So you’ve been three days inside the Jacob Javits Convention Center and you’re feeling the need to get out and mix things up a bit, but you want to keep your Comic Con on? Never fear, true believers, because New York is here for you.
Throughout the city there are any number of great comics-related places to shop or geek out. Many of them are Marvel-related (that’s the upside of situating your comic book universe in the Big Apple), but there’s a couple things for DC and manga fans as well.
Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum – You know that very cool freestanding townhouse with the circular skylight that Doctor Stephen Strange owns in Greenwich Village? Well, that building exists, sort of! 177 Bleeker Street is a red brick five story apartment building. It has no amazing window (sorry), but Roy Thomas, who wrote Doctor Strange’s first solo series in 1968-69, did live there at one time, and so did Marvel artist Bill Everett (who created Namor and co-created Daredevil). And for those who think the apartment building may be just an illusion, Google Maps may support your case.
Yancy Street – Love to have a run in with the Yancy Street gang, and maybe see if you can get a beer after with the Ever Lovin’ Thing? In fact, the 'real' Yancy Street, Delancey Street, runs through the Lower East Side from the Bowery across the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn. Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby grew up in that neighborhood, just a few blocks north of Delancey at 147 Essex Street. In a 1983 interview he said, “I hated the place….It was the way people behaved. I got sick of chasing people all over rooftops and having them chase me over rooftops. I knew that there was something better.”
Nearby at Delancey and Orchard there’s also the Tenement Museum, where you can get guided tours of the tiny apartments that immigrants lived in both before and when Kirby was growing up here. It’s exactly the kind of place that comics legend Will Eisner wrote about in so many of his graphic novels, including his Contract with God trilogy.
Brooklyn Bridge – South of Delancey past Chinatown sits the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York City’s most famous landmarks. It’s also the site of one of the most iconic and poignant moments in all of comic history. It was from this bridge that the Green Goblin threw Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man #121; while Spidey was able to use his webs to stop her fall, causing her to break her neck and killing her.
Weird but true: in the actual comic the bridge is identified as the George Washington Bridge, which his located way up on the West Side of New York and leads into New Jersey. But artist Gil Kane drew the bridge as the Brooklyn Bridge, probably because it makes more sense that Spidey and the Green Goblin might be fighting close to lower Manhattan and Peter’s home borough of Queens. But it’s also just a lot prettier.
Toy Tokyo: If you’re a toy and figurine collector, a great place to check out is Toy Tokyo, at 91 2nd Ave. (between 5th and 6th Street in the East Village). It’s got kind of strange hours, 1-7pm every day, but it is wall to wall figurine-type toys, including everything from Funko Pops to rare collectibles, and an owner who has a great story of his own.
Park Avenue Viaduct – Remember the shot just before the big battle at the end of The Avengers where the camera rotates around the team as they do their hero poses? That, and a lot of the rest of the Battle of New York, takes place on the Park Avenue Viaduct, which travels over 40th-42nd Street on its way to Grand Central Station. The viaduct is an active two-way street, so not exactly ideal for getting your own group hero shot. But the crosswalk on 40th Street which leads up into the viaduct may offer a possibility. And underneath the viaduct, Pershing Square restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner (but sadly, no shawarma).
Daily Planet – While you’re near Grand Central, it’s also well worth visiting the lobby of the News Building at 220 E. 42nd Street. Originally designed to be the headquarters for the Daily News, the News Building has the largest indoor globe in the world spinning in its lobby, which ended up being part of the inspiration for Lois Lane and Clark Kent’s workplace, the Daily Planet.
I say “part of”: when Superman debuted in 1939, Clark and Lois worked at the Daily Star, which was Superman co-creator Joe Shuster’s hometown newspaper in Toronto. (In fact, the entire city of Metropolis was modeled on Toronto. Sorry, New York and Chicago.) It wasn’t until later that year that they changed the name of the paper to the Daily Planet, and there wasn’t any globe on top of the building until 1942, when the New York City animation company Fleischer Studios put it in the Superman cartoon.
Comic Book Stores: As you might expect, there are lots of great comic book stores in New York City. Midtown Comics at 40th St. and 8th Ave. is probably the most famous, with its long narrow walk up and 2 stories of comic books. When it comes to American comics you can find just about anything here. (They have other Manhattan locations near Grand Central and in Lower Manhattan.
Forbidden Planet at 832 Broadway in Chelsea (near the Village) also has a great selection and wonderful staff.
But maybe the most interesting comic store in Manhattan is BOOKS Kinokuniya at 1073 Avenue of the Americas (aka 6th Avenue, just a few blocks from Midtown Comics). They have a fantastic selection of manga both in the original Japanese and translated into English, as well as American comics, novels and non-fiction. It’s a cool store to browse.
Hell’s Kitchen – Maybe one of the biggest surprises for any comic book fan (and one of the biggest reliefs for the residents) is that Hell’s Kitchen is not in general the gritty, violent terrain portrayed in Daredevil, but a thriving gay neighborhood adjacent to the Broadway district. For those looking for the full Matt Murdock Catholic angst experience, there are a couple Catholic churches in the neighborhood, Sacred Heart of Jesus at 457 W. 51st and Holy Cross at 329 W. 42nd Street. Neither has exactly the dark and dingy feel of the church Daredevil sometimes visits, but if you go into Sacred Heart late on an autumn afternoon, with the light falling through the windows, there is a certain DD vibe.
Upper East Side
Avengers Mansion — If you want to see the actual Celestial that the Avengers currently live in, you’ll need to travel to the North Pole. (But it’s well worth the trip. Very cool. Five stars.) But the original Avengers Mansion (whose address was 890 Fifth Avenue), was actually a modeled on a real building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 70th St, the Frick Art Museum. The building is currently undergoing renovation, so a lot of it on the 70th Street side is blocked from view. But you could gather a group of heroes for a big hero selfie on the Fifth Avenue side.
The Society of Illustrators – Located nearby at 128 E. 63rd St., the Society of Illustrators recognizes great work in illustration, and offers exhibitions about cartooning, comic book art and other forms of illustration. During NYCC they’ve got a special exhibit featuring the work of Black comic artists like Denys Cowan, Afua Richardson, Jamal Igle, Sanford Greene, Micheline Hess and Robyn Smith, as well as exhibits on German illustrator Nora Krug and the relationship between illustrators and authors. To visit their exhibitions, you need to book an appointment in advance, and tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors. You can also find virtual tours of their space and some past exhibits, including ones on Stan Lee, George Booth and the art of Spider-Man, here.
Poe Park/Bill Finger Way – The Bronx is a bit of a schlep from NYCC. But if you are a Batman fan and you want to touch that heart of that incredible character’s origin story, head up to Poe Park on Grand Concourse East between 192nd and 194th Streets in the Bronx. It was in that park that Batman’s co-creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane would meet to brainstorm characters, locations and storylines for the Batman comic. Who knows what great ideas you might have if you spend an afternoon on a bench there, writing or drawing?
If you go to the corner of E. 192nd St. and Grand Concourse East, you can also get a selfie under the Bill Finger Way street sign. For many decades the Bronx-native Finger’s role in the ongoing creation of the Batman universe was forgotten, despite him having created the Joker, Catwoman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Gotham City, the Batmobile, the Bat Cave and other things. In 2015 DC Comics finally acknowledged Finger as a co-creator of Batman, and in 2017 the Bronx decided to honor him with his own street.
Peter Parker’s Home: Speaking of going the extra mile, if you’re willing to hop a train or a bus to Queens, you can go visit the fictional address of Peter 'With great powers comes great box office' Parker and his Aunt May. 20 Ingram Street is located in a beautifully woodsy part of the borough with manor-ish houses that are nothing like the urban atmosphere of Peter’s home in the comics. The really crazy thing, though, is that when the first Spider-Man came out wayyy back in 2002, journalists discovered the house was actually owned by a Parker family (which had apparently been getting pranked about it for almost 20 years at that point). Even crazier, the house across the street was owned by the Obsornes. (Really.)
Neither of those things is true now. Please please please do not knock at 20 Ingram Street and tell whoever answers that you have reason to believe their nephew is really Spider-Man, because that is weird and also they have already heard it a thousand times before. (Also, blowing a super hero’s cover is not cool, bro.) But stand across the street, get yourself a nice Spidey-making-webs selfie, add a 'Thwip!' and you will get big likes from your followers.
Are you heading to New York Comic Con this Fall? Check out some of the cool panels you can expect to see at the Javits Center this year.