open book store

Philly comic shop awarded $50,000 to open more doors

Comic book stores, like their retail cousins record shops, are often drawn to tight quarters. Even the “Android’s Dungeon,” the comic shop out of The Simpson’s fictional landscape, occupies only a thin slice of imagined real estate, squished between a barbershop and a diner. But Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, the brainchild of Philly resident Ariell Johnson, is spread out, light-filled and roomy –– the sprawling comic displays, coffee bar and plush couches are the first visual cues that the Kensington comic emporium is not like its peers.

This week, the Knight Foundation selected Johnson out of more than 4,500 applicants to receive a grant of $50,000. The eighteen-month old comic shop aims to open the world of comics to an “amalgamation” of audiences –– this grant will help the store reach even more.

Johnson’s proposal, “Up, Up and Away: Building a Programming Space at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse” will expand the shop into “Amalgam University,” where hopeful writers and illustrators can take classes on drawing, writing, pitching and publishing.

Johnson has already made waves in the comic world. When she opened the store in December of 2015, Johnson became the first African-American woman to own a comic book store on the East Coast. In addition to the largely white-male-authored mainstream staples, Amalgam stocks many works written by people of color, women and members of the LGBT community, as well as those by independent creators.

Because Amalgam sells self-published works, Johnson gets a lot of amateur submissions –– and many of them don’t meet the standards for retail.

“Often, the ideas are there, but they haven’t studied the craft,” Johnson explained. “It’s a comic book, but it’s also literature. Just like there are good writers of literature, there good writers and illustrators of comic books.”

Johnson wanted to find a way to equip aspiring comic creators, particularly those from disenfranchised communities without the means to go to art school, with the tools to compete with mainstream comic books.

Amalgam has already started on this mission –– they run children’s workshops, and partnered with RUSH, Danny Simmons’ arts philanthropy foundation –– an effort which Johnson said is made possible by their spacious venue.

“We do a lot of these programs in our space,” Johnson said. “But the building is actually much bigger. There are rooms behind the bathroom, which we haven’t renovated. This grant will allow us to open up those rooms to the public and create a permanent programming space. We’ll use it to its full potential.”

When the construction is finished sometime next year, Amalgam will be almost twice its present size, and Johnson hopes its impact on the Kensington and comic communities will follow suit. But the store has already influenced the area.

“I actually found out about the grant from a customer named Annie,” Johnson said. “She and her husband had recently moved here. They came in, introduced themselves and encouraged me to apply. Apparently, Amalgam was one of the reasons they moved to the neighborhood.”

Some of Amalgam’s patrons are like Annie –– devoted fans who factor comics into major life decisions –– but others have never read a comic before in their lives.

“We get a lot of newcomers asking for advice.” Johnson explained. “We listen to what people like, and we direct them into their lane. But once they get comfortable, they usually branch out.”

Amalgam, it seems, is doing the same.

when i’m old, i want to open a little book store filled with queer/lgbtqia+ books and diverse books in general. little nooks for people to read in will be hidden within the stacks, and, if i have some tea and little desserts, i might offer them to the people who look like they need it. i’ll make sure news of it spreads to teens who need a safe place to read about people like them. that sounds like a fantastic retirement to me.

New Beginnings Part 6

Pairings: Chris Evans x Reader

Word Count: 7,136

Warnings: Swearing, Mild Smut (mutual masturbation),Scott is Here!,  Anxiety, Scary themes (I don’t want to spoil anything here!!!)

Ratings: R

Summary: After your grandparents pass away, you find out they leave everything to you, including a large sum of money.  Deciding to take the advice of your grandparents, you live your life to the fullest; which means moving to Boston and bumping into Chris Evans.

Part 5  Part 7

Over the next two weeks, things were finally starting to come around for your new business.  Mary, your business partner, went over everything that needed to be done, and certain people that needed to be hired.  

The first thing you did was come up with a name for your new bookstore and coffee shop.  You knew you wanted a catchy, yet funny name for your new business.  In the end, you came up with Bean There, Read That.  After coming up with the name, you made sure to trademark the name so nobody else could take it.  

Once that was finished, you had to get a state registration to open the business.  Luckily, all that took was a quick trip to the courthouse and all was said and done.  

