Iconic Houston comic book store uses a comic in court battle with neighbor

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ByMiya Shay via KTRK logo
Friday, July 2, 2021
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This comic is now in the legal documents filed with the Harris County Civil Court. It may be the first legal argument in graphic form, but perhaps not the last.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The owner of an iconic Houston comic store is using his genre to help in a fight against a menacing neighbor.

For 38 years, Third Planet Comics has stood along the Southwest Freeway just past Kirby as a giant blue beacon to lovers of comics from around the country.

Eyewitness News read through a lawsuit filed by Third Planet Comics, which was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

"Comics are very important," said owner TJ Johnson, who built his business from scratch 45 years ago.

Over the years, his business attracted many customers.

"It's like a kid going to Toys R Us. You can't find it here, you can't find it anywhere," said artist Michael Brooks, a customer since high school.

"I came to Third Planet as a kid," said attorney Cris Feldman, not realizing his talents would be called upon decades later.

In recent years, Johnson has faced a growing problem from the Crown Plaza hotel next door.

Unknown hotel guests would throw a variety of items onto the store's roof. Often times, they would throw fire extinguishers from dozens of floors up above.

"They get up on the balconies and it's like a target, they try to hit a spot and chunk fire extinguishers," said Johnson. "We have had a lot of merchandise damaged."

When earthly efforts to get hotel management to stop the attacks failed, Johnson called on the real life superheroes: his long-time customers. However, it needed something extra.

"The owners of the Crown Plaza have exhibited absolutely no consideration for its neighbors, and it's offensive," said long-time customer Feldman, who helped the shop file a lawsuit.

"When I realized I should put this in graphic form, I talked to TJ and I explained, 'This has never been done before,'" he said.

The lawyer recruited fellow customer Brooks of Bad Cog Studio and several other artists to illustrate the legal pleading. The result is a graphic novel of the issue faced by Third Planet.

We see an illustration of hydrants falling through the air. The hydrants hit the roof, with an illustration showing flames. Another frame shows owner Johnson holding buckets as rain poured in from the damaged ceiling.

"I think it came together perfectly," said Brooks, who, along with his fellow artists, have their own line of independently published comics. "I thought this is kind of different because it has a lot of law lingo and laws embedded in the actual script, which is not how we usually do things."

The comic book also depicts Houston as a gritty, resilient city, surviving hurricanes and floods. It is a city that loves imperfect and unique institutions, like Third Planet.

"They came up with a book about the history of Third Planet and the problems we have, which is apparently big time," marveled Johnson, who would love to give his helpful customers some superhero capes.

We contacted the attorney representing the Crown Plaza hotel, but our calls have not yet been returned.

The comic is now in the legal documents filed with the Harris County Civil Court. It may be the first legal argument in graphic form, but perhaps not the last.

Depending on what happens in court, a second edition is definitely a possibility.

For updates on this lawsuit, follow ABC13 reporter Miya Shay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.