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  • Writer's pictureDax J Martin-Cheeves


Originally published: Sept 22, 2016

So, upon learning that A.C.M.G. presents TALK TIME LIVE podcast was nominated for the honorable Philly Geek Awards I also learned that a guest on TALK TIME LIVE also was nominated for the prestigious Geek of the Year award (or “The Big one”). Enter A.C.M.G. member Ariell Johnson, owner of the now world-famous AMALGAM COMICS & COFFEEHOUSE in Philadelphia right at 2578 Frankford Ave. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19125 (for those needing GPS info). Already on the run of her reason boom of knowledge that she is in fact the first African American female comic shop owner ever, she now can add award nominee to the continuously growing list of honors and media mentions.

I planned to take a trip back to her store a few weeks back but had to postpone it due to traveling issues. However, everything happens for a reason. This more than any time, was the right time to visit one of my now all-time favorite shops. I got there before the big crowd normally comes in so I can take in the environment for myself. Great idea because the crowd did fill in after a while. AMALGAM COMICS & COFFEEHOUSE is straight forward as the name. A great hybrid of a comic shop and a cafe where comic book fans can order their favorite caffeine beverage (or non-caffeine drinks as well) buy a comic, shirt, toy, and more, find a table decorated in your favorite comic book, movie, or cartoon insignia, and relax as you baptize yourself into a world far different from the one you live in.

And what an ambiance and atmosphere it is. Beautiful color schemes tranquil lighting as well a big window to allow in plenty of natural light as well. And one of the most noticeable can’t miss attractions of the house is the giant (and just plain beautiful) framed poster of the legendary Amazing Fantasy #15 August edition from 1963 MARVEL COMICS which has the first appearance of Spider-man in that issue.

HEY STAN! You gotta see this!!!!

Added to this, the hospitality of the shop was very welcoming. Phantom Barista and A.C.M.G. member Issa James (who didn’t wish to be photographed hence the title of phantom.) is there with open arms ready to provide you with whatever you request. Added to that, the woman knows her Legend of Korra. So much so that she passionately discussed the show with me while providing me with a great tasting chocolate chip bagel. She also creates comic book themed baked goods as well. I recommend the Hulk theme Key lime cupcake whenever it is available. Shortly after speaking with Issa, the lady of the house arrived. Ariell already on a scheduled time budget came in and we met in person for the very first time. The other reason I wanted to stop by was to congratulate her on her nomination. Although I’ve only known her from her guest appearance on TALK TIME LIVE, she felt every bit of invitation as she appeared on the podcast. And added to that with a very graceful presence as well. She carries herself like a true leader and representative that you should expect. A warrior in the business world while laid back and cool. You can totally feel the essence of her vision throughout the coffeehouse. So, after introducing myself and congratulating her, we sat down to catch up on things. We spoke about her endless schedule and the added Philly Geek Award nod.

Then we got deep. Real deep. We talk about her feelings about X-men Days of Future Past: The Rouge Cut as when she was on the show a while back, she did not see it yet.

She felt the same way we did, especially with the wonder of why they took out that Rogue scene.

Nevertheless, I had a great and relaxing time hanging out at Amalgam.

The Present (and end of an era)

On October 15, 2022, Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse closed due to the effects of the pandemic which hit many small businesses hard during the last two years. After seven years of providing the most unique and comfortable environments for fans of comics and making a milestone and impact in the community, the culture Amalgam had to say goodbye.

Although the shop is no longer, the effects, the memories, the friendships, and moments, had and shared by many will not be forgotten.

Many legendary names have walked through those doors including Hip-Hop legend Darryl "DMC" McDaniel's, American author Ta nehisi Coates, and the late great Congressman John Lewis, just to name a few.

Ariell R. Johnson is a game changer and a part of modern-day Black history. Those accomplishments can never be taken away from her. While neither Ariell nor I won a Philly Geek Award in 2016 we both went on to have some awesome opportunities later in the years. The news of Ariell being a first for Black women in the comic book world has made waves around the world which led to her making appearances on TV networks such as SYFY network and even appearing on a variant cover of Marvel Comics Invincible Iron-Man #1 which has become a valuable collector's edition (only one thousand copies were printed).

I have no doubt that she will aspire in her next venture. She is a warrior in these streets and if anyone to be a fan of its Ariell R. Johnson

I couldn't always make it down there but when I did it felt special for the length of time spent there. She made history opening that cafe and it will always be remembered as a milestone of Philly for the community and culture. Cheers to the journey.

INTERVIEW with ARIELL R. JOHNSON: Invincible Iron-Man #1 appearance.

One of the highest honors a comic book fan can receive is to appear in the pages and panels of a comic as themselves.

Ariell got to appear on the cover of one of Marvel Comic's latest and hottest books Invincible Iron-Man #1 which features a new superhero known as IRONHEART aka Riri Williams who takes over the helm that Tony Stark began for a new generation of fans as well as filling the gap of representation among the Black community of comic fans that felt like they did not have a hero that they can truly relate to.

On November 10, 2016, I once again sat down with Ariell in her shop to talk about this monumental and milestone moment for her.


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