Saturday, June 12, 2010

Comic book stores in Montreal

There must be about a dozen comic book stores in Montreal, where I live. I can think of at least 9 that I have been to. Of those, there are two that I visit on a weekly basis, a couple more that I visit on average maybe once every two or three months, and the others I very rarely go to, either because they're not very good, or they are too far out of my way.

It's interesting how my opinion of the various stores I've been to has changed over time, as I "evolved" (or perhaps "devolved") from a casual reader of trade paperbacks, to a devoted reader a trade paperbacks, to a seeker of back issues, to a regular buyer of monthly floppies.

Here are some thoughts on four of the stores I'm most familiar with in the city.

451 Marie-Anne Est

This was my first favourite store when I started getting into comics, because they have the best selection of trade paperbacks, which they sell for the American cover price. They have almost everything that is currently in print from Marvel and DC, plus a good selection of books from smaller publishers. The staff is nice, the store is clean and well organized, and the books aren't wrapped, so you can browse them before buying. It's still probably the best place in the city to buy trade paperbacks.

They have a small collection of back issues, most of which they sell for a dollar. Last time I looked at it, I was looking for Chuck Dixon-era issues of Robin, and was able to pick up a handful. When I asked if they were likely to get more, they said no, because their bins are mostly just leftover stock from the shelves and they don't buy any back issues. So it's not the best place to get back issues, but they're at least worth browsing through, since they are cheap. One drawback, though, is that they are hidden away in drawers, so it's not the most comfortable browsing experience.

I'm not sure exactly what their deal is on reserve systems, but if I lived closer to this store I would probably get my new issues there, out of convenience and because I like the staff.

1837 Ste-Catherine Ouest

This place has a decent selection of trade paperbacks, but they tend to be more expensive than Millenium. The books are wrapped, so you can't flip through them, and their pricing doesn't make any sense to me. I'm sure there is some logic to it, but I'm not sure what it is. Sometimes it's cheaper than the cover price, other times it's higher.

There's something really unappealing about this store to me, and it's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is. It's a basement location, but it's pretty big and brightly lit with ugly white fluorescents. There are whole sections of the store that I've never really bothered to look at. They sell toys and collectors' items, and a lot of manga that I'm not interested in at all.

Their back issues selection is the weirdest I've ever seen. All they have is one giant unorganized bin of crappy comics that they sell for 50 cents each, or even cheaper if you buy them in bulk. I browsed through the whole thing one time and it was 95% crap. I was only looking for DC stuff, and they had lots of Post-Perez New Teen Titans and terrible-looking Justice League issues from the same period. I did pick up about a dozen issues of 90s Batman and Detective Comics.

I haven't had much interaction with the staff, so I don't know how helpful they are. But overall, I can't find much to recommend this place.

1117 Ste-Catherine Ouest, 9th floor

The weirdest thing about this store is its location: It's on the 9th floor of an office building downtown. There's nothing outside to indicate that there's a comic book store in that building, so unless you find out about it online or through word of mouth, you would never set foot in it.

If you can get over the depressing location, though, this store is definitely worth checking out. Things I like:

1. The dollar bins: Huge, huge selection of random, unsorted treasures. If you want to go through the whole thing, you better free up your afternoon. I've done it a couple of times and it's both exciting and frustrating, because you'll find a couple of random issues from a mini-series and think: "If only they had the full run, I would definitely pick this up." Then three boxes later, you find another issue from it and you're like, "Shit, maybe they do have the full run!" But by that point, you've lost the issues you'd seen earlier, so you have to go back. It's very time consuming, but if you're systematic about it, you can find some good stuff for cheap. The greatest thing about these dollar bins is that the comics are all in pretty decent condition, and they're all bagged and boarded.

2. The modern-period back issues: They also have a very good collection of back issues from the past couple of decades. These are in excellent condition and kept in neatly organized and browser-friendly bins. The drawback is that they are all slightly overpriced (in my opinion). They also have a lot of stock that is not on display, but if you ask for specific issues they'll go looking for them.

3. Golden and Silver Age collectors stuff: I don't have the money (or the interest, really) for this sort of thing, but if that's what you're into, these guys seem to have a lot of it on display.

4. The reserve discount: If you put some titles on reserve, they give you a huge discount.

Things I don't like:

1. Business hours: They close at 6 p.m. all week. Even on Wednesday! I used to have my reserve there, but I got really frustrated having to wait until the weekend to get my comics because the store closes too early for me to get there after work.

