Comics for the community – OutSmart Magazine

Byron Canady (left) and Sharmane Fury in front of their Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Co. (photos by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine)

THEwell ! High in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, this is the last comic book store in Houston!

Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Company is a new online retailer of major and independent comics, graphic novels, fan art, clothing and more. The Houston store, located at 2306 Stuart Street near Emancipation Park, is owned by members of the LGBTQ community Byron Canady and Sharmane Fury, who both wanted to open a store that would celebrate under-represented groups within comic book communities. from Houston.

“I wanted to have my own comic book store that could be a service to members of the black and brunette community,” says co-owner Fury. “Byron and I were both on a mission to create a safe space for nerds of all kinds, with the specific purpose of showing that blacks and browns can be cheesy without shame or judgment. We don’t have many places where we can be at peace with our interests.

“Byron and I were both on a mission to create a safe space for nerds of all kinds, with a particular focus on showing that blacks and browns can be cheesy without shame or judgment.”

—Fury of Sharmane

The chance to open a store was a childhood dream for co-owner Canady, who ticked all the geek boxes as a child. “I grew up in the ’70s and’ 80s, when pop culture shifted from disco to hip hop, and I was in every minute,” he says. “I remember watching all the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman cartoons on Saturday morning. I actually didn’t get into the comics until my dad brought them home. I have read and collected them ever since.

The dynamic duo say they feel lucky to have their own boutique in the heart of the Third Quarter, in hopes of giving other geeks and pop culture enthusiasts the chance to express themselves in a built-only space. for them.

“The expectations that come with stereotypes often prevent us from being able to enjoy things. [They can] remind us that we are not the intended audience. But things are changing and we are seeing our stories become more and more available, ”Fury said. “We can see ourselves represented in all aspects of geekdom. It’s really exciting.

Fury has seen people get incredibly excited when they walk into the store, which makes her proud of what the store is doing for the local community.

“I am so moved to see people walking around the store and being overwhelmed by the posters of predominantly black and brunette characters on the wall, or their surprise to find comedic stories featuring LGBTQ + characters,” she said. . “We often hear people say that this must be what straight whites experience everywhere when they see themselves represented. This is what I have missed all my life, and being able to offer this to people in my community is amazing. Our customers find that they can find their way into comics and graphic novels, not to mention that everything takes place in a place where the owners are from their community too! “

These kinds of emotional reactions from LGBTQ people in the local geek scene didn’t surprise the store’s co-owners. According to Canady, the queer community is inherently drawn to pop culture and comics because they are creative.

“The general aesthetic of the gay community is creativity [sparked by] a vast array of races, ethnicities and identities that individually and collectively ‘savor’ the world we live in, ”Canady said. “In my experience, whether it’s movies, TV or comics, minority groups strongly influence pop culture as a whole.

The response to the store so far has been positive and the two plan to expand their presence in Houston.

“Sharmane and I have a very unique identity as comic book store owners,” Canady says. “We’re the only Black / Blasian / Queer owned store in Houston, and it’s our superpower. Our responsibility going forward is to provide a broader view of the pop culture narrative with community programming and various in-store events. “

The duo are constantly updating their collection of merchandise and books, curating them for their specific black and brown audience.

“Our return inventory and manga offerings are smaller, but we continue to select and add items based on demand from our loyal customers,” Canady said.

Comic book stores have always existed as a way for people to escape, regardless of age or race, which many people are looking for after the last two years of COVID-19.

“These types of comic book stores can be friendly and welcoming places,” Canady explains. “Depending on who you talk to, those of us who are not straight, white or male have often felt ‘other’ and in danger. Gulf Coast Cosmos Comics is a safe and welcoming space for everyone to enjoy.

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This article appears in the December 2021 issue of OutSmart magazine.

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