Three Comic & Game Shops

This week I looked for places to buy comics and games around Atlanta. Typically, I get my comics from Criminal Records, where my subscription box is, and I used to get my games from the Atlanta Game Factory out on 10th Street, near Northside Drive. It is, like around a third of the game stores in the country, not there anymore. But I was curious what other spots around town were like, so I hit up a couple of places.

Now, I’m a fan who’s also in the gaming business, so I’d like to be nice to every game store and comic shop I find, but here I’m going to be honest, rather than nice. I went to each shop looking for a particular book (a new release for the Warhammer RPG), a Hellboy action figure (Johann the disembodied German medium) as a gift for a friend, and maybe something else that’d coerce a couple of bucks out of my pocket. Here’s how it went.

Oxford Comics & Games, in Buckhead, is the archetypal nice comic shop. It’s bright, it’s clean, it’s got a huge selection of comics, graphic novels, game books, cards, and DVDs. The staff seemed to know a lot of the other customers, and was busy recommending things the whole time I was there. Everything’s well organized and easy to find, and their selection of game books is, to be fair, huge. They’ve got stuff that goes back years, stuff good and bad, fresh and stale, full-price and half-off. But the book I was looking for wasn’t there (maybe it was the empty spot on the shelf?) and neither was Johann. But browsing the huge selection, and with everything feeling shiny and clean, I found and bought the collected Howard Chaykin/Mike Mignola/Al Williamson Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, which is still terrific. (I’ll probably eBay my single issues.)

Titan Comics & Games has three locations around Atlanta. I visited two of them. The first one, down on Riverdale in College Park (where I’d never been before) was a real pain in the ass for me to find. Inside it was the stereotypical dark, dirty comic shop. The carpet was torn and ratty, boxes were stacked all over the place, games were tossed in loose piles with no apparent order onto unmarked shelves. The game books were disorganized, and while the selection was decent I couldn’t find anything without sifting through layers of hidden, racked books. It’s the kind of place where I didn’t really want to touch anything.

I didn’t find any of the things I was looking for, though the guy manning the place was eager to look my book up in a catalog. (He didn’t find it.) In the glass counter, underneath the register, was a sticky box of Krispy Kremes, scrawled on with a Sharpie, with a long donut left inside. Were they selling it?

On the other hand, the Titan Comics & Games up in Duluth was nice. It suffered a little bit from the kind of gloom that can come from any strip-mall storefront, where everything gets shadowy in the back, but otherwise it’s a good store. The place felt clean, comics and graphic novels were well organized, and the fella on duty was pleasant and eager without hovering. Their selection of game books was modest compared to the other shops, but still good. It was also orderly: I found the game book I was looking for after maybe one minute in the joint.

The new-comic shelves were tidy, with these nice little cards in place of sold-out titles. They said things like, “Title Shorted by Diamond,” which is much more informative than the usual empty space I expect to see for a sold-out title. Unlike the College Park location (which, to be fair, seems to cater more to the students at the nearby school), which I visited in the middle of a weekday, the Duluth spot had customers leaving when I came in, and another browsing while I was there. This was a good shop that, with a little more space, could be great.

In contrast, Criminal doesn’t seem to be able to keep a game section alive. (I have opinions about why that is, but those are for later.) Is it because the Criminal crowd is too hip for that shit? Maybe. Is it because the ITP crowd is too hip to make even a single shelf of gaming material viable? Maybe. If the Atlanta Game Factory couldn’t stay alive with discounted merchandise and a nice spot near Georgia Tech, I don’t know what you have to do.

But their website puts the World of Warcraft TCG (trading card game) on the front page, so that’s something. But there’s more geek cred in WoW than there is in, say, D&D and Vampire: The Requiem, I guess.

12 Comments so far

  1. OGRE (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 12:20 am

    NNNNNERRRDSS!


  2. Chris (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 8:43 am

    I moved to Atlanta a year ago and have had the same problem finding a decent local comic/game shop. Oxford is nice, but sometimes the staff are cranky. Also, they will mark items and comics up only a week after they’ve been released.

    Have you tried the Book Nook? I don’t think they sell new gaming stuff, but their comics section is decent. One day I drove up to Marietta and found an excellent store for both. It is called Dr. No’s Comics and Games Superstore. A bit of a drive, but I think it would meet your needs.


  3. Becket (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

    End of the day, nothing is ever going to be that rusty, creaky rack at the grocery store in the town where I grew up. Months worth of wrinkled comics were crammed into that rack, and every careful turn revealed a new masterpiece to me.

    It’s like a church or a barbershop or a favorite restaurant to me. I’ll never stop looking for the shop that gets closest to that boyhood experience, and I’m sure I’ll never find it.

    I’ll get older, and I’ll settle for something close. I’ll have a boy or a girl of my own, and I’ll take them to what I call ‘my’ shop, even though I don’t own a cent of it. I’ll buy them Scrooge or Spidey or Supes or whatever catches their eye, and I’ll be glad that there’s even one shop left, much less enough that I can be picky about where I go.


  4. Greg Mohler (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

    Maybe it’s the same as the Atlanta Game Factory, but there was a game store (wargames and RPGs) at 10th and Hemphill, almost literally across the street from the Georgia Tech dorms (and right next to a pizza shop!). It opened a few years ago (with a sign that just cryptically said “games” with a tell-tale hexagon), and closed about a year ago. I can’t help but feel that if a game store can’t stay in business so close to an army of undergrad engineers, the whole hobby is doomed. The end of an era, certainly.