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Year-old Kensington comic book store and coffeehouse getting attention

Since Ariell Johnson opened her comic book store and coffee shop in Kensington in December 2015, she has taken the world by Storm.

In fact, her childhood fascination with Storm, the X-Men superheroine, led her to comic book and sci-fi fantasy geek fandom in the first place, she said.

She has been profiled on ABC News, CNN Money, and MSNBC, not to mention various nerd and geek websites, as the first African American woman to open a comic book store on the East Coast.

And in November, she was depicted on a variant cover of the Invincible Iron Man No. 1 comic book, along with Riri Williams, the 15-year-old African American superhero character known as Ironheart.

Storm “was the first black woman superhero I ever saw,” Johnson, 33, said at her shop, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, 2578 Frankford Ave.

“In addition, she was a powerhouse; she was one of the most powerful mutants in the X-Men universe. She controlled the very elements. She wasn’t a sidekick. She was the main event, which was exciting.”

Johnson said all the attention has been good for business.

“I think we’re doing well. We’ve had a very strong first year, and an untraditional first year, with all the hubbub around the shop,” she said.

Diversity in comic books has been met with some backlash from mostly male fans who assert on YouTube videos that characters should not be suddenly changed to black or gay. Some have called it pandering to attract more women and people of color to comics.

Johnson has not hesitated to speak out about the importance of the comic book world becoming more inclusive.

That means having characters who represent everyone - black, white, Latino, Asian, and people of all religions and sexual identities.

She makes sure to carry books written by and for women and people of color.

Johnson said people like them as heroes in fantasy and science fiction can empower young readers.

“When young girls come in here and know that a woman owns the shop, a black woman owns the shop, and they can see titles where girls are the heroes and not just the love interests or the sidekick … when they see women and girls taking the lead in things, that’s really powerful,” she said.

Since word of Johnson’s success got around, celebrity comic book writers have visited Amalgam.

The store was packed a couple of months ago when Ta-Nehisi Coates came for a book signing to accompany the release of a new comic in his Marvel series Black Panther.

She has also welcomed Greg Pak, author of X-Treme X-Men and other titles, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who coauthored a graphic novel, March.

Amalgam is spacious and colorful, with a red couch at the front window and blue and yellow armchairs nearby. In fact, it’s like entering a live comic strip tableau.

Small round tables have comic book logos: symbols for ThunderCat, Captain America, and Spider-Man.

Johnson said she became enamored of superheroes while watching television cartoon shows as a child.

“I’ve always liked shows about super powers,” she said. “I grew up watching ThunderCats, He-Man and She-Ra. But none of those shows had any black characters featured.”

When she was about 11, she saw herself in the character Storm in X-Men cartoons.

“In addition to being black and a woman, she had dark skin. The only thing that didn’t look like me was that she had white hair and blue eyes.”

A Baltimore native, Johnson came to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and earned an accounting degree there in 2005.

It took a decade of working for other people, first in retail and later as an accountant, before she decided to fulfill her dream.

Inside Amalgam the other day, Sam Woods Thomas, the commercial corridor coordinator for New Kensington Community Development Corp., said the coffee shop was the only one in the neighborhood.

Still, he said, things are looking up, with a new apartment development in the next block that people are comparing to the Piazza in Northern Liberties.

But he said it’s small businesses like Johnson’s that are key.

“They bring life back to the block,” Thomas said.

Selfixhe Ciu was an Albanian writer and the first Albanian woman writer to ever publish literature in Albania. On 28 November 1935, when she was 17, Selfixhe Ciu published under the plume name Kolombja, a poem on the Populli newspaper. She was studying in Florence, Italy, when the Italian invasion of Albania occurred, in 1939. She then returned to Albania with her husband, Xhemal Broja, and opened with him a book store in Shkodër. She joined the ranks of the Communist Party of Albania, along Drita Kosturi and Nexhmije Hoxha, and was one of the organizers of an illegal antifascist demonstration in February 22, 1942. For that she was arrested and condemned to death, but then later released. After World War II, in 1947, she was imprisoned, then exiled by the communist communist regime. Her husband, Xhemal Broja, followed her into internment. In 1998 Ciu published her memories, as well as poetry and other publications, into a book, entitled Tallazet e jetes (English: Winds of life). She died in 2003.

