BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP (1999)
There's nothing wrong with Dreamhaven. They sell comic books and zines and sundry erotica and they do it well. But Big Brain Comics, just off Nicollet Mall, makes the comics world appealingly habitable for humans. To start, the store feels incredibly spacious, with its 20-foot ceilings and handsome wood floors. Retail is a matter of creating a pleasing product environment; it's manipulative in the best sense of that word. Here, you can circumnavigate all the stock without having to brush up against some goateed fetish freak on a patchouli bender. And you can see it without pulling everything off the shelves, which keeps the comics in nice condition. Should you want to take a closer look, there are a few chairs available. All this atmosphere is a welcome thing, but it's the man behind the register, proprietor Michael Drivas, who is the superhero of this comics scene. Friendly without being intrusive and knowledgeable without seeming arcane, Drivas has a sixth sense for recommending the right title for either a new fan or a longtime addict. A few vague words about a fantasy comic strip from the early part of the century was all Drivas needed to direct one reader to the almost surreal work of Winsor McCay and his Little Nemo in Wonderland. Which brings us to the subject of Big Brain's stock: fine titles published by some of the usual suspects like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, and some smaller lines, too, like the emerging Black Eye Press, and High Water Books. There's also a good collection of zines, local minicomics, superhero titles, and adult comics (sealed for your protection).