Philadelphia’s Ariell Johnson went from comic collector to comic book store owner when she opened Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. in December. She also became the first Black female comic book store owner on the East Coast. Now, Johnson is about to reach another awesome achievement.
The 33-year-old’s likeness will appear alongside Marvel’s latest hero Riri Williams on the cover of Invincible Iron Man #1, a collaboration she says she owes to her friend and colleague Randy Green, who conceptualized the cover and headed the project, which is out next month.
“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. 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,” she told ABC News.
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She got into comic books early on, naming X-Men character Storm as her bridge into the comic book world.
“When you are a person of color, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to find someone you can identify with,” she said. “I always felt like I was watching other people’s adventures. 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].”
Johnson added that she opened the comic book store to create an inclusive space for those who want to geek out over comics, sci-fi, gaming, and whatever else they’re into.
“I had a girl tell me I had an excellent book selection and she was 7 or 8. I don’t know how welcome she might feel in some other spaces,” she shared. “Women exist in this space! We’ve always been reading comic books, we just may not have been as open about it. I definitely get very positive feedback from not just little girls, but grown women too.”