Wednesday, January 28, 2009


posted by Elizabeth Fama

Yes, Virginia, there is a comic store in Hyde Park.

This is an extremely important measure of urban progress that many of you may not be aware of.

First Aid Comics is at 53rd and Harper, hidden away on the 2nd floor (nested between Mane Objectives Salon and Hair Dare You), with only a Superman poster high in the front window to capture walk-by traffic. It opened on November 28th.

Despite its small-ish space, First Aid is crammed with comics of many types: superheroes, anime, video game characters, and Star Wars and Star Trek. My son -- a devoted Hellboy and Watchmen fan -- was happy to find comics he wanted in this genre. There are also a few graphic novels, and novelty items like drinking glasses, buttons, and action figures.

The owner, James Nurss, is a former manager at Graham Cracker Comics. When I asked him by e-mail what motivated him to open the store, he replied, "Since 1980 I have wondered where the comic shop is in Hyde Park. I love the record and used book shops -- particularly Dr. Wax's, and the maze of rooms at Powell's. A comic shop seemed long overdue, and probably a nice fit for the neighborhood." He has hopes of building enough business to move to a storefront someday.

When you see Nurss in action, he's obviously devoted to the shop. He's friendly and service-oriented. He's eager to order anything you might want that you don't already see.

Check it out.

First Aid Comics
1459 East 53rd Street (west of Harper)
2nd floor (ring buzzer)

Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 11 AM - 7 PM
Wednesday: 11 AM - 8 PM
Sunday: 12 - 5 PM
Closed Monday

Eric's loot. (But the Susan Storm and Batman buttons are mine.)


Otto said...

"Since 1980 I have wondered where the comic shop is in Hyde Park."

There *was* such a shop at either 51st or 53rd and Lake Park (under the tracks) for a couple of years in the later '90s. They also had some vinyl for sale, I recall, and some movies for rent (Jodorowsky, Peckinpah, early '70s Altman, et al.), as well as the odd action figure. Fine place to have had around--a luxury, as it were. Its name nonetheless eludes me. (Same dude?)

Richard Gill said...

In recent years, "Under the Tracks" in Hyde Park has not been good to most businesses that have located there. Istria is a happy and notable exception. It's not even clear what condition those old commercial spaces are in, under the Metra/CN bridges.

The space adjacent to (west of) the 53rd Street Metra entrance seems to hold some promise. That entrance is much more spacious than others, and perhaps part of it could be converted to retail use. Until after WWII, the 53rd Street station was a stop for long-distance trains, as well as commuter trains. The larger entrance accommodated that traffic, and the adjacent space was a baggage room. I don't know how it's used - if it's used - today by Metra.

Meanwhile, I expect to visit First Aid to see if they carry some of the old stuff from my childhood. Anybody remember the Blackhawks who battled Russaga, that evil Commie empire?

Elizabeth Fama said...

Richard, I should probably have mentioned that I didn't see any vintage comics at First Aid. But James Nurss is active on eBay, so he may be able to help you acquire what you need.

Richard Gill said...

Beth -

"Need" is probably too strong a word. "Would be fun to have" is more like it. But thanks for the tip. If only I had saved those old comics, and my baseball cards...

cjb said...

Jim's Smokertorium did pretty well under the tracks.

(I'm not sure that really adds anything to the conversation. I just wanted to type out "Smokertorium.")

Anonymous said...

Was Jim's Smokertorium the shop that had the sign with a pipe on it? When they were pulling down the old plywood and renovating that side of the underpass a few years ago, I rode my bike past and saw some funny looking ancient shop fronts. I think there was even a story in the Herald about how they had been long forgotten. What else was under there?

Otto said...

That's "Big Jim's" Smokertorium to you lot.

The place I'm thinking of must have been on 51st, as it was on the south side of the street.

mchinand said...

Otto, I think that place was called Hard Boiled Records and Video.

Famac said...

It was Bob's newstand and I shopped for comics there regularly. It later turned into a video store, then a porn video store. Then it was gone. I don't know what happened to the videos.

Bob started his newstand on that spot, then replaced it with a large rectangular building in the late Seventies/early Eighties (demolished, 51st and Lake Park).

The comics used to be clipped to a clothing line way up high so people couldn't read them, a problem I spotted my first day at First Aid. I bought a lot of lemons that way. Anyone remember the comic vending machine at Woolworths?

Richard - Blackhawk has been reprinted by DC comics, even those issues from the 30s you mentioned in your post. I can send you links if you are interested.

Otto said...

I think that place was called Hard Boiled Records and Video.

Ah, yes! Thanks. Looks like he's still in business in Roscoe Village.

This is different from Famac's "Porn Hut," which was on the west side of Lake Park (and really was a pretty good little video store when I patronized it--I seem to have missed the denouement).