JET Interviews Comic Shop Owner Terry Gant for NaNoWriMo

Third Coast Comics
Third Coast Comics

By// Chandler Rollins

November  is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so decided to seek out exemplary African-Americans in the publishing business. Enter Terry Gant, owner of Third Coast Comics, a graphic and novel comic book retailer in Edgewater, Illinois. We were curious to hear how this South Side Chicagoan became the nation’s only Black comic book store owner, so he gave us the run down on how we went from marketing to comics and what makes his business so special.

JET: How did you get into comics?

I was born in Chicago, but my family moved to Texas. That’s how my love of comics began; my parents ended up being in two separate states, one was in Chicago and the other was in Houston. To get me on the plane by myself, they would give me comics to keep me calm and out of trouble.

JET: When did you realize that it was more than just a hobby?

Eventually, I found out that I didn’t have to go to O’hare Airport to get comics. It was an expensive hobby, but at the same time the stories included, science and reading comprehension. I was all into that. Many of my friends dropped the hobby, but I never did. I just kept going with it over the years.

JET: Did you always know that you would open up a comic book store?

No, I was studying marketing at DePaul University. I was thinking I was going to study computer science. I had this deathly fear that I would wake up one day and be in the cubical farm that stretched three miles long in every direction.

JET: Rumor has it that you may be the only Black comic book store owner in the country.

It never occurred to me, but there’s really no other. Lots of guys open bars, lots of guys open cleaners, lots of guys become tailors; not many brothers from the south side open comic book stores. It’s just something that you don’t conceive of. I’d always wanted to do something creative, but I didn’t always know what I was going to be. It never occurred to me that it would be historic.

JET: So when did you open your store?

I started selling graphic novels and comics out of my house in 2005. For a while, my wife and I had this total gorilla-marketing. You’d tell me what you wanted and if you were local. My rule: if you lived within two mile of my house or my job, I’d deliver it to you. I did this for a couple of years before it became a brick and mortar.

JET: What makes Third Coast comics unique?

My store is very event heavy. Growing up as a huge comic book nerd, I lacked socialization. If you Dungeons and Dragons for a long enough period of time, you will find that you want to be with the people you play with. I try to duplicate this in my shop with events like cook-offs, drink tastings and discussion groups. I have these in-store events, because I can draw people who don’t know they love comic yet and who will find out they love them too when I feed them some awesome pie.

JET: As National Novel Writing Month comes to a close, talk about how you’ve contributed this year? 

I always want to finish my graphic novel, The Unbelievables. National Novel Writing Writing month is like an obstacle course for me. Although I’ve never finished, I love trying to attack it. Eventually my novel will come together because I only ever work on it during the month of November. I don’t think a lot of people turn out the next great American novel during National Novel Writing month, but many people do get to exercise their creative muscles.

If you are in the Chicago area be sure to check out Third Coast Comics, located at 6234 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, 60660.