When entrepreneur Ariell Johnson opened her comic book store and coffee shop in Kensington, Pennsylvania back in December 2015, it became an instant hit both locally and nationally. 

Being hailed as the first African American woman to open a comic book store on the east coast

she immediately caught the attention of ABC News, CNN Money, MSNBC, and tons of other web sites and blogs.

“When young girls come in here and know that a woman owns the shop, a black woman owns the shop, and they can see titles where girls are the heroes and not just the love interests or the sidekick… when they see women and girls taking the lead in things, that’s really powerful.”

She’s The Boss

#BlackGirlMagic #BlackExcellence 

DAY 3361

Malta                        June 10,  2017                  Sat 8:11 am local time

and there is resumption of the Blog of the night gone by ..

as I look towards the pond that I spoke about last night, beyond it there was a high fencing of the boundary of the property .. above it some on our side some on the other, were large ‘mahua’ trees .. the mahua tree sheds white flower like pods during a season, I think around winter perhaps , or I may be wrong, but shed it does .. and the entire floor of the ground beneath turns white .. a white sheet of mahua  .. these pods or flowers are used to form the famous mahua drink, which can be slightly intoxicating .. not sure about the intoxication either, but the drink yes .. 

my Father wrote a folk song on it   ..

“mahua ke neeche moti jhare mahua ke” .. “महुआ के नीचे मोती झरे महुआ के ..” 

‘pearl drops underneath and beneath the mahua tree …’ 

beyond the fence though were also several ‘jamun’ trees .. the property of the land beyond the fencing was housed by my friend Shashi .. Shashi Mukherji .. a Bengali , and his family .. their gate opened on the other side at right angles to Clive Road .. right opposite that Police ‘chowki’ I wrote about ..

Shashi was our gang .. we played and moved around together .. climbing the ‘jamun’ trees to break and eat the ‘jamun’, at times precariously perched on thin branches and often warned and chased down by the ‘mali’ of the compound .. the gardener ..

there was also a large guava orchard towards the front portion of Shashi’s home .. and we spent a lot of time climbing them too, to break and eat raw guava .. and also to play a rather intricate game there .. 

a circle was drawn in the centre of the orchard, and a dry stick put within it .. we held hands all the players of the game, did the ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ routine to get a ‘den’ .. and his job was to guard the stick, while the others had to be not on the ground, but on the trees .. the ‘den’ could climb up to touch us, so we would be ‘out’ and he had to prevent another player from another tree NOT to climb down and steal the stick in the circle .. if the other player succeeded in removing the stick, then the ‘out’ would be alive again and the ‘den’ would have to continue chasing us up the trees .. pretty arduous, but such fun .. !

Shashi was the elder among us .. he was a strong well built guy, with a fine chiselled body .. had a lot of gymming equipment on the lawns by the guava orchard .. ordinary weights dumb bells and roman rings strung up on two posts .. he was a boxer too, and had often punched me up during informal punch outs at our neighbour, Naresh Das’s home ..

At some years past, Shashi’s family opened a book store in their home, called simply ..’The Books’ ..

Naresh Das lived on 18, Clive Road .. he a Christian, his Father Paul Das, a pastor in the Church .. had two sisters .. the elder Shunila, and the younger, Malti .. Shunila was truly a very pretty lady, played the piano superbly and was a great partner for the badminton games that we played in their compound every evening .. 18, was just opposite the gate of 17 .. a very large area compound, it also housed a stationary store, run by the family ..

Naresh was a couple of years older than me, and perhaps a year younger than Shashi .. Naresh joined Sherwood College, Nainital and after a couple of years brought Sherwood’s Principal, the Rev RC Llewelyn to our house to coerce my parents to send me  and my brother to Sherwood  .. we followed as you know ..

those were such wonderful days .. Naresh and his family celebrated Christmas with great pride and tradition .. we loved the Christmas tree that would come up in their home and looked forward to the gifts that would come to us on Christmas Day, along with the delicious Christmas cake that Shunila and her Mother, Mrs Paul Das, baked for us .. not to forget those melodious nights of Christmas carol singing, that Paul Das and his family and fellow Christians would come over to 17 with candles at midnight and the strains of ‘Silent Night Holy Night’ .. the most sonorous hymn .. and my Mother making hot coffee for them in the cold Allahabad winter .. 

