Everyone loves Austin, Texas. It’s one of the few cities in the Lone Star state that has hilly terrain, water running through it, and (somewhat) ample trees. There’s also barbecue and beer and the Alamo Draft House Movie Theater. Austin is, for better or worse, “the cool part of Texas.” And most importantly for our purposes, Austin is home to several great comic shops, too.
I lived in Austin from 2011 to 2016, and frequented many of the shops in the city, as I am wont to do wherever I’m living. I’m glad to be out of Austin now—it’s grown so fast and traffic is a mess and in a lot of ways the growth is totally out of control—but I do miss the comic shops there.
Recently, I was back in town for a wedding, and I took a stroll down comic book memory lane, in part to refresh my memory enough to write this guide. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in the 2 years I've been away, the shops are mostly still there and just as fantastic as I remember. Let's take a look!
Austin Books & Comics
This place is the Disneyland of comics. It has everything, from variants to entire sections of obscure indies to rare books on the wall to a veritable army of friendly staffers. In the same little strip mall, it has separate affiliated stores for back issues and games, too. ABC (as hip folks call it) also hosts art shows on some weekends. When I lived in Austin, this was where I took non comics friends to show off the hobby, and it was also where I ended up when my regular shop sold out of titles.
Pros: The fact that a shop as large, cool, and comprehensive as ABC exists in a tourist-heavy town like Austin is great for the industry. I’m certain I wasn’t the only Austinite who brought out-of-towners to browse between barbecue and beers. Like I said, this is comics Disneyland, and only a jaded soul would argue there isn’t at least a little fun to be had at Disney. Oh, and it’s part of the increasingly hard-to-find fabric of the Austin community, having been around since 1977.
Cons: It's tough to pick a downside here, but parking on the weekend is its own circle of hell. Also, it’s a high traffic store, sometimes crowded, and occasionally not an ideal spot to linger.
Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy
Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy is the cleanest and best-lit comic shop I’ve ever seen. There’s a cat that walks around inside, and the whole place smells fantastic. Their selection rivals ABC. The two shops also compete for big name signings. While ABC generally attracts creators who live in town (Donny Cates, Becky Cloonan, etc.), Dragon’s Lair shells out cash to pull big name creators from elsewhere. I remember them having Marjorie Liu a week after she dropped Monstress and Brian Bendis the week of Civil War II, not too shabby.
Pros: At Dragon’s Lair you’ll find tons of books in a clean environment, as well as a ton of games and sizable area within which to play them. Their employees wear uniform shirts and headsets, and they have an entire team of staffers in back doing something on computers.
Cons: I could just copy and paste the pros section. Dragon’s Lair almost feels too polished, and what are all those people in the back doing on computers? It’s similar to ABC in that it has deep roots in the city but feels less personal these days than it probably used to.
Tribe Comics and Games
Tribe, from what I understand, was started years ago by some guys who used to work at Dragon’s Lair, or maybe it was ABC. Whatever the case, they wanted to do their own thing, so they opened Tribe. Although this has since changed, when I lived in Austin Tribe was the only comic shop south of the river (which is technically a lake—Austin is, quite famously, a weird city). There’s a real sense of community at Tribe, in that the staff is small and regulars often linger at the shop, eager to make conversation about their favorite books and the industry. Tribe, however, doesn’t seem to move anywhere close to as many comics as the other outfits in town.
Pros: More intimate feel than ABC or Dragon’s Lair, and the staff is ready and eager to pontificate at length about comics. It’s also located to some of the more touristy parts of town along Lamar and South Congress, and it’s almost right next door to a Torchy’s Tacos, so you can stop in real quick on an afternoon out or while grabbing a bag of munchies.
Cons: The selection isn’t as extensive as the other shops in town, and they often sold out of the most popular books the day of release, early in the day at that.
Kings Cache Comics
This is a sad section for me to write, because Kings Cache grew from the demise of Capstone Comics, which was my favorite shop in Austin. Capstone was entirely focused on selling comics, rather than games, and it had an active community of buyers and sellers. They kept high value books in a glass case at the register, and it wasn’t uncommon to see first appearances of major Marvel characters, old DC event books, and even newer stuff like the first issue of Saga.
After a dispute with a landlord who wanted to capitalize on Austin’s growth (Austin, it should be noted, is brimming with schemers and cash grabbers these days), Capstone closed its doors (the space where it was located is still vacant, btw), but some regulars got together to open Kings Cache, which is located a bit further up north inside Kings Hobby. It’s starting small, but it's already a chill place where you can linger for however long you like, talking comics.
Pros: All comics and super chill. Plus, King’s Cache offers a discount to regulars who subscribe to a certain number of books, which is something you don’t find at Austin's larger outfits. It also has the old Capstone glass case filled with rare books.
Cons: It’s super tiny, for now. So small, in fact, it took me a few moments once I went into Kings Hobby to figure out where the comics were.
There are also some newer entries in the Austin comic scene, as well as some that have been around a while but are a bit far from the city center. Titan Moon Comics is a great option for those who live in the far far north of town in Cedar Park, while Juniors Comics and Cards is down in the far far south. While out in Round Rock they have Rogues Gallery Comics & Games, although that’s not technically within Austin.
Finally, one of the newer entries to the Austin comics scene is Hops and Heroes Comics, which is actually a non-profit with an emphasis on literacy programs driven by graphic storytelling, a cause near and dear to my own heart. Also, because it’s Austin, I guess the place also sells beer? Or rather, its website says it plans to one day. It's located on Cesar Chavez in a rapidly-changing area surrounded by all manner of hip drinking locales, so that makes sense. There is also beer basically everywhere in Austin, like, seriously. Basically, if you were Austin’s friends you’d be whispering behind Austin’s back about it having a problem. No wonder everyone wants to live there, right?