At the intersection of Euclid Street and Whittier Boulevard, there’s a small, almost hidden store which evokes feelings of nostalgia and childhood memories. Inside, there’s everything comic book aficionados could dream of: superhero figures, comic books, manga, anime collectibles and Lucha Libre masks.
This is Legion Comics.
Miguel Milan opened Legion Comics in Boyle Heights in 2018. However, it wasn’t the first time Legion Comics existed. He first launched the business in South Gate in 1991.
Opening Legion Comics was a dream come true for Milan, whose love for comic books stems from childhood. The store has had a positive impact on residents, particularly those looking to belong. Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced the business to temporarily close, Milan said it returned with growth in size and sales after reopening.
“The reason why I opened up the comic book store was because I loved it … I thought ‘there’s gotta be other people who love comic books other than me,’” Milan said.
Milan fell in love with comic books when he was just five or six years old, growing up in Boyle Heights. He would browse through comic books at the pharmacy next to his grandfather’s bakery –which is where Legion Comics is now located. He was captivated by the unique art style, noticing that this form of art had words that Milan couldn’t yet read.
“I kind of taught myself and forced myself to read because I loved the artwork. I just couldn’t read. With the help of my uncles and aunts, we started reading it and little by little [I learned].”
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Milan knew how to make his business stand out. He provides index cards with information about the authors, designers, cover artists and the books’ publication dates.
“This way the customer feels like they actually matter and they just are not another person there. I wanted to make this the store that me as a kid, or as a collector, would love to walk into,” Milan said.
Milan recalls stories of children who had family problems and would use his original store as an escape from home. Now, the same customers continue to visit his Boyle Heights location.
“So many people come here and now they tell me ‘Man, my parents used to fight a lot at home, and I just had to get away. I used to go to the comic shop [in South Gate] and I would be there for hours just hanging out.’”
Milan said kids who were antisocial found solace at Legion Comics because they found people with shared interests in the comic book world.
“I had no clue that the comic book store meant so much to some people,” Milan said. “I had no clue that it was almost like a sanctuary for some.”
In its four years in Boyle Heights, Legion Comics has gained a reputation as the community’s comic book store.
Every Thursday, the store offers 20% off of all new items. Legion Comics has also hosted signings for comic books featuring local artists as well as authors who come from outside the community. In some instances, they promote the works of local artists for free. Legion Comics also offers employment opportunities to residents, particularly high school students, so they can get work experience with flexible schedules to juggle with school.
Like other businesses, Legion Comics was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but not in the usual way. Legion Comics actually grew in sales after non-essential businesses opened up again, Milan said.
Milan added a Japanese manga section next to the comic books; it’s called Legion’s House of Manga and has its own separate entrance. The rise in post-quarantine sales, which Milan referred to as the “high-tide,” materialized.
“People showed up, and Manga took off … [and] anime was key,” Milan said.
“When our people were in their homes, locked down after lockdown, what do you do? Watch anime.”
Legion Comics’ success came from Milan’s determination and willingness to stay with what’s been referred to as a slowly dying community.
“This is a comic shop and, yes, I enjoy it. I built this store, but it’s not really my store. It’s a community store. It’s for everyone that walks in here.”
2934 Whittier Boulevard
Open every day, 12-8 pm