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If you are on vacation in Amsterdam, while browsing the museums, taking in the beautiful architecture, shoving croquettes down your gullet and partaking in legalized debauchery, you might want to pause for a moment and think “I wonder what Daredevil is up to this week?”
Then take some time to see Amsterdam’s wonderful assortment of comic book stores, specifically, Henk’s, Gojoker, and Lambiek.
Now, you might say, “Renzo, you devastatingly handsome expert of the sequential arts, what could three comic book stores have to offer that I couldn’t just get at one?”
That is because the three stores I am looking at today each offer a unique selection of titles depending on whether your tastes are American, European, or lost oddities.
But all these stores share in common a vibrant love for comics and are all easily worth your time. Besides, it beats hanging out with obnoxious college kids at the Bulldog.
Henk Comics & Manga (Zeedijk 136C, 1012 BC) represents the best one could look for in an American style comic book store. Though compact in size, it offers a fine selection of mainstream and indie titles from the US (I snagged a copy of Glory, Saga, and Prophet) and new manga releases, action figures, and a few long boxes of assorted oddities (I got my friends a couple old issues of Spiderman in Dutch).
And what’s a good comic book store without a few surprises? Along with the aforementioned Dutch Spidey comics, I also found what I thought to be Japanese pop-idol magazines from the early 90’s, but turned out to be Japanese adult magazines from the early 90’s.
Like I said, surprises!
The staff was also very helpful and were more than happy to help me find the books I was looking. For the weary traveler looking to catch up on the titles they might be missing back home, Henk’s is an excellent stop.
Gojoker (Zeedijk 31-A 1012 AP), not to be confused with The Jolly Joker, a coffee shop next to Henk) is a hidden treasure. Not far from Henk, the shop window is small and inconspicuous. Unless you have an eagle eye for comic shelves, you could easily pass it by. Gojoker offers a great selection of European (very few in English) comics, many of which are long out of print.
It’s the sort of place to go to if you’re looking for something more unusual or a forgotten gem. The first floor has a wall filled to the brim with a mix of new trade-paperbacks from the US, Marvel Essentials, and new manga releases, but the rest of the floor is European titles, many new releases, but mostly older, harder to find books. But below all this lies Gojoker’s heart: the basement.
The basement is a very odd assortment.
When you get down there, it doesn’t look quite as much like a quaint shop, but more like the basement of someone that has been collecting nothing but comics for decades. The walls are completely lined with shelves from floor to ceiling while the rest of the room is filled with tables with long boxes on top.
It is quite possibly the most Spartan presentation of comics I have ever seen in a store, eschewing the usual posters and decorations for bare walls, exposed pipes, and lots and lots comics. But at no point did I ever feel the basement was messy or slapshod. Everything was organized by publisher, or author and the books were all in fine quality.
I picked up a Dutch printing of an issue of Watchmen, a Spanish horror comic from the 60’s, and a colored Judge Dredd collection. Go Joker may look like a hole in the wall at a glance, but it is one of the best stores I’ve seen for vintage and out of print comics.
Lambiek (Kerkstraat 132 1017 GP), opened in 1968, is Amsterdam’s premiere comic book store and one of the world’s first galleries for sequential art. Lambiek is a short walk from the Leidsplein (Amsterdam’s central hub to bars, museums, and general revelry) represents the best in new European comics. It’s pretty clear that Lambiek is very entrenched in the indie comics world when you see that their business card is actually a mini-comic by Jimmy Corrigan author, Chris Ware.
Lambiek is also the largest store of the three. Brightly lit and colorfully decorated, it has a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Lambiek’s strength is its wide selection of new European releases, but it also has a great selection of American indie comics like Black Hole and Scott Pilgrim, and vintage comics like Metal Hurlant.
The European selection is a great mix of titles for all ages. Kids comics like Spirou and Lou!, along with mind-bending comics by the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Moebius, Milo Manara, Jean-Claude Forest, and more.
I picked up a copy of an excellent Belgian comic called Soda by Bruno Gazzotti about a cop in pre-Giuliani New York that tells his mother he’s a priest so she won’t have a heart-attack. No English editions of this comic exist, so you’ll have to scour the internet for fan-translations, but it is well worth tracking down.
Attached to Lambiek is Galerie Lambiek, a collection of various works of original comic art. While the space was not running an exhibition at the time, I spotted hanging on the walls a few pieces by Frank Frazetta and Jaime Hernandez and the space is also frequently used for workshops and drawing classes.
While people don’t usually think of Amsterdam as a comics epicenter, they really should. All three of these stores show a true enthusiasm and love for comics, and I valued seeing them just as much as the Van Gogh Museum or the beautiful architecture.
Henk Comics & Manga StoreZeedijk 136CAmsterdam, 1012 BC
Gojoker Strips & ComicsZeedijk 31AAmsterdam, 1012 AP
LambiekKerkstraat 132Amsterdam 1017 GP
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