No matter where you stand on the recent Somerville debate, Davis Square's Comicazi is a hub for too-hip fans of ironic memorabilia and earnest media fans alike. The store caters mainly to inked up fans of Scott Pilgrim energy, although older comics fans interested in the classics seem comfortable as well.
The storefront looks unassuming on Highland Ave, placed across the street from a sushi bar and two hand-made Somerville-themed boutiques. Its dusty front window is a welcome escape from the recent, glossy additions to the square. One wonders, for example, why Somerville has DIY stores on every corner, the way New Yorkers complain about being inundated with Starbucks.
Inside Comicazi, after the shop bell stops tinkling, one's eyes adjust to the primary colors often decorating comic book stores. With that familiar Simpsons yellow abound, Comicazi's front shelves are dedicated to action figures and collectibles. A table of free and half-off comics centers the sunny room. Most impressive is the tower of plush toys, including even the back-order monsters from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. (Typical stores carry only Moishe and Bernard.)
The cashiers at Comicazi seem trained to handle any type of customer, and only greet visitors if prompted. The sensation of meeting eyes with a Comicazi employee, smiling mildly and simply nodding at one another, is peaceful and familiar. Customers orbit around the shelves, some intently reading and others arguing about plot arcs in Sandman and attention to form in The Hive. The Marvel universe is highly valued, with a multi-shelf expanse always populated with readers, but DC follows closely behind. A wall of new releases on the opposite side of the store is peppered with laminated signs advising casual or new readers "What to Read First!"
For seasoned comic book fans, the store's event calendar is almost overwhelming in its frenzy to maintain a community. Earlier in the year, among many other acts, Comicazi played host to a series of stand-up comedians and a zombie-themed post-punk band, all of whom performed in the store's back room. Action figures and original replicas hang from the high ceiling, some in their original packaging. While Comicazi's front is devoted to newer products, the rear is reminiscent of the eBay store in 40 Year Old Virgin. In fact, a wall is devoted entirely to paints and models Steve Carrell's character loved.
Something is afoot in Comicazi, though, that negates an outsider stereotype of geek culture. All the manifestations of Batgirl are available, yes, and the store hosts regular Pokemon nights, but noticeably absent are the canned-geek staples: figurines of characters from The Big Bang Theory! are either not offered or hidden somewhere by an eye-rolling employee. The energy in Comicazi feels new, based on the assumption that comics are not only cool, but making great strides in a contemporary world where readership is declining and popular film borrows from Marvel franchises every summer. As Bob Butman told Dig Boston in 2012 (after Comicazi was named "Best Comics Shop in Camberville"), "People would come in, and [...] recommend, talk with me about, like, 'Oh, this is good, and you should read this,' and I thought, 'There’s a lot of community within.' I find that it’s kind of hard to find that at [...]regular bookstores.'"
Fans of vastly different projects, from Chris Ware melancholy to Game of Thrones-scale storytelling, can enjoy the store's investment in pieces like space-opera Saga and the work of Liz Prince, a local comics artist who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Her books, interestingly, were published by the now-defunct Highwater Books, a comics producer based in Somerville.
For those interested in comics and comedy, check out ComedyCazi. For comics fans who also happen to be ladies, check out Ladies of Comic Cazi. For upcoming reviews of bookstores and comic shops in Camberville, subscribe to Emily, your Boston Books examiner.