  5. Deb (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

    See the article below from the AJC. Sounds like it is worth traveling for. Never been myself.

    COMIC SHOP PROFILE / DR. NO’S: ‘Big grocery store’ stocks derring-do

    By Jon Waterhouse
    For the Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 05/05/07
    Comic book geeks can get lost in the printed splendor that lies within Dr. No’s — a 30-year-old comic book shop in Marietta.

    To make sure this neighborhood fixture packs plenty of super-sized zap, pow and bang for the buck, store owner Cliff Biggers publishes Comic Shop News, a free weekly publication that features articles and comic release dates. What began about 20 years ago as an in-store newsletter is now available in more than 600 comic shops around the world. But for Biggers, it’s all about Dr. No’s, a 5,000-square-foot behemoth described by one customer as “a big grocery store” in a world of comic convenience stores.

    While Dr. No’s may be massive, Biggers gives it good feng shui. Kid-friendly Japanese manga and familiar titles like “Archie” greet customers at the entrance. Just a few steps away, Dr. No’s stocks classic reprints and anthologies from the 1940s, known as the golden age of comics. There, readers can discover or rediscover the origins of Spider-Man, Batman and other favorites. The store’s hero-and-adventure section features updated versions to whet the comic appetite. Dr. No’s also gives sizable shelf space to comic strip reprints such as “Peanuts” and “Calvin & Hobbes.” After all, “it’s how many people get to know comics in the first place,” Biggers said.

    For more sophisticated tastes, the store carries titles by revered authors Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Frank Miller, who have, respectively, “Mirrormask,” “V for Vendetta” and “Sin City” in their expansive canons. Books about art and the history of comics have a home at Dr. No’s, too.

    For shoppers who prefer to play with their comics, the store carries a slew of action figures, toys and collectibles, making Dr. No’s the best place outside the Perimeter for a glimpse at 3-D versions of Cyclops and Shazam frozen in time.

    The shop also caters to fans of collectible cards and role-playing and strategic games. Rows of tables allow in-store matches of World of Warcraft, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering.

    Although Dr. No’s doesn’t sell video games, a big-screen TV also offers Xbox, Xbox 360 and Wii play. A nearby bank of four TVs allows networked video gaming. And racks of T-shirts adorned with popular comic book, science fiction and fantasy designs provide an assortment of fan apparel.

    Open 365 days a year, Dr. No’s offers a bountiful oasis for the comic and gaming fan — even on Christmas Day.

    DR. NO’S

    Address: 3428 Canton Road, Marietta

    Phone: 770-422-4642

    Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; noon-6 p.m. Sundays.

    Info: drnos.com


  6. Seth (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

    Growing up in Marietta, Dr. No’s was my local store and I miss it dearly.

    I should probably drive there from Smyrna, but I keep my pull list at my local Titan, which is underwhelming at best.


  7. Will (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    I had no idea Dr. No’s even existed — further evidence that Google is not the best way to find brick-and-mortar places out in the world. Now I’m crazy-eager to go up there, though.


  8. Annie (unregistered) on May 8th, 2007 @ 9:09 am

    Great post, Will. Well-done. Hope you all find the perfect recreation of your childhood faves.


  9. John (unregistered) on May 11th, 2007 @ 9:18 am

    While you were out in Duluth, you could have gone down Pleasant Hill a short ways on the other side of I-85 and found The Gaming Pit. I’ve only been in once so far, but they seemed to have a good game selection. No comics though: its pure gaming in there, with most of the space devoted to tables with active gaming going on (CCGs being the majority of the action).


  10. Cap'n Drew (unregistered) on May 14th, 2007 @ 1:53 am

    Aye, the College Park Titans may be dingy, stinky, smelly, full of ‘hood kids, smelly, messy, confusing, filled with the sound of banging from the strange stores next door, smelly, directly above the offices of Dragon*Con (located in the basement offices, available around back, no lie), smelly and filled with gamers… and smelly, it IS Captain Drew’s favorite comics store and has been the locus of some of the most sophisticated conversations, postulations and exacerbations ever presented to this pirate. It is also a (stinky) location in my screenplay….


  11. Paul (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 7:29 pm

    When you get a chance, come to Great Escape Comics & Games in Marietta. We’ve serviced the Marietta market for 14 years and no one does a better job of catering to the comics reader/collector. We have hundreds of boxes of back issue comics, thousands of graphic novels and manga titles, 500+ comics titles and a solid selection of CCG’s, CMG’s and RPG’s. Discounts for comics subscribers get as high as 20%, which is one of the reasons why we do have the largest comics subscription service in the Atlanta market – by far. The website is http://www.greatescapecomics.com and from there you’ll see pictures of the store, more details on the subscription program, directions, and all sorts of other goodies.


  12. Daniel (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 9:16 pm

    I guess we’re even. I’m an ITP-dweller myself, I do my grocery shopping at the new Edgewood Kroger, and I had no idea that Criminal Records sold comics.

    But Dr No’s I’ve known about since it was only a gleam in Cliff Biggers’ eye. If it weren’t such a long drive, I imagine I’d go there regularly.

    But, being an in-townie, I go to Oxford, where (according to my friend who works there) the owners are striving to be The Place You Find It When Everybody Else Has Either Sold Out or Never Had It. Plus the place is open, airy, well-lit, and professionally organized: The other places I occasionally visit seem to be going for the cave-like thrown-together-from-scrap-lumber look.



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