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The Magical Shop Around The Corner... ATOMIC CITY

"Where does he get all those wonderful Toys?" – The Joker

I don’t write about Stores very much at all. Retail outlets tend to be soulless places that’s sole reason for existence is to prey upon us geeks. Traditionally they are known as Geeksploitation Outlets.

And every city in every town has them. Right now they all have McFarlane figures, Sideshow Toys, Samurai Jack figures… And these things are good for sure, but they make the various Geeksploitation Outlets meld together… There is no individual spark traditionally…

Across the world there are outlets that defy the traditional realms of existence. Places that when you walk into them… You are transformed upon entering.

In Los Angeles, you walk into CREATURE FEATURES and you