Outside the store in San Francisco’s Mission district is a sign with two cherries on a stem; on the sidewalk is a sign announcing an upcoming event. Posted on the windows are signs that read: “You are in a body positive space,” “Stronger together,” “Stop the violence. Stop hate,” “Fat artists rule” and “Let girls be ugly and strange.” Comic books and other merchandise also are on display, enticing passers-by to stop in and see more.

The exterior of Sour Cherry Comics is a sampling of what’s within—comics, books and graphic novels thoughtfully selected by owner Leah Morrett.

Sour Cherry Comics primarily serves women, queer and trans-identifying customers. (Courtesy JL Odom)

“I love the comic book vibe, where you get to know your comic dealer and you hang out, but I wanted everyone—people who are not the typical ‘dude bros’ or ‘nerd bros’—to feel comfortable in that vibe,” says Morrett. “So that’s why I was like, ‘We need a queer feminist comic shop, run by a woman.’”

Sour Cherry Comics had a soft opening in March 2022 and a grand opening in early May 2022, which fittingly coincided with Free Comic Book Day. The store is geared toward girls, anyone who identifies as a woman and the queer community. Featured DC, Marvel and other comics center on women, trans and queer-identifying characters and relationships. The same applies to books and graphic novels.

“I wanted this to be a space specifically where young girls could feel welcome. But it's also for young queer kids who are just kind of figuring stuff out. I made this to be a safe space for them,” she explains.

For Morrett, it’s important for girls, women, LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming individuals to feel “in place” in comics culture and spaces. An avid reader, her love of comics started at a young age—she couldn’t get enough of them. But then came puberty, and her cherished visits to and experiences in comic bookstores were marred by others’ assumptions about her.

“I stopped going to the comic shops with my dad because they were very masculine or very male-driven to a certain demographic: young white males. And I just didn't relate. I stopped feeling comfortable there. I felt like I was either being looked at differently for how my body was changing, or, because I'm a girl, it was like, ‘What do you possibly know about comics? Why are you in here?’” says Morrett.

Though she still occasionally went comics shopping with her father, she began to primarily rely on his solo trips.

“I just told him to pick me up something or I just read whatever it was that he got,” she explains.

Feeling out of place did not diminish her passion for reading. She became interested in young adult fantasy books and the Unicorns of Balinor series and ventured to Barnes & Noble to browse. At the bookstore she found rows of manga, which she carries in Sour Cherry.

“I knew manga was going to be a big part of the store because it’s still popular, but I also wanted to make sure everyone found something that they could be interested in. A lot of comic shops that sell single issues and indie trades and stuff don’t really have much of a manga section, and if they do, they definitely don’t have a queer manga section,” she says.

Sour Cherry Comics also carries gotcha bags, plushies and toys; buttons and pins; notepads, greeting cards and postcards and other merchandise. Local artists such as Alma Landeta contributed to the interior design shop by painting murals and local artists’ pieces on display are available for purchase.

Works by local artists adorn the walls of Sour Cherry Comics and are for sale as well. (Courtesy JL Odom)

Sour Cherry hosts in-store events such as crafting, poetry zine-making and creative nonfiction workshops, manga book club meetings, art exhibitions and the popular “Gay Gundam Night.” Its third installment is on Aug. 3o.

There’s truly something for everyone.

“[The store’s] for the outcasts; it’s for the misfits; it’s for the people who haven’t felt like we belong in nerd culture,” says Morrett.

Morrett has carefully considered all of the components of Sour Cherry Comics, including the shop’s name. For her, “apple” was too austere and already the name of other stores and “peach” evoked the emoji and its body-related symbolic meaning and use in texts and social media.

Comics, books and graphic novels with LGBTQ+ subjects and themes are a mainstay at Sour Cherry Comics. (Courtesy JL Odom)

She then gave thought to “cherry” and what it implies culturally: “The concept of ‘virginity’ is very misogynistic, so I took that sort of philosophy and turned it around and reclaimed it a little bit.”

Women and queer individuals have applauded her choice, though older cis men have been less enthusiastic.

“I had feedback from someone who owns a pop-up store, and that was his only comment. He said, ‘I don’t know about the name. ‘Sour’? Don’t you want to do ‘sweet’ or ‘red’?’ And I was like, ‘You would say that.’ Noted, filed and ignored,” she says.

If anything, the remark affirmed she made the right choice.

“The more natural and authentic version of a cherry is going to be a little sour, and what are we here if not authentic and original?” she says.

Sour Cherry Comics is at 3187 16th St., San Francisco. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Upcoming events:
Aug. 24, 6 p.m. — Manga Book Club: Discussion of Takashi Ikeda’s “The Two of Them Are Pretty Much Like This” is for ages 18 and older. 
Aug. 26, 6 p.m. — End of Summer Art Expo & Pop-up: A show of work by local artists hosts a free reception.
Aug. 30, 5 to 9 p.m. — Gay Gundam Night: Bring your own model kit to the free session; to reserve a space, RSVP here.
Sept. 14, 6 to 8 p.m. — Sewing/DIY/Queer Crafting Night: Bring your own project to the free session; to reserve, RSVP here.