I only recently discovered Dimensions Comics Music & More in Seabrook, though the store itself just celebrated its two-year anniversary. It reminds me of the old-school comic book shops I visited as a kid, and is definitely worth the drive down south from Houston to check the place out. I met with the owners, Ben Jordan and Cindy Randolph, on a recent afternoon; Jordan did most of the talking while Randolph kept an eye on the store’s two pet parrots, a purple Indian Ringneck named Thanos and a green conure named Arrow — named after two comic-book characters, Thanos the villain and Green Arrow the hero. Thanos seemed to want to make noise when he heard the sound of my voice, so Randolph let him out of his cage and he calmed down while Jordan and I chatted.
“I’ve been collecting comic books for 40 years,” Jordan explains. “I started when I was a kid — I was an only child, so I had a lot of time on my hands, I guess,” Jordan says, laughing. “My dad, he would read Richie Rich and Archie and all that and tell me to go pick out a comic book, and I went toward the X-Men and Godzilla and House of Mystery stuff back then and just got into the art form, the cinematic storytelling, panel by panel.”
Jordan’s late uncle, Tom Squyres, was also a big influence on his comic-book hobby. “Back in the '70s, '75-'76 time frame, my uncle worked for Marvel Comics. He was Captain America and he eventually became Spider-Man and would travel the malls all over Texas supporting Marvel Comics,” Jordan explains. “Big deal, I remember being a kid five or six years old and he’s whispering, ‘Hey, you know it’s your Uncle Tom, right?’ and that was kind of a thrill for a little boy at that time that a family member was Spider-Man, you know, and that got me into reading comic books over the years as well. He worked for Marvel two to three years; he was a bodybuilder and had the muscles at the time.”
Customers can check out the Spider-Man suit that Squyres wore near the front entrance of the store. Also on display is an old newspaper article about Squyres’s work as Spider-Man and a photo of him in the Spider-Man suit with Jordan that was taken at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont in 1977.
As for new comics being released today, Jordan says he is trying to carry just about everything out there; as at most comic shops these days, customers at Dimensions can get a subscription “pull box” set up so they never miss an issue, and they can also request the more obscure comics they want.
“There’s a lot of independent comics coming out, which a lot of are geared toward an older audience, more adult material where your Marvel and DC comics tend to stick around the superheroes,” explains Jordan. “The independent comic books, a lot of the artists are a lot more creative and there is a wider range of material. The sci-fi stuff, the horror-related stuff that’s coming out from the independents is phenomenal. Of course, Walking Dead is based on an independent comic book; it seems these days that the writers and the artists are trying to put out a top-notch product; they want their creation to get picked up and put on TV or a movie deal, so you’ve got some really good stuff coming out.”
One independent publisher that caught my eye at Dimensions is Trauma Comics out of Dallas; Trauma has some real B-movie, grindhouse-like titles such as “Nazi Werewolves From Outer Space,” “Kung Fu Satanist” and “King Tut Truck Driving Pharaoh.” Yeah, they sound a little crazy, but they are really well done if you're into that sort of thing. Writer and publisher Simon Sanchez will make an appearance at Dimensions on May 3, signing copies of his comics; I haven’t seen Trauma comics at any other store in the Houston area.
Like any good comic-book shop, Dimensions has plenty of back issues as well: a little bit of Golden Age, a lot of Silver Age, and through to the modern stuff. They also have a decent selection of dollar comics that are good for anyone on a budget; you can find some real gems in there if you have the time to dig through them. Jordan also points out, “Parents like those for their kids who are going to tear them up, flipping through and looking at the pictures, especially if it’s Batman or Spider-Man or something like that.”
A part of the store that I especially like is the horror/sci-fi room. “The idea to genre everything just seemed like something different,” explains Jordan. “You don’t go into many comic book stores and see the word ‘genre’; it’s all A to Z, and I was a horror fan and having to go through all the A through Z stuff just took forever if that was what I was looking for, so I just thought it would be a cooler idea the way I have it here for that person looking for that genre of material.”
The room has some horror masks on display, as well as other horror collectibles that give the room a Halloween-like atmosphere. “There’s a big horror fan/collector here in the Seabrook area that came in the store; this guy’s got a museum in his house, it’s unreal, he had the Alien figure we have on display, a couple of these items were in his garage, he ran out of room to showcase them at his house and so he loaned them to the store. A good majority of the masks in there are his and it gives more of a feel for the individual room.”
Jordan plans on creating another sci-fi room for the store, separating it from the horror stuff, as well as a western area. He's also planning an area in the back of the store where guests — comic-book writers, artists and musicians — can do signings for fans, as well as expanding the store into the space next door for more room for music.
Speaking of music, Dimensions has vinyl records, including a lot of impressive metal albums hanging on a wall. “Generally a lot of your metal fans do not want to get rid of their albums; getting more metal in is always a challenge,” explains Jordan. “The LPs have really come back these days. I used to do album conventions about 18 years ago and I did it for a few years here in Houston, so I was able to amass some really cool collectible stuff doing some trading and all. When I opened the store, I just decided to put all that in and it helped survive the test of time of being new, but I tell you it’s hard to replace some of that stuff. Some of those albums I’ll never see again, I’m more than positive of it.”
Jordan adds that he has leads on some album collections he wants to purchase for the store in the future. Even if you're not into metal, Dimensions carries all kinds of music genres, including Latin, Cajun, country, classic rock and more.
The name of the store is Dimensions Comics Music & More; besides the aforementioned comics and music, some of the “more” the store carries includes laserdiscs, DVDs, card games, D&D, Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, trading cards, collectible toys, collectible and limited-edition statues, video games, Choose Your Own Adventure books, and really a lot of other cool and fun things too numerous to mention but related to the sci-fi, horror and fantasy genres.
The Choose Your Own Adventure books are basically books in which the reader is the protagonist and gets to make choices that determine the outcome of the story, with the option of going back to make different choices that lead to different outcomes. Most books have 30 different endings or more; Dimensions has an impressive collection of original printings of these books for sale.
So what kinds of people buy comics these days?
“All ranges, really," Jordan says. "I’m a master plumber/construction guy and I’ve been collecting for years, and it’s so pop culture now that you really can’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak. I think most people have the desire to be entertained, whether it’s a movie or a book — we all like to escape our 9-to-5 thing that we do all the time, and the comic book format for a long time, a lot of people looked at it like, ‘Oh, that’s for kids.’
"It was Richie Rich and comic books were really generated for a younger audience, but with the movies all coming out [recently], they see the adventures especially with the superheroes, individuals with extraordinary powers that have extraordinary responsibilities, having the morals and doing the right thing, so I feel like everybody’s kind of into comic books now, in my opinion,” he continues.
“One thing about the comic book industry that has changed over the years is that you have a lot of women that are involved in and love the comics too when you have characters like Harley Quinn, Supergirl, the TV show now. They’ve done a real good job of making the comic book world acceptable to both sexes, “ Jordan adds. “We get just as many females coming in here picking up comic books as we do guys, and 20 years ago when I went to the comic book store, the girl would be sitting out in the car while the dude’s inside, you know.”
“If you haven’t tried a comic book, give it a shot, it is a unique way of storytelling; a lot of your comics are better than the TV shows, can be better than a novel. It’s just a whole different way to enjoy a story,” Jordan says.
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“Don’t be weird — read a comic book, be normal,” he concludes with a laugh.
Dimensions Comics Music & More
1908 Hialeah Drive, Suite B
Seabrook, TX 77586