I was lucky enough to score a work trip to the south of France a few weeks ago and, naturally, I used the opportunity to nip up to Paris — and check out their major comics shops.
I was staying with a friend whose flatmate is also into comics — French, Japanese, American, whatever. He gave me two different locations to check out along my four day stay and I came across a third in my wanderings.
For your reference, all of these locations are nearby the Saint Michel-Notre Dame stop on the Metro. You can find them on or along either Boulevard de Saint Germain or Boulevard de Saint Michel. What’s nice about this is that you can go pick up your comics, sit down nearby and have a nice meal at a nearby brasserie, and then cross the Seine and have a look at the Notre Dame. All in a single afternoon!
So let’s take a quick journey through comics in Paris!
First up: Pulp’s Comics
Pulp’s is actually the one I just happened upon while looking for another shop. When I entered, they were playing the soundtrack from Tron: Legacy, which was a definite plus. If you’re just looking for American comics—that is, you’re on a trip and you have some kind of trade paperback or single-issue emergency—then this is where you want to shop. They have books both in English and in French, but not much by way in bande-dessinée (BD) or manga. There’s a good collection of art books, though, and the staff are friendly. The shop is very much a home-away-from-home if you’re typically based in an English-speaking country. In fact, Christine even interviewed the owner last year!
Oh, additional bonus: around the corner, there’s a small shootoff of Pulp that just sells merchandise. A lot of it is stuff you’ve seen before, but there are actually more options for women than I remember in terms of clothing and other novelty items! So, you have a burning desire to buy swag for American comics in a foreign country, Pulp has got you covered.
Next: Album & Album 2
This shop is actually in two establishments under the same banner, with one diagonally opposite from the other. One, like Pulp, is focused on non-French comics, and the other is all about BD. For starters, the non-French one has some grade-A decorations and a much bigger selection of manga compared to the other store. It’s just a much bigger store with many more options. There’s a display with weekly comics, a long set of bookshelves full of manga, and an entire room devoted to trades and back issues. The music was less nerd-focused here, too, and more in the top 40 vein.
And then there’s the one that sells French comics! I bought four titles from here. I was originally looking for Snowpiercer/Transperceneige, but a very nice staff member tolerated my rusty French and recommended me three other titles after showing me and talking me through tons! One thing: rather than comics being sorted by publisher, as they are with American/British comics, instead they’re sorted by genre.
This makes so much sense and is so much more accessible than the way things are done in the UK & US.
My (French) friend said that he thought that other comics weren’t organized this way because there’s no standard size for comics outside of France across publishers. French comics are, on the whole, made in two different sizes, so it’s easy to display and sort them by genre.
I say that it’s a weak excuse because of course comics should be sorted by genre. If I could walk into a shop and see all the crime comics and all the fantasy comics and all the cyberpunk comics? My little heart would burst. It’s obviously a tricky business—where do you slot Genevieve Valentine & Garry Brown’s Catwoman? Superhero comics? Crime? LGBT?—but I think it’s a better choice than just lumping it in with the DC books where people who know what they’re looking for can find them.
But I digress.
In short, Album and Album 2 have the full range of what you want, whether it’s American/British, BD, or manga. If Paris were a more permanent part of my life, this would be my go-to spot.
So Boulinier, which you can see just when you step out of the Metro station, is not just a comic shop. It’s actually a combination bookshop—new and used—that also sells music and comics. Though there’s a small section for secondhand comics, the whole top floor is devoted to BD/comics/manga. Boulinier has the biggest manga collection of the three and several walls of Western comics, but not quite in the range of either Album or Pulp.
I think Boulinier should probably be your manga spot—that is, if you speak French. There are titles available in French translation that English translations haven’t made their way to, which is exciting. However, as an English speaker it’s harder to justify picking up manga in a language other than my mother tongue or Japanese. Though, hell, maybe you like collecting manga in lots of different languages!
(Also, just of interest: the not-picture books are all in the basement and there’s a whole shelf full of secondhand English-language books with a pretty decent selection. I found William Gibson’s Idoru and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Didn’t buy ‘em, but they were there!)
And that’s my coverage of the comics hot spots in Paris! I think if there’s anything the Parisian shops have over their foreign counterparts, it’s that they know how to display their wares! Everything is so pretty! Even the French editions of the American and British comics are prettier than their original versions. And the staff always put them out in just the right way! And I’ve already covered how much I like the way BD are organized—genre all the way—so now it’s just up to you to get yourself to Paris and check it out for yourself!