Ariell Johnson, the founder of Amalgym Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc., is an avid comic book collector who spent more than a decade building her massive collection of books.
Johnson, 33, opened Amalgym last December becoming the first black, female comic book store owner on the East Coast. The Philadelphia native said the collaboration was spearheaded by her colleague Randy Green who also conceptualized the cover.
“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,” she told ABC News. “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 said her obsession with comics begin around the age of 10 or 11 when she discovered “X-Men” character Storm. She credits the character, one of the first black, female superheroes, with being “the bridge that got me into this world.”
“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].”
The first image of the book, which goes on sale next month and features Johnson having a meal with new Marvel superhero RiRi Williams.