-publish their works, or publish with a smaller press.

Michael is an indie comic creator himself, with his hero Detroit Red. He focuses on the writing and storytelling while working with others to provide the illustrations.

Looking for a copy? Well, he’s already sold out. But thanks to Planet Comicon, he met Brandon Calloway, owner of Kansas City-based Darkmoon comics, and Michael is now the editor in chief. Soon, Detroit Red will be joining its ensemble of heroes.

Pop Culture Comix

Shelves filled with comic book titles.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
Pop Culture Comix has comics from all sorts of creators, as well as collectibles.

Pop Culture Comix is the perfect example of how the community of the comic book store survives over the decades. Open for over 22 years, Pop Culture Comix was bought about four years ago by David Coyle, who’s originally from London.

Pop Culture Comix has one of the largest collections of indie comic books in town, and dedicates a good amount of wall space to smaller creators. Browse titles that haven’t reached the mainstream yet – or even ones that have, like “Vampirella” and “Conan the Barbarian.”

“I’ve got something for everyone,” Coyle told me, and that doesn’t just mean comics – Pop Culture Comix has toys, action figures, graphic tees and graphic novels.

Not to mention that board books are only $2 a piece. They’re about twice the size of a normal comic, but instead of words you’ll find just the art and the artists who create them. One great example is “Batman: Dear Detective” by Lee Bermejo.

A to Z Comics

A display of comic books on a rack fo shelves.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
A to Z Comics stocks more than just comic books, with a healthy trading card game community.

What would it be like if your grandparents ran a comic book store? It would be awesome, that’s what. A to Z Comics in Blue Springs is owned by Debby and Steve Welch, and has been in business for the last 35 years.

Originally envisioned as a bookstore, they switched over to comics, collectibles, and cards by paying attention to who was shopping there — which happened to be a bunch of college kids in the beginning. “Listen to folks,” Debby says. “Know what they want.”

That’s also why the store got so into card games like Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, and Lorcana, a Disney card game that was released in August 2023. All of these games revolve around building your own card “deck” and battling other players, and they have absolutely huge followings: Around 40 million people play Magic the Gathering. At A to Z Comics, and many other local shops, you can find limited edition cards, or if you’re feeling lucky, you can buy a pack off the rack and hope you land one that’s powerful or valuable.

Elsewhere around A to Z Comics, you can find original Star Wars figures still in their box, or pewter miniatures that became popular in the mid-90s. Everything seems to be reasonably priced for the ordinary collector or lover of pop culture, and currently, all back issues in the boxes are marked at 50% off the cover price.

Debby and Steve Welch are getting ready to hand off the store to their grandson, Damon Welch, so let’s hope that primes A to Z Comics for another 35 years.

Pulp Fiction Comics

Collectible figures in a glass case.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
At Pulp Fiction Comics, find comic book, collectible figures, and more.

Walking into Pulp Fiction Comics in Lee’s Summit, you’re greeted with a statue of Harley Quinn — a special find that the owners had to travel all the way to Tennessee for.

The store has been in business for over two decades, but a few years back, patrons Meg and Wallace Blystone became part-owners. They made it through the pandemic and have since turned Pulp Fiction Comics into somewhat of an event space.

The shop hosts game nights for things like Blood of the Clocktower and Magic the Gathering. Make sure to check their website for other upcoming meetups, game nights and more.

They have a special room with a nine-person table that D&D or other RPG players can rent out for only $10 an hour. With red and black curtains serving as the backdrop for your campaign, the room also boasts a full wall of miniatures, in case you forgot yours at home, to stand in for characters or monsters.

Or you can purchase them to take home and paint, a joyful activity on its own. If you want a few pointers, make sure you ask Wallace, who’s an accomplished mini painter.

Pulp Fiction Comics is also a great place to get into the manga scene, which encompasses comics and graphic novels mostly produced and published in Japan. You might be familiar with classics like Dragon Ball Z, or recent hits like Chainsaw Man and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, all of which have been adapted into anime.

It’s not completely unusual for manga comics to run for decades. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, for example, was created in 1987 by Hirohiko Araki, who still produces the series after 133 volumes.

The Blystones will have even more recommendations if you stop in. And don’t forget to see the “Pulp Fiction” movie poster signed by the whole cast in the back of the shop.

Clint's Comics

A hand pulls an X-Men comic upward out of a cardboard box.
Erik McLean
The oldest comic book shop in Kansas City is Clint's Comics, in Westport.

The Godfather of comic book shops here in Kansas City is Clint’s Comics, which opened up in 1967 between 39th and 40th St. on Main Street. It’s one of the oldest continuously running shops in America.

However, tragedy struck Clint’s Comics six years ago when the owner, Jim Cavanaugh, was killed in a robbery attempt. The store continues to operate, although customers report online that its hours — and the experience inside — are inconsistent, to say the least.

Shannon Carpenter is the author of The Ultimate Stay-at-Home, and is a nationally known contributor on fatherhood, parenting and at-home parenting.
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