2. They don't order a lot of new comics, so unless you put it on reserve two months in advance, you're not likely to be able to pick up any new issue that isn't a major title from DC or Marvel. This also became really frustrating for me, because I would go pick up my reserved titles and expect to be able to pick up one or two things I didn't put on reserve, but then find that I had to go to another comic book store for it, where they would have like a dozen issues on the shelf.

3. The staff. It's not that they're jerks or snobs. They're actually pretty nice. The problem is I get the impression that they don't read comic books. To them, it's all just merchandise that they're trying to sell you. You can't really ask for recommendations, or ask about characters or stories or specific writers or artists or anything. They seem to look at comics as "stuff people collect" rather than books that people read.

I was really sold on the discount for titles on reserve when I discovered the store, but I got so frustrated with the way they run their store that I eventually decided to cancel my reserve and start buying my comics elsewhere, even if it meant paying more money for them. Some aspects of what makes a good comic book store are more important than the price. Which leads me to the next store...

1,000,000 COMIX
1418 Pierce

This is my favourite comic book store in Montreal. But strangely, when I first discovered it, I didn't like it very much. It's a tiny store, and yet they have a huge inventory, so that gives you an idea of how little room there is to move around. None of the sections are labelled, and it took me a long time to really get a good understanding of how the stock is organized. At first, it just seemed like a clusterfuck and made me feel kind of claustrophobic.

But I kept coming back to this store because they have a great selection of back issues, which they sell for a flat rate of $2 each. Not only are there a lot of comics in the bins, but they also have a huge warehouse, so if you're looking for anything specific you just have to tell them and they'll bring it into the store. (Although some of the stuff from the warehouse might be more expensive than the normal $2 price on in-store back issues.)

The guy who works in the store most often when I go there at first seemed a bit unfriendly to me, but once I started talking to him and got to know him a little bit, I really warmed up to him, and he was one of the main reasons why I decided to move my reserve to this store. This guy is the opposite of the staff at Carsleys. He actually reads comics! A lot of them, too. He can actually answer your questions, whether they're about the plot or the quality of the books, what else the writers or artists have worked on, or the history of the characters, or whatever. He also doesn't say stupid things like, "Oh, I'm more of a Marvel guy."

And last but not least is the fact that they order a lot of new stuff every week, so even if you didn't put something on your pull list, there's a good chance they'll get a few extra copies. The guy gave me his e-mail address and I can just send him an e-mail anytime before Tuesday evening if I want him to put something aside for me on Wednesday. It's a lot less pressure than having to decide two months in advance exactly what I'm going to buy.


Shawona April 6, 2011 at 7:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lady April 6, 2011 at 7:22 AM  


I was wondering maybe you could help me out. I recently got sucked into the Angel comics based on Joss Whedon's tv series. The comics are published by IDW. Since you've rummaged thru back-issue bins maybe you might have came across a few? Could you point me in the right direction of which of these stores would best meet my needs?


Yan Basque April 6, 2011 at 8:52 AM  

Hi, Lady. I'm not sure how easy or hard these are to find. They haven't been on my radar, so I haven't noticed them anywhere.

I would say your best bet is probably 1,000,000 Comix, if only because of the volume of stuff they have in store. Don't be afraid to ask the guy who works there. Might be easier if you go when it's not too busy (i.e., not on a Wednesday), but don't go on Monday or Tuesday, because it's a different guy who works there and he doesn't know his stuff as well.

You might also try Astro Books, which is within walking distance of 1,000,000 Comix at 1844 Ste.Catherine. They don't have as many back issues, but this sounds like something they might be into.

Keep in mind some of these issues were also collected in hardcover and paperback. They might have those in, too. If not, you can maybe find them on Amazon or even eBay.

Finally, if all else fails, keep an eye out for the next comic book convention. I think it's in September. They have tons of comics for sale, sometimes for very cheap.

Happy hunting!

Lady April 8, 2011 at 3:41 AM  

Hi Yan,
Thanks I really appreciate your advice, will definitely try both. I know for a fact that Chapters has a series of them in hardcover, but I much prefer the feel of a comic book though. So I'll look forward to comic con to fill up my collection. :)

Will88 October 26, 2011 at 7:12 PM  

Carsleys has changed a bit since you've been there. They still order minimally (which makes sense since they dont have a store front) and the hours havent changed all that much, but they got some employees who know their comics quite well now. Last time I went on a saturday and the person there was really friendly and knew all about the recent stuff that was out and what was good and what I should get into, it was a great experience and I was so glad I got a reserve. By far the best place to get your books in Montreal. December 28, 2015 at 11:08 PM  

FANTASTIC!! Thank you so much!
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