Granite State of Mind, #19: Chris' Comics, Seabrook
Growing up as comic book guys, my brother Al and I were weekly visitors to The Comic Relief, a cramped little shop inhabiting a bright-yellow building on Bridge Street in Portsmouth. Our allowances were swiftly disbursed on piles of 60-cent (later 75-cent or even, scandalously, a full dollar) issues. It was like a tax or a tithe, each of us beholden to the titles that commanded our attention. I was an X-Men, Iron Man, West Coast Avengers guy, while his tastes ran more to Spider-Man, Alpha Flight, and The New Mutants. We would split our resources between new releases and the search for often-elusive back issues, and long before the internet and the slothful ease of Amazon Prime, there was a thrill to the hunt.
The Comic Relief is long gone, as are the taxpaying habits of those younger days. I've become a patron of an enormous warehouse of a comic store called Olympic Cards and Comics out here in Washington, taking the boys there for Pokemon cards or toys or even the occasional comic book. But it's not the same. I'm more likely to buy omnibus editions of whole classic story arcs online than to collect the overpriced, underwritten stuff masquerading as comic books these days. I read the old books, I revel in the golden age of Marvel movies on the big screen, but my collecting days are a thing of the past.
There's one place in New Hampshire that makes me still feel like that twelve-year old kid counting his dimes and agonizing over blowing a full five bucks (a whole week's allowance) on a near-mint copy of X-Men #30, giddy with anticipatory excitement over the new month's new installments of the stories and characters I loved. Chris' Comics on Route 1 in Seabrook is a classic comic book store, a place where the new stuff dutifully lines the shelves, where the long white cardboard boxes house relics of a gloried past, and where all sorts of other stuff can be found. Thick bound black-and-white collections of vintage issues, action figures, collectible cards, posters, even a sports memorabilia section that nods to those of us with mixed allegiances to dorkdom and athletics. It's not a tidy place, embracing the flea-market feel that graces the best comic joints, granting the browser the mild sense that some unlooked-for treasure might be found within. I've spent plenty of money there in my post-tithing, pre-surrender days, and I regret none of it. Plus, my friend Kevin Cormier works there, so how can you go wrong?
Obligatory post-script: Chris' Comics shares a plaza with a fireworks store, a pawn shop, a tattoo parlor, a smoking supply outlet, and an adult video and peepshow joint. You have to love Seabrook, that wild seacoast cousin who refuses to cut his hair and livens up family reunions.