Naresh passed out of Sherwood before me .. was athletic on the track .. during his holidays from Nainital he would take me to a rough sports track, some distance from our home and practice his sprints for the 100 and 200 yards races .. I was pretty good myself at athletics .. some of the pictures put up by Moses, show my brother and me with our cups we had won at Boys’ High School, Sports Meet, where we studied in Allahabad .. remember the March Past that we did before the Sports meet began .. I was in Blue House .. there were 4 - Blue, Green, Red and Yellow .. later in Sherwood I was in Robin Hood House, whose colour was green .. we had 4 houses in Sherwood too - Robin Hood, Allen-a-Dale, Friar Tuck and Little John … all characters from the Robin Hood tales - green, red, blue, yellow respectively ..

I was in my Final year at Sherwood, when news came in of Naresh .. he developed an infection and passed away .. I was terribly shattered by the news .. perhaps the very first experience at that age of death .. it disturbed me to an extent that affected my stay and study at Sherwood .. the Principal admonishing me first for my misconduct, but on learning of my condition, counselling me and even telephoning my parents to talk to me .. 

Malti Das, the youngest, and younger than me by far, I met some years back, in San Francisco, when I was there for one of my Concert Tours .. married with children, migrated .. sent in a most loving note back stage at the concert, as she was present there, and broke into tears when I sent for her to meet me .. she never expected I would remember her .. gave me all the news of the family .. of her parents .. of Shunila .. and ..

I have not heard any more since .. 

the sounds of memory cling on .. they have not faded or gone into absentia .. vivid picture perfect and alive within .. with an entire store house of so much more of those days .. but ..

it would be of little use now to the Ef .. perhaps later .. ‘shortly’ .. 

My love, as I dwell in those deep caverns of endless classified tapes, running wildly on some master computer, governed by that oddly shaped head, belonging to the writer -

Amitabh Bachchan


10/18 // Book of the Damned // Calm Before the Storm

“But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be“

Hey- uh, anyone want to run away with me? and go open a little book store? We’d place it on the far outskirts of a city… just in that minucsulal point of space time, where if you stand too long you soon enter the whimsical reality from when worlds collided here eons ago- This place where time slows and reality feels like an illusion? This soft spot Hidden in daylight known only to be seen by the trained eye at the point Where cement meets soil?… come with me here-? So we may spend our days brewing coffee and nights gazing at the stars?

Lord almighty, I forgot how obscenely attractive this boy is. Someone lend me two extra months to watch Gilmore Girls again.

summary of my art from 2015!! i’m super happy to have achieved my art goal of drawing at least one portrait a month ヾ(´ヮ`)ノ

some other notable achievements: 

☆ started experimenting with backgrounds 

☆ started drawing more than head-shots (more full-body/waist-ups/etc)

☆ continued to rely less on refs and changed things up 

☆ slightly increased realism with less use of outlines

you can see more of my improvement compared to last year’s art here! {x} thank you for staying with or joining me this year!! i look forward to another great year with you all~❤❤


beauty and the beast in a modern, magical world

An imaginary live-action musical set in a modern world where magic exists. Your favorite characters all have unique magic- meet the characters in part one and see how their story unfolds in part two.

Belle (Gina Rodriguez) is a librarian in a magical town. She has the gift of book magic- books fly and dance to her will and whisper their secrets in her ear. She loves her job at the library, but has dreams of opening her own children’s book store and one day- writing a children’s novel herself. 

The beast (Charlie Hunnam) used to be a man. A very, very, very rich man who was angry and unkind. He was unkind to the wrong person, and was cursed to be a hideous beast with horns, claws, and fangs. He hides away in his decaying mansion. He has recently begun sneaking into the library at night to research his curse. But the beast’s claws rip the pages and he finds himself getting frustrated and angry. One night, he can’t control his frustration and releases a loud roar that wakes a sleeping librarian who stayed past closing…

Obit of the Day: Last of the “Two Fat Ladies”

By her own accounts, Clarissa Dickson Wright might have died long before she became a British cooking celebrity in the 1990s. The daughter of an abusive alcoholic who then nearly drank herself to death Ms. Wright recovered and became part of the delightful BBC cooking show Two Fat Ladies that made her and co-star, Jennifer Paterson, beloved on both sides of the Atlantic.

