Forget the comic-book store clichés, so perfectly captured on The Simpsons—shoddy storefronts, cluttered aisles, clientele of sweaty, nervous dudes afraid to speak to one another, the whole enterprise overseen by corpulent hucksters rooking 12-year-old boys out of their allowance money. The industry crash in the 1990s, coupled with the economic catastrophes of today, have thinned the herd. The survivors are smarter, sleeker, more inclusive shops that cater not only to stalwart superhero fans jonesing for a four-color fix, but also to artsy alt-comics types, teens hooked on Japanese manga, and kitsch-seeking hipsters. Big Brain Comics is the Twin Cities' exemplar of the new comic-book store. Aside from its frustrating habit of stocking new-release comics spine-out on the shelves (which makes for inconvenient single-issue browsing), they get just about everything right. The stock is well maintained, with hot new books plentiful for days or weeks after their release, as well as a thriving collection of indie and small-press titles. The shop's catalog of magazines, art books, postcards, and errata is strong, and its stock of books (you know, the kind without pictures) is lean but amazing, like an entire Barnes & Noble distilled into two or three shelves of the best reads.