Sunday, October 21, 2018

Nexus - Comic Shopping in Reykjavik

by RM Rhodes

One of my great pleasures in life is visiting comic book stores in other countries when I am travelling. I recently went to Reykjavik and went out of my way to visit the local comic book store Nexus. Nexus is towards the outskirts of the city, away from the commercial city center. In fact, it's actually surrounded by apartment buildings and it comes across as a place where locals spend time. 

Next door to the store proper are a couple of empty storefronts that are well-lit and filled with tables where people can come and sit and play board games, Magic, or RPGs. A bit of online research tells me that child and adolescent psychologist Soffía Elín Sigurðardóttir opened an outreach center of sorts called Nexus Noobs, where pretty much anyone under 25 can come twice a week to play games and so forth in a deliberately curated safe space.

Not pictured: Darth Vader
The shop itself is more or less like a department store for geek and nerdy material. The article I linked to above describes Nexus as a "premiere hub for all things geek," which is very accurate. Comics take up one section, videos are in another, Funko Pops have an equally large section, and there are a variety of smaller sections packed into the back of the store. The fantasy and science fiction selection is excellent, and their Star Wars section had map books I'd never seen before, and I try to keep track of those when they come out. 

There was a place to purchase paints and miniatures, along with brushes and other painting materials. There was a cosplay section. A section filled with board games. A section of RPG books. And a whole corner dedicated to Taschen books, LBQT materials, healthy sex ed books, and erotic material. And doormats by the front door. If there was some kind of pop culture thing that they did not have, I am fairly sure that they would be willing to order it for you.
Register and main entrance - check out the giant corner of Funko on the right
They had everything in there, and the stuff they had was of higher quality than one would get from a comparable place in any random place in the States. If the price of importing is more or less the same, then it makes sense to bring over better quality material. There was some work in Icelandic, but the vast majority of the material in the store was in English. Not a lot of people speak Icelandic, but the vast majority of the population of Iceland can read English.
All the comics
The comics on offer were very interesting. The usual amount of Marvel and DC was present, but there was strong lean towards the Image/Humanoids/Fantagraphics material as well. There were some shelves of manga, but indie graphic novels in the "we've moved past superheroes" mode are winning out. In contrast, the only European work present was the stuff printed in English for the American market. I vaguely recall a shop in Reykjavik that I visited during a previous visit that was more European-oriented, but that was early November 2016 and a lot of things happened that month.
All the books (with concerned employee)
The store itself was within easy walking distance of the Reykjavik city center (everything is within walking distance of the city center), but it has a very different vibe than the tourist shops that demand the attention of tourists. Earlier I mentioned that Nexus is a place that seemed to be more focused on the locals and I think that really is the target demographic. That's not to say that they are unfriendly to people they don't recognize - they were perfectly happy to take my cousin's money.

Having spent time in the overly touristy commercial city center of Reykjavik, I can absolutely understand why the locals would want a place that caters to their needs and interests. Most Americans don't really have any insight into how accessible their version of pop culture is to people whose first language is not English. Nexus was a good reminder that people in a marginalized language group will do whatever they have to in order to participate in the global pop culture conversation.

If I was living in Reykjavik and I needed a place to go to feel like I was not alone in my nerdcore tendencies, I would be at Nexus once a week, just to walk around and enjoy the feeling of being catered to.


Why is this here? It's a long story. Mike Rhode first introduced himself to me when I first started vending at SPX. Over the years, we've talk to each other at Comic conventions around the DC area and never quite get around to sitting down for lunch. 

When I moved to Arlington two years ago, I didn't realize that Mike lived within a mile of my building. Nor did I realize that he lived next door to my girlfriend's friend from college. We also discovered, by accident that we work two buildings away from each other, because we work in adjacent organizations. The world is a very small place, sometimes. 

It really feels that way when I run into Mike at the local farmer's market. Naturally, that's when I pitch him article ideas. I'm reading the entire run of Heavy Metal in public (in blog format) because I happen to own the entire run of Heavy Metal. This means that I'm engaged in an ongoing study of the magazine. In addition, I have a diverse and idiosyncratic reading list that tends towards the weird corners of comics history. Sometimes one circumstance or another results in long articles that I don't really have anyplace to put. Mike has been gracious enough to let me publish them here.

In summary: this is an article about comics from someone in the DC area. 

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