Friday, August 12 2022

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. eventually opened a physical store, just one block from Emancipation Park, after months of pop-up appearances and operating primarily through its website.

Each 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 are proud to reflect the community in which we are based,” Canady said. “Being in the third room means our vibe is a bit different. Our aesthetic is a little different. Even some of the comics and other items we carry are a little different from other comic book stores in and around Houston.

The boutique is filled with works featuring or written by artists of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American descent. They also promote Houston-area comic book creators, such as’Becky‘writer Lane Fobbs.

“If you’ve been tampered with in our country, it strikes a little differently when you see yourself reflected on the cover of something that’s been part of pop culture for generations,” Canady said. “It’s very empowering and empowering to see yourself as the main character, saving the day, saving the universe and pushing the narrative.”

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

“Creating this space for anyone who has ever felt different is amazing,” Canady said.

Gulf Coast Comics also shines the spotlight on women creators as artists Afua richardson, who has been recognized by the industry for her work with Marvel and DC. She is best known 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. It just doesn’t,” Canady said. “For us, this is an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, you all have to check out those sisters.’”

Canady recommends reading Richardson’s latest project, “Aquarius the Book of Mer,” which came out this year.

Fury and Canady were both pursuing their Masters in Business when the seeds of what would later become Gulf Coast Cosmos were planted: a love for comics and the dream of owning their own comic book store.

After graduation, Canada applied for a Small Business Entrepreneurship Program at 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 you would like your business to be,” Canady said. “The first thing that came out of my mouth was ‘a comic book store.’ We need a comic book store in Third Ward. We need it.”

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

Until the end of September, when the storefront opened, most operations were handled online and through social media. But Canady said the situation opened up a wider window for them to find clients everywhere, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and Chicago to Miami.

“Some of our first clients weren’t from Houston, or even Texas,” he said. “It was really interesting because when we changed our business model, our reach widened.”

“This year we had to channel that interest and reach into our local community to let them know that this really huge thing happening on the internet is right here in your neighborhood.”

It’s not just fans of superhero comics, the store also has other works of fiction, including children’s books and various collectibles like posters and action figures. Canady said they would also like to add more manga and anime (a popular Japanese style of animation and illustration) to its offerings.

“The story has always been there, we just got the opportunity at Gulf Coast Cosmos to expand the story …

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

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