After opening Philadelphia's Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. last December, storeowner Ariell Johnson is now on a Marvel Comics cover of her own. As revealed via ABC News the 33-year-old Amalgam founder will appear on a store variant cover for "Invincible Iron Man" #1. As Johnson told ABC News, the cover came about thanks to the coordination efforts of artist Randy Green.
"When the email went out about potential variants for stores, he was really excited and took it upon himself to work out the [details]. It was really his hard work," Johnson explained. "I knew what it was supposed to look like, but having the actual art in front of you is so much different. It's really exciting." The variant cover features art by Elizabeth Torque.
"Invincible Iron Man" #1 will see a new character, Riri Williams, take up the hero's mantle, making her the first black woman to wear one of Iron Man's suits. Johnson's inclusion on a cover with Riri Williams is itself appropriate, as Johnson is also a trailblazer; she's the first black woman to own a comic book store on the East Coast.
In the accompanying interview, Johnson told ABC News what it was like when she saw her first black female hero, the X-Man Storm. "To think I made it a decade-plus and I had never seen a black, woman superhero is crazy because little white boys have so many [with whom they identify]: 'I want to be Iron Man!' 'I want to be Batman!' 'I want to be Superman.' 'I want to be Han Solo!' When you are a person of color, you're scraping the bottom of the barrel to find someone you can identify with. I always felt like I was watching other people's adventures," she explained. "Being introduced to Storm was a pivotal moment for me because had I not come across her, I might have grown out of my love for [comics]."
Johnson strives to make Amalgam an inclusive place for geeks of all types, and based on a story she told about her interaction with a little girl, she seems to be meeting her goal.
"I had a girl tell me I had an excellent book selection and she was 7 or 8," said Johnson. "I don’t know how welcome she might feel in some other spaces," she said. "Women exist in this space! We’ve always been reading comic books, we just may not have been as open about it. I definitely get very positive feedback from not just little girls, but grown women too."
"Invincible Iron Man" #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli arrives in stores on November 9.