Breaking News
More () »

Houston just got a new comic book store – and it’s exposing readers to new universes

Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. in Third Ward is on a mission to create a haven for creators and fans who are often overlooked in the culture.

HOUSTON — A new comic book store in Third Ward has become a beacon of hope for fiction readers across the cosmos.

Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. has finally opened a brick-and-mortar store, just a block away from Emancipation Park, following months of pop-up appearances and operating primarily through its website.

Every comic book store is unique in its own way, but co-owners Byron Canady and Sharmane Fury have brought something truly special to one of Houston’s oldest historically Black neighborhoods.

“We pride ourselves on reflecting the community that we are based in,” Canady said. “Being in Third Ward means our vibe is a little different. Our aesthetic is a little different. Even some of the comics and other items that we carry are a little different than other comic book stores in and around Houston.”

The shop is stocked with works starring or written by artists of Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American heritage. They also promote Houston-area comic book creators, such as 'Becky' writer Lane Fobbs.

“If you have been othered in our country, it hits different when you see yourself reflected on the cover of something that has been a part of pop culture for generations,” Canady said. "It feels very empowering and affirming to see yourself as the main character, saving the day, saving the universe, and pushing the narrative."

Credit: Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co.

Representation, not appropriation, has been a familiar cry in the comic book community for generations. In recent years, publishers have set out to correct decades of marginalized and stereotyped characters of color, creating more opportunities for women and those of diverse backgrounds.

"Creating this space for anyone that's ever felt othered, that's incredible," Canady said.

Gulf Coast Comics also highlights female creators like artist Afua Richardson, who has been recognized by the industry for her work with Marvel and DC. She is most famous for her contributions to the Wonder Woman and Back Panther series, as well as Marvel Black Voices and Marvel Indigenous Voices. 

"It's a true fact that a lot of our Black female artists and comic book readers don't get enough attention. They just don't," Canady said. "For us, this is an opportunity to say, 'Hey, y'all need to check these sistas out.'"

Canady recommends reading Richardson's latest project, "Aquarius the Book of Mer," which came out this year.

Fury and Canady were both pursing their master's in business when the seeds of what would later become Gulf Coast Cosmos were planted: a love for comic books and dreams of owning their own comic book store.

Credit: Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co.
Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. owners Sharmane Fury (left) and Byron Canady (right).

After graduation, Canady applied for a small business entrepreneurship program at the Emancipation Economic Development Council, which supports aspiring and established business owners in Third Ward.

"As part of the entrepreneurship program application process, they ask you what would you like your business to be," Canady said. "The first thing out of my mouth was 'a comic book store.' We need a comic book store in Third Ward. We need that."

Once the business was approved, the dynamic duo (affectionally known as The Wonder Twins) set out to build Gulf Coast Cosmos in 2020 amidst an international health pandemic. 

Until late September, when the storefront opened, most of the operation was being handled online and through social media. But Canady said the situation opened a broader window for them to find customers far and wide, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and Chicago to Miami.

"Some of our first customers were not from Houston, or even Texas," he said. "It was really interesting because when we turned our business model upside down, our reach expanded." 

"This year, we've had to funnel that interest and scope into our local community to let them know this really huge thing that is going on on the internet is located right here in your neighborhood."

Credit: Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co.
Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. on Stuart Street in Third Ward, just a block away from Emancipation Park.

It's not just superhero comic fans, the store also carries other fiction works, including children's books, and various collectibles like posters and figurines. Canady said they would like to add more manga and anime (a popular Japanese style of animation and illustration) to its offerings as well.

"The narrative has always been there, we are just now having the opportunity at Gulf Coast Cosmos to expand the narrative...to take the cover off and say, 'Hey, look who's always been there.'"

You can find Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. at 2306 Stuart St. Visit their website for current store hours.

KHOU 11 on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube