As a child born in the 80’s I grew up watching things like Transformers, He-Man, She-Ra, and Thundercats. Something about these fictional worlds and super-powered, super-human characters appealed to me. This fascination would only grow as I got older. Fox’s X-Men cartoon is what specifically piqued my interest in comics.
In high school I would occasionally read comics that belonged to my friends but I didn’t start buying comics myself until I was a young adult in college. My first comic purchase was the Storm & Illyana Magik mini-series and there was no going back once I made that plunge.
I got the idea for Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse when I was a sophomore in college. After going to my local comic shop to buy my weekly comics I would go to a cute little indie coffee shop directly across the street and read every comic that I purchased. But that routine was interrupted when the coffee shop closed, and after buying my comics each week I was at a loss with my favorite coffee spot closed. That’s when I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place where you could not only buy comics, but you could hang out, read them, and maybe get into a friendly (and geeky) conversation? That was a place I would love to frequent, and I was sure I wasn’t the only one.
But that was just the seed. As time passed I began to see the fullness of what Amalgam could be. As a woman of color that enjoys comics, I have always been aware that I am in the minority, both as a woman and as a person of color. It felt very lonely and it was easy to feel out of place in the fantasy world of comic books, a world dominated by straight white males. The internet and social media specifically has changed that.
Now people who have been overlooked by the mainstream comic world can find a voice online. This has enabled comic fans to become more vocal about who they are and what they want to see in the medium that they love; now you can find whole online communities of people who do not fit the stereotype of what a comic book fan looks like.
I soon realized that Amalgam could be a space that focused on inclusivity and diversity. Promoting and celebrating the vastness of what comic books have become in genre, subject matter, and characters. The comic world is large enough to welcome all into its borders. Amalgam is passionate about featuring titles that are created by and feature characters that go beyond the straight white male paradigm. We will create a space where everyone that enjoys comics feels comfortable, and if someone doesn’t enjoy comics they can still pop in for a tasty latte.
Amalgam’s goal is to create a space that builds community; in addition to our primary business we will host special events, movie nights, trivia nights, gaming tournaments, and geek inspired craft nights. We would also like to offer summer workshops, introducing comics as art and as a vehicle of story-telling to children. Our focus would be on low-income, female, and minority children. This connects with the goal of promoting diversity in comics because we believe that the only way to truly diversify comics is to diversify the potential pool of comic book creators.
Amalgam will be located in Philadelphia, in the New Kensington neighborhood. We have already acquired our space and now we are working on the build out. We are planning on opening our doors late April/early May.
Ariell Johnson is the founder of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. You can support her efforts to allow her dream as well as ours to become a reality by becoming an investor in this project by checking out MoolaHoop. Tune in Sunday Feb 15 to the #BGNPodcast to hear Ariell discuss her personal journey. The show will air live on twib.fm/live