By Victor Ochieng
Ariell Johnson decided to follow her passion, and through that, she went down in history books as the first ever Black woman to own a comic bookstore in the East Coast area. While building her career, she went through numerous challenges, but remained focused on her mission.
Johnson started by opening a bookstore in Philadelphia called “Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse.” She felt there was a need to show diversity through comic, especially because she was a big comic book lover. Johnson wanted to create an environment where everyone would feel at home.
Like many other stories, she chose to follow her passion and use her network to realize her dreams.
Because of her achievements, she’s won the cover of “Invincible Iron Man #1.” It’s a variant cover and will thus show different pictures of Johnson. The first cover will start selling next month and will show the entrepreneur enjoying a meal with RiRi Williams, the new Marvel superhero.
Johnson expressed her excitement about the prospect and even said she owes it to her colleague Randy Green, who she said steered the project and came up with the cover idea.
“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.”
Admittedly, Johnson has earned the recognition, after taking the gigantic feat of starting her own bookstore last December.
Her obsession with comic books started when she was around 10 or 11, coming after she developed interest in “X Men” character Storm. And she credits her love of comic to the character, which is among the first Black female superheroes.
“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].”
She switched from cartoons to comics during her time in high school and would later start purchasing her own comic books while in college. During that time, she’d go out to a bookstore and pick books and then go and read them in a coffee shop across the street, while enjoying a cup of coffee and some cake. Unfortunately, the coffee shop later closed down. However, this only worked to push her to start her own bookstore that would deliver the same feeling she used to enjoy at the joint.
“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!”