Poking around the racks of garishly hued new comics, a brash teen blurts out, "How much is Spider-Man #1 worth?" Mark Farace, the charismatic owner and frontman for All American Collectibles, shoots back with perfect comic timing. "About a buck and a half," he says. "Spider-Man was the title of Todd McFarlane's 1991 relaunch. If you mean 1962's Amazing Spider-Man, look it up." Such an exchange reveals the core identity of All American, the superhero comic-book mecca of St. Louis Hills. Here, superheroes are serious business — hold the irony. Farace stocks all the latest adventures of DC's pop gods and Marvel's feet-of-clay antiheroes, not to mention an ever-expanding selection of vintage comics. Diving deep into the city's last great back-issue section, you'll regularly find glossy, high-grade bronze-age beauties priced well below the Overstreet guide. And try not to gawk at Farace's drool-worthy premium stock, located under glass in the front counter. (The small batch of well-preserved 1950s EC horror titles alone will make your credit card itch.) Respect for this distinctly American art form permeates every square inch of Farace's store. If you're looking for a trend-hopping shop stocked with the latest collectible card-game fad or pre-weathered T-shirts, look elsewhere. But if you're a true believer, All American is your store. Be forewarned, however: If you find your dream issue — say, a reasonably priced, very fine copy of Silver Surfer #4, guest-starring Thor — buyer's hesitation is not recommended. As Farace says, "This isn't a museum," and the feeding frenzy brought on by his yearly 50-percent-off sale in December is the stuff of local legend. Excelsior!
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