Groundbreaking Female Comic Book Store Owner Now Appears on a Marvel Cover

Ariell Johnson has been collecting comic books for more than a decade, but she’ll soon add a very personal one to her collection.

The 33-year-old founder and president of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. in Philadelphia will appear on a variant cover of “Invincible Iron Man #1.”

The first image of the book, which goes on sale next month and features Johnson having a meal with new Marvel superhero RiRi Williams, is below.

Johnson said she owes the collaboration to her colleague Randy Green, whom she said spearheaded the project and conceptualized the cover.

“When the email went out about potential variants for stores, he was really excited and took it upon himself to work out the [details]. It was really his hard work,” she told ABC News. “I knew what it was supposed to look like, but having the actual art in front of you is so much different. It’s really exciting.”

Not that she hasn’t earned it. Johnson opened Amalgym last December, becoming the first black, female comic book store owner on the East Coast. However, her obsession of all things geek really began around age 10 or 11, when she discovered “X-Men” character Storm. Johnson credits the character, one of the first black, female superheroes, with being “the bridge that got me into this world.”

“To think I made it a decade-plus and I had never seen a black, woman superhero is crazy because little white boys have so many [with whom they identify]: ‘I want to be Iron Man!’ 'I want to be Batman!’ 'I want to be Superman.’ 'I want to be Han Solo!’ When you are a person of color, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to find someone you can identify with. I always felt like I was watching other people’s adventures,” she explained. “Being introduced to Storm was a pivotal moment for me because had I not come across her, I might have grown out of my love for [comics].”

After graduating from cartoons to comics in high school, Johnson began buying her own books in college. Her Friday routine was comforting: She’d go to the comic book store to get her weekly stash, and then take the books across the street to her favorite coffee shop, where she’d read them over a hot chocolate and piece of cake. When the coffee shop was forced to close some 10 years ago, Johnson decided it was up to her to create a space that gave her the same feeling of warmth.

“The goal is to be an inclusive geek space,” she said. “So it’s not just comics; it’s gaming, it’s sci-fi, it’s horror, whatever you geek about, we want to make room for you!”

She’s also proven to be a role model for girls and women. Johnson, who points to Marvel’s diverse cast of characters and story lines as proof that the industry is evolving in a positive way, said that she’s worked hard to make sure that everybody feels welcome at Amalgam.

“I had a girl tell me I had an excellent book selection and she was 7 or 8. I don’t know how welcome she might feel in some other spaces,” she said. “Women exist in this space! We’ve always been reading comic books, we just may not have been as open about it. I definitely get very positive feedback from not just little girls, but grown women too.”

The first black-owned comic book store on the East Coast is owned and managed by a black woman named Ariell Johnson!!!

(In an interview with "We will be a legit store, so expect to see the heavy hitters that we all know and love,“ she said. "But in addition to those usual suspects, we want to showcase diverse comics, creators, and characters. We think that comics are for everyone and anyone that loves comics-women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.” 

Congratulations to her and if you’re in the Philly area or plan on visiting, stop by Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse!!!


An Interview with Ariell Johnson, founder of Amalgam Comics

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…“

Keep reading at BlackNerdProblems 

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Ariell Johnson, the first black woman to own a comic store on the East Coast, is on a new Marvel cover

In December 2015, 33-year-old Ariell Johnson took two of her passions — reading comic books and drinking coffee — and joined them into one business: Amalgam Comics & Coffeeshop. When Johnson opened the doors to the Philadelphia fixture, she became the first black female comic book store owner not just in the city, but on the entire East Coast.

Now, that world is giving her props in the most fitting way it can: by drawing her into it. In November, one of the variant covers of Invincible Iron Man #1 will feature Johnson laughing over coffee with Riri Williams, the new black teen heroine at the center of the series. Johnson recalled the one super hero that inspired her love of comics.

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Ariell Johnson has been collecting comic books for more than a decade, but she’ll soon add a very personal one to her collection.

The 33-year-old founder and president of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. in Philadelphia will appear on a variant cover of “Invincible Iron Man #1.”

