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The East Coast’s first black female comic bookstore owner now has her own Marvel cover

Ariell Johnson is a pioneer on the move

Want to enjoy a cup of coffee, purchase your favorite comic book and patronize a black-owned business? If you’re in Philadelphia, Ariell Johnson can help you do all three. The Philly native is on the move.

Not only is she the first black woman to open a comic book store on the East Coast, she now has her own Marvel Comics cover alongside Marvel superhero RiRi Williams. They will appear on Invincible Iron Man #1. The first image of the book goes on sale next month.

The 33-year-old founder and president of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse Inc. told ABC News that her colleague, Randy Green, spearheaded the project.

“When the email went out about potential variants for stores, he was really excited and took it upon himself to work out the details,” she said. “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.”

Johnson has been collecting comic books for more than a decade. When she was in high school, she would buy a comic book every Friday and read it at her favorite coffee shop, Crimson Moon, where she’d order a slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate. Crimson Moon soon closed and Johnson later decided to re-create the nostalgic space.

She opened Amalgam last December, but she’s been into comics since she was around 10 or 11 years old, favoring the X-Men character Storm.

“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 told ABC News. “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.

“Women exist in this space,” she said. “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.”

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.