Locust Moon Comics' Expansion Draws Cartoonists Together
Just a few blocks north of its former Locust Street location in University City, which closed last summer, Locust Moon Comics
reopened in July. Combining two adjacent storefronts near the corner of 40th and Ludlow Streets -- a comic book shop on the left, a gallery on the right -- the new space is exactly what Locust Moon's three founders have envisioned since the beginning.
There's always been a huge creative comics community in West Philadelphia, but there wasn't really a place for us to go and meet like-minded people," says co-owner Chris Stevens. "We want this store to be the nexus of making books and reading books, meeting somewhere at the crossroads of retail and creativity. And we want everyone to feel welcome here -- professionals who are making a living as artists and writers, beginners drawing stick-figures and people who know absolutely nothing about comics."
One of the regular community events at Locust Moon's gallery space that has carried over from the old store is the Thursday Drink 'n Draw. On one Thursday night last month, when the theme for the night was Pac-Man, about 60 people brought wine or beer and drew the '80s arcade hero and the ghosts that chase him.
In addition to a monthly art exhibit (works by artists from the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society
are currently on display), the gallery will offer live music performances, educational programming, comic creator events (like signings and book talks) and movie screenings.
In November, Locust Moon hosts the local Black Science-Fiction group the AfroFuturist Affair's 2nd Annual Charity & Costume Ball
. And, while most of the activities are scheduled to happen at the nearby venue The Rotunda, Dec. 16 marks the first annual Locust Moon Comics Festival.
As for the store itself, the books range from classic Batman and X-Men superhero comics to high-end art books by creators like Moebius, and a healthy selection of children's books.
"We have a good mix of popular and rare books, from Watchmen to Paul Pope, and we want nothing more than to talk about them with you all day, and all night long," says store co-owner Josh O'Neil.
There's also a strong emphasis on books by local creators, which will increase with the launch of the Locust Moon Press imprint. Co-releasing in October with Dark Horse Comics, the imprint's first official book is called Once Upon A Time Machine, a collaborative project that re-imagines traditional fairytales in science-fiction settings. Including the work of both Stevens and O'Neil, many of the creators who contributed to the 400+ page tome are from Philadelphia.
"We want the store to be a place where creative people can meet, and where the creation of new comics like this begin," says O'Neil. "We get so excited when collaborations happen as a result of people meeting at the store, and it's a great feeling to know that we've somehow helped make new art happen, and have brought people together that might not have otherwise met. That's what it's all about for us."
ELLIOTT SHARP is a freelance music writer living in West Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Elliott Sharp. Send feedback here.
Photographs by MICHAEL PERSICO