Los Angeles is home to a multitude of specialized bookstores, from those oriented toward horror and mystery to others with more practical focuses, like cookbooks. Follow columnist Clea Wurster as she explores the many niche literary interests the city accommodates.
Tales of espionage, top-secret operations and “concealment technology” shroud The Secret Headquarters in a mist of confusion. But I soon found out the mysterious locale is simply a cozy comic book shop.
As I approached the store in the golden hours of the summery Los Angeles evening, its quaint and welcoming windows drew me in. Behind large, ornate script in red and gold painted across the single-pane, old-fashioned windows, several potted plants gave the shop a homey feel.
Upon entering the door to the right I was overwhelmed with nostalgia – the smell of waxy paper, the creak of the battered but still beautiful wooden floors and the smiling young woman behind the counter all reminded me of my childhood, and the excitement that inevitably followed from a trip to the library.
I was overjoyed to find my expectations for the store exceeded in all aspects. I worried I would find picturesque shelves stocked with photogenic products meant only to superficially please, but instead I found a snug retreat from the norm. Even the unexpected taxidermied raccoon seemed to shoot me a smile from his perch upon the top shelves.
Though I don’t know much about comics, I didn’t feel out of place. It may have been the soft folkish tunes filling the air or it could have been the zine, “Should I Get Bangs?” that felt like it was made for me, but something made me want to stay forever.
At first, I was unsure where to begin. The store itself was small, but comics lined the walls and all the spaces in between. The only drawback was finding room to stand while I flipped through pages of beautiful illustrations, but the other customers I brushed shoulders with were friendly and as entranced as I was.
I always find the best place to begin is staff picks, so I made my way to the right of the counter and began to skim the titles for something that caught my eye. Immediately, a comic entitled “Sunny” written by Taiyo Matsumoto leapt out at me. The pages were filled with beautiful black-and-white drawings – one of a girl with a blunt haircut and big sunglasses stuck with me as I continued looking around.
Next, I found a nontraditional comic called “Peter & Ernesto: a Tale of Two Sloths” that featured cartoonish, charming illustrations of sloths adventuring the globe and making endearing comments such as, “I like this piece of sky.” Much like the sloths, I liked this piece of LA.
The woman behind the counter, who wore a futuristic blue jumpsuit, got up to open the door to the street and welcome in the summer-scented evening air, which certainly helped foster the air of enchantment the shop cast over me. I didn’t want to return to UCLA; instead, I hoped to curl up on the large, wooden bench that sat centered in the window and acquaint myself more intimately with the comics.
Unlike most bookstores, I didn’t find many greeting cards or novelty items. Instead, the focus seemed to actually be on the books. The few cards that were stocked featured beautiful illustrations that could have been comics themselves.
The Secret Headquarters fit into the Silver Lake street comfortably, as if it had always been there. After leaving I felt as though I had taken a trip into the past, excited about books and even more excited about the pictures within the pages.