Growing up in wealthy family of a famous surgeon - the first to remove a bullet from near a patient’s spine with resulting paralysis - Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright (her parents could not agree on a name) lived a dangerous secret. Her esteemed father was a violently angry drunk.

Ms. Wright recalled that it was “like living with a wild animal in the house.” He beat her, as well as her mother and siblings, on numerous occasions. At different times her father broke her ribs, nose, and hit her with a red-hot poker. (Tragically, even when her mother would go out of the house with obvious signs of abuse, polite society kept it quiet and Ms. Wright believed that her father’s colleagues protected him.)

And yet it was through her father she also developed her taste for fine food. He imported pigeons for their kitchen and the refrigerator shelves were lined with caviar. She would also read recipes to the family’s illiterate cook.

Finding refuge in boarding school, Ms. Wright flourished academically and decided to become a lawyer. She became England’s youngest barrister at the age of 21 and the first woman to practice admiralty (maritime) law. She was excelling professionally.

But her life fell apart in 1975 with the death of both of her parents within months of each other. Her father left his estate to his brother while using his will as one last opportunity to abuse and belittle his family. (He claimed that Ms. Wright was “an afterthought” who put him “in fear of his own life.”) Her mother left her 2.8 million but it was her death that devastated her.

Ms. Wright began to drink. At her lowest point she was drinking two bottles of gin a day and a bottle of vodka in order to “get out of bed.” Her outsized intake of alcohol affected her job performance and she was disbarred for three months. This is when she first began to cook.

Working in other’s people homes simply to make a living, Ms. Wright remembered hitting bottom when police escorted her out of a house party for which she had prepared dinner for failing a breathalyzer test. At this point she get help for her alcoholism.

After her time in rehabilitation, Ms. Wright continued to cater private events and then opened two successive cook book stores. It was in her second store in Edinburgh that she met producer Patricia Llewellyn. Ms. Llewellyn paired Ms. Wright with Jennifer Paterson in 1996 for the premiere of their country-focused cooking show Two Fat Ladies. (Click here to watch their Christmas special.)

Criticized for both their appearance and their high-fat recipe choices, the women became huge hits on BBC and around the world. Their easy back-and-forth, and choice of transportation - Ms. Paterson piloted a motorcycle with Ms. Wright in a sidecar - may them eminently watchable. Their personal chemistry existed even though the duo had met only once before the television program began production.

The show ran three full seasons and ended early in the fourth when Ms. Paterson died of cancer in 1999 at the age of 71. Ms. Wright would continue working in television starring in several specials and even her own series, Clarissa and the Countryman. She also starred in a BBC documentary The King’s Cookbook, which looked at the 700-year-old cookbook of Richard II and attempted recipes from it.

Clarissa Dickson Wright, who refused to be called a chef, died on March 15, 2014 at the age of 66. 

Sources: Telegraph (which is a wonderful obit), BBC, The Guardian (Jennifer Paterson’s obituary), Wikipedia, and

(Image of Jennifer Paterson, left, and Clarissa Dickson Wright circa 1996-1999, in their traveling outfits for Two Fat Ladies. The photo is copyright of the BBC and courtesy of the LA Times)


It’s been eight years since Lisa Simpson got to meet Dan Clowes (”Husbands and Knives”, Season 19, episode 7, airdate November 18, 2007) and tell him:

“I really identified with the girls in Ghost World. They made me feel like I wasn’t so alone.”

We totally feel the same way  <3

A summary for those who haven’t seen the episode: Comic Book Guy goes out of business because an alternative comic book store opens across the street, providing a better and cooler service to the kids of Springfield. The Simpsons attend an in-store signing with Maus author Art Spiegelman,Watchmen author and notorious recluse Alan Moore, and Daniel Clowes, creator of Ghost World

Watch a clip here: