Here at GoCollect, we’re all about making collecting better. Local Comic Shops play a large part in achieving this goal. For many of us, our collecting journey began with and continues through our LCS. What makes your shop special to you? This is part of a continuing series spotlighting LCSs that have made an impact on us as we all head down that collecting road. Today, we’re looking at Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore in Houston, Texas.
What Makes My Local Comic Shop Special?
I have told this story many times before, but when I think about my LCS, I think about the third day I ever visited.
I recently switched comic stores after a long time. Up until then, I had frequented a comic shop near my house, a small chain comic shop that usually had what I needed and served the purposes of a weekly pull box and enough long boxes to hunt through when I needed help completing runs or wanted to browse their newest Silver Age additions. But I grew frustrated with the selection, nothing ever seemed to turn over, and I was thinking about branching out.
It was at that time someone I knew recommended I try out a shop near my office. My work is about 25 miles away from my home, so I knew it would be different clientele and a different atmosphere, not to mention an entirely different comic buying experience.
But I was looking to change things up, so one day at lunch I made the short drive over to Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore on the Southwest Freeway, right in the middle of Houston. That was about 20 months ago. It’s safe to say they had my business from day one.
Once Was Enough
On my first trip there, I was floored by the amount of inventory they had in their shop. It was more comics, novels, games, toys, movies, costumes, posters, and figures than I had ever seen. For a store that bills itself as the oldest and largest comic store in Houston, they deliver and then some. Overwhelmed was how I would describe it. The owner, TJ Johnson, greeted me and gave a quick rundown of the layout of the place and set me free to explore. It was a long (loooooong) lunch that day, and I came away with a couple Daredevil issues and an old Journey Into Mystery #113 at an amazing price. As I checked out, he explained their pull box policy and gave me the paperwork to fill out.
My second trip to the shop was merely a formality. I had to turn in the paperwork and sign a couple things. I did end up doing quite a bit of browsing and picked up a couple X-Men issues and a Punisher #1. But I truly just wanted to drop off my documents. I was already hooked.
Third Time’s the Charm
But if I was hooked by my second time there, I was smitten on my third trip. By the time I arrived back the next week for my third visit, TJ had already memorized my name, became familiar with the books on my list, and made recommendations based on items on the list. Considering they have over 800 subscribers, I was impressed. On that trip, he also showed me “The Binders.” Third Planet must have 10,000 or more comics on hand in the store, but The Binders are a list of hundreds of thousands more books they have filed at a warehouse that won’t fit in the store. Suffice it to say, if you are looking for it – they have it.
(Yes, even an Amazing Fantasy #15, which you can only pay for with cash.)
Over the course of a few months, I visited there countless times and enjoyed my time browsing almost as much as my conversations with TJ. If you ever see him, ask him about his bowling. He recently bowled his 100th perfect game!
They Don’t Just Talk About Customer Service
Towards the end of March 2020, however, Third Planet was forced to close its doors temporarily just like all other non-essential businesses in the Houston area. The area was hit hard by COVID and Third Planet was one of many that have had their business impacted by this horrible disease. Non-essential businesses were ordered closed by midnight on a Tuesday and I was disappointed because I had been working from home for several days and would not be able to make it the 25 miles out there for my books before the city essentially shut down. On a whim, I decided to call them on Tuesday evening and asked if there was any way they could mail out books that were sitting in my pull box. It was admittedly a longshot.
But I got a return call within a couple hours. They would be working late that night, but they not only said they would be happy to mail me my books, but she checked my pull box and went and found the books on my list that had just arrived that afternoon and made sure they would be included. I got them less than two days later, including one that they graciously went and pulled for me that wasn’t on my list. It was simply amazing customer service in the midst of a crisis and I will never forget it.
Does Your LCS Have Its Own Comic Book?
Much more recently, Third Planet decided to take their area of expertise and use it in a legal battle with their commercial neighbors. You see, Third Planet is right next to a high-rise hotel in Houston. For years, they have had to deal with residents of the hotel throwing things (including fire extinguishers!) onto their roof.
So what does a comic shop do when the civil battle ends up in court to determine who is responsible? They create a comic book about it, of course? Third Planet commissioned Big Cog Studios to design and produce a comic book about the legal struggle, which was then used in court. Third Planet has these books for sale now as the legal battle drags out.
The Comic Community is About Stories
I am sure many of you have similar interesting stories from shops where you have relationships. I write about these because they are a part of my story. And our stories at our LCS are worth remembering. They are worth remembering because these shops need our help now more than they ever have. Third Planet has since opened back up for business, but who knows if any of these collectible shops will ever be the same. They have made it known via their Facebook page they are happy to mail orders from their own homes to help out their customers. Maybe your LCS is providing a service like that. If they are, use it!
I know each of you has a story about your LCS. We want to hear about it. Share some love for your favorite LCS in the comments. I doubt your store owner has 100 perfect bowling games under their belt, but I bet they have some great comic stories to tell. Let’s hear them!
Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore:
2718 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX. Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.third-planet.com/