The first image of the book, which goes on sale next month and features Johnson having a meal with new Marvel superhero RiRi Williams, is below. (source)

I’m not crying I just have dirt in my eye

Originally posted by begavet

Congrats to Ariell R. Johnson for opening @amalgamphilly the first Black female owned comic book store ON THE EAST COAST in Philadelphia, PA. The shop has comics, coffee, book signings and TV/movie nights. What better way to support indie comics and POC artists than BY SELLING THEIR WORK. The next time I’m in Philly, I will definitely be stopping by. THANK YOU ARIELL!!! Amalgam Comics and Coffee House
2578 Frankford Ave. Philidelphia PA 19125

#comics #blackbusiness #entrepreneurs #blackheroesmatter #womeninbusiness #philly

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Ariell Johnson And Her New Philadelphia Store, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movie, TV News
If black people are women have been traditionally marginalised in comic books, black women have been even more so. Which is why it might be eventful to n

Those chairs look hella-comfy.

“She also intends to host geeky and diversity-themed workshops, movie/TV screenings, book signings, and BYOB nights.”

Photographer of the Week:


Arielle Johnson


What’s in your bag/what gear do you own? What would you like to purchase next?

Right now I own a Mark II body and have been borrowing a fellow music photographer’s 50mm 1.8. Next, I hope to purchase a 35mm 1.4 to complete my own set and after that possibly a 50mm of my own.


How long have you been involved with photography?

I started out in 2008 in my local scene. I’ve had a few people that have known my work from the start but just within the past two-three years have become better at networking.

Who was the first band/artist you shot?

The first band I shot was the Jonas Brothers with a Canon point and shoot. It was from those photos that a bunch of people were like “wow, how’d you take those.” and “those are incredible.” From there, the rest is a blur. I don’t remember how I learned what photo passes are or how I started working with so many great publications, but it just exploded from there. I think All Time Low was my first photo pass though. 

Who are some of your influences?

I wouldn’t say I really have influences on my work. I think, especially in this field, it is so important to develop your own style and make photographs that you are proud of and in love with. As far as work ethic and career development goes, I am so proud and influenced by Matt Vogel, Tom Falcone, Audrey Lew, Matt Burke, Ashley Osborn, Jenna Ross and Maysa Askar. I am so blessed to have so many friends in this field that I cannot possibly list everyone without still offending a few folks.


If you could give any advice to newer concert photographers what would you tell them?

As redundant as it may be, network. Networking is the biggest mistake I think that I’ve made in my career. I’ve seen people blow up from nowhere because they know the right people and I’m going on year five here and I’m still sitting on my bed at home. You can have the best equipment and the strongest portfolio but if no one is looking at them, then it really doesn’t matter.

What did your first time in the pit feel like?

As I stated earlier, I think All Time Low (with Mercy Mercedes and The Friday Night Boys) was my first press pass. It is one of the oldest concert photography memories I have. I shot all of the openers, We the Kings might have even been on it. I was so proud of these now atrocious photos and  the lights go black for All Time Low, the band I was there to shoot none-the-less, and I flicked the on switch on my camera… and nothing. My camera had a manufacturer malfunction and refused to work. I was pacing the back of the venue crying. Thankfully, I wasn’t really shooting for anything important, in those days your portfolio was a legitimate enough reason.


What is your dream band/artist to shoot and/or tour with?

My dream band to shoot will always be Glassjaw. I shot them once already, but being my favorite band, I’d love that opportunity again now that I know what I’m doing. I would love to venture in to country concerts and also, shoot a stadium/center once in my life. I am actually working on getting myself out on the road now. That has always been my dream. I would love to go out with friends, so letlive. is definitely who I see myself touring with.

Do you edit your photos? If so, what software do you use and how much time and effort do you put into your editing?

I don’t put much effort into editing but it really depends on the photo. I spend two seconds to two hours on an individual photo. I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 (so, no, I don’t shoot RAW).


How do you feel your photography has changed since you first began? Do you expect it to change in the future?

I feel like I’ve just perfected my style since I started. I believe that my photography is very portrait-esque. I find that I focus on one person in each shot and try and capture their passion. I am very interested in capturing movement and despise photos of people just standing around. I think that with every photo I take, my style is changing and growing. Photography is not a skill one happens upon, it develops gradually.

Get social with Arielle: Flickr | Tumblr | Twitter