by L.E.H. Light
“Maybe you’ve heard of Ariell Johnson and Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadephia, PA. Since opening last year, Amalgam has gotten plenty of press coverage as a comic book store/coffee shop owned and operated by a colorfully loc’d Black woman (and fellow Storm fan, OF COURSE!). She’s doing work many of us have dreamed of — owning our own spaces and showcasing Black art. We caught up with her in the midst of her busy schedule to talk fandom, snacks, and how to create a clean, well-lit place for comics and events.
BNP: In your IgnitePhilly talk, you speak so passionately about the importance of representation in the media we love. When/how did you first come to realize that comics mattered?
Ariell: Honestly, I didn’t think about it too much when I was younger. I think Black people in particular are used to NOT being seen in media. It’s been that way for so long, you don’t really think about it. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realized just how important it was. Maybe it was a slow, natural progression, I don’t know. I just started getting tired of not seeing myself.
I’m surrounded by Black women who put in real work and make things happen. Black women are my super heroes everyday, so why do I need to look so hard to find them in comics, TV, and movies? It doesn’t make sense to me, and it shouldn’t make sense to anyone in my opinion. Everyone has a right to be seen, the right to have their story told, the right to have the spotlight on them from time to time…“