Tucked away in the heart of Houston, Texas is a small-but-mighty comic book store called Gulf Coast Cosmos Comic Book Company. The first black-owned comic book shop in the fourth largest city in the United States, it dares to innovate what comic book stores can be.
First opened in April 2020, owner Byron Canady focused on having a physical location to connect with fans. A risky move, but one that shows going to your local comic book shop (LCS) will never go out of style. I had the benefit of talking with Canady about what this shop means to him and where he aspires for it to go in the future.
“I have yet to meet a comic book fan who has never fantasized about having their own comic book shop,” said Canady. “Gulf Coast Cosmos came from my love of comic books and my desire to expand the longstanding narrow narrative of comic book fandom and culture.”
Brick and mortar stores face a tough challenge against digital media. With just a few clicks, comic book readers can instantly get the latest issue on the device of their choice. While digital has had its impact, in-person shops have managed to support roughly 55% of comic book sales. With the comic book market expected to grow to a 21-billion-dollar industry by the end of this decade, stores such as Gulf Coast Cosmos are not only part of this market growth, but part of the community building around the fandom of comic books.
For many comic book fans, the LCS experience is not limited to picking up the next issue or trade in their favorite story. It’s talking with fellow fans about theories, bonding over the latest shocker in a story arc, or even just getting to know each other after a long talk about their favorite run.
At Gulf Coast Cosmos Comic Shop Company, the key words are community and innovation. “I conceptualized a shop for all comic book fans to see themselves,” said Canady. “The intended goal is simple: serve as a fun welcoming space for people to celebrate cultural diversity through comic books and be a creative incubator space for people to network and develop cool stuff.”
According to an article by Forbes, the re-opening of the country post Covid-19 vaccination availability has prompted customers to want to get the in-person experience. It’s known as experiential marketing and a good reason to support your LCS. Maybe even consider trying a new one. “It was serendipitous that we weren’t able to open our physical space until 2021,” said Canady. “After two years of quarantine people wanted to find their happy place. We see this every day by the people who visit or attend our comic book signings, book clubs, and community events like Geek Meet.”
Gems like Gulf Coast Cosmos offer a unique experience and the store serves as a reminder of why fans started going to comic book stores in the first place: the building of community around a fandom in a way that can only be done when fans connect in person. It is also a testament to how your LCS can continue to bridge fandoms and build community to new and old readers.
So remember to find a local comic shop you have never visited before or make it a habit to seek them out while on vacation–you never know what they might have up their sleeve. And if you’re in the greater Houston-area, be sure to check out Gulf Coast Cosmos. Their motto is, “comics are for everyone,” and they truly mean it.
For more about Gulf Coast Cosmos Comic Book Company, be sure to check out their online store. https://stores.comichub.com/gulfcoastcosmoscomics/