Beyond Superheroes: The Diverse World of Comics at Chicago Comics

In the diverse and vibrant tapestry of Lakeview’s cultural history, few stories shine as brightly as that of Chicago Comics. As we delve deeper into the ‘Lakeview Legacy: Stories of Enduring Businesses’, it becomes evident that some establishments are not just businesses, but powerful symbols of community continuity, creativity, and resilience. Nestled among Lakeview’s historic streets, Chicago Comics is not just a retailer of graphic novels and comic literature; it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of entrepreneurship in the face of evolving tastes and changing times. From its European comic inspirations to its position as a beacon for comic enthusiasts, it epitomizes the essence of the Lakeview Legacy project: celebrating establishments that have not only endured but have become integral to our neighborhood’s identity and cultural narrative. While exploring the history and present of Lakeview, the story of Chicago Comics stands as a powerful testament to the impact of commitment, enthusiasm, and community involvement

In the bustling heart of Lakeview’s business district stands a testament to the resilience of print culture: Chicago Comics. This legendary establishment, intertwined with the personal journey of Eric, marks a chapter in the neighborhood’s vibrant artistic history.

Chicago Comics opened its doors at Clark and Oakdale in 1986, and within just five years, Eric, a young enthusiast who discovered comics during his college days, became its owner at the young age of 28. While comics weren’t a hallmark of his rural upbringing, the colorful pages caught his attention during his academic years. Drawn to the kaleidoscope of stories they offered, Eric found himself visiting the local comic store more frequently.

It wasn’t just the allure of vivid panels that ensnared Eric; it was also the promise of a business venture. When the original owner of Chicago Comics grappled with financial turmoil, Eric stepped in as an early investor. A partnership blossomed, ultimately culminating in Eric’s full ownership of the store in 1991.

But what inspired Chicago Comics‘ unique character? A European escapade. Eric’s travels across the continent introduced him to an eclectic mix of comics, capturing diverse societal narratives and the open community gathering spaces European comic book stores created. Inspired, he envisioned an American comic store that showcased these diverse stories. His zeal, however, was met with the realities of owning a business stateside. Moving from the initial location near Clark and Oakdale, Eric grappled with the challenges of rent and the logistics of establishing a commercial space.

Yet, beyond just business hurdles, Eric aspired to reshape the comic store stereotype. He dreamt of an establishment that radiated accessibility, where families, friends, and partners felt at ease and welcomed. A place devoid of window-cluttering posters, where even those unfamiliar with comics felt a warm welcome.

To navigate the ever-shifting sands of comic culture, Eric adopted a strategy of diversification. Entrusting his managers with significant autonomy, he ensured that Chicago Comics remained attuned to evolving trends. While the staff’s tenure has varied over the years with some former members of staff being at the helm for over 20 years, the current team boasts members who have dedicated over half a decade to the store.

Chicago Comics is not just a retail space; it’s a cornerstone of artistic inspiration and opportunity in Lakeview. Dedicated to nurturing and promoting local talent, it provides a stage for up-and-coming artists. From orchestrating memorable events like the GWAR band appearance to pop-up sessions at elementary schools and comic workshops at nearby libraries, Chicago Comics goes beyond its storefront, weaving the joy of comics into the community fabric. Its dedicated section for local zines is a testament to its commitment to showcase neighborhood talent. Further championing this spirit, Eric’s additional venture, Quimbys, stands as a sanctuary for zine enthusiasts, holding a rich 25-year tradition of celebrating independent creators.

GWAR at a Chicago Comics Signing – Circa Mid 1990s

What sets Chicago Comics apart is their iconic location, its eclectic interior, and a vast range of products. Central to the store is “La Femme Comique”, an art piece crafted during a stint at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. And, as testament to the store’s local impact, famed artist Alex Ross has been both a customer and friend for years has perfectly captured La Femme Comique in one of his art pieces customly crafted as a thank you to his beloved corner comic book store.

But, like any legacy, there have been challenges. From untoward incidents during events like the shop being turned over during unrest, to the evolving dynamics of the Lakeview neighborhood, Chicago Comics has witnessed it all. Yet, its essence remains. While new products emerge and demographics shift, the store’s core philosophy remains unchanged: treat every visitor with kindness and respect, offering a world of stories for all to discover.

The rise of digital comics and online platforms posed a considerable challenge. But instead of competing head-on, Chicago Comics focused on offering products and experiences that couldn’t be replicated online. The store’s vast collection of zines, unique in-person events, and tangible comic books cater to those who cherish the tactile experience of flipping through pages.

Beyond business strategies, it’s the community that Chicago Comics is most proud of. They’ve witnessed heartwarming moments, from customers proposing in-store with custom comics to longtime patrons who, despite relocating, still make the effort to visit. Today, Chicago Comics stands as the city’s oldest comic book store – a testament to Eric’s dedication and the store’s adaptability.

Eric’s recipe for this successful comic book shop is straightforward but profound: deeply understand your clientele, infuse kindness in every transaction, and ensure you’re offering something genuinely valuable. For aspiring entrepreneurs, Eric’s advice is simple: know your customers, be kind, and offer something the community genuinely needs or desires. With these principles, Chicago Comics has become more than just a store. It’s a cultural and artistic landmark in Lakeview.

Chicago Comics isn’t resting on its laurels. As Chicago’s longest-standing comic book store, it is both a homage to the past and a promise for the future. Eric envisions it as an ever-evolving pillar in Lakeview’s community, destined to influence the neighborhood’s cultural and artistic contours for generations.

In the rhythm of modern life, where transient trends often overshadow enduring values, Chicago Comics stands as a beacon of continuity and passion. This institution is not just a brick-and-mortar store but a repository of memories, a canvas of diverse stories, and a testament to the unwavering spirit of a community. As Lakeview continues its own narrative, Chicago Comics ensures that stories – from the vibrant panels of a comic book to the lived experiences of its patrons – will always find a home. In honoring its past and embracing its future, Chicago Comics reminds us that true legacies are built on passion, perseverance, and the power of community.

Store Hours: 
​Monday & Tuesday: 12PM-6PM
Wednesday:  11AM-7PM
Thursday & Friday: 12PM-6PM
Saturday & Sunday: 11AM-7PM

Chicago Comics | 3244 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

Chicago Comics is a premier destination for comic enthusiasts and collectors alike. With an extensive collection ranging from mainstream superhero comics to rare indie publications, the store caters to a diverse clientele. Beyond comics, Chicago Comics offers a variety of graphic novels, manga, action figures, and pop culture merchandise. Its knowledgeable staff and welcoming atmosphere make it a must-visit for both seasoned collectors and newcomers to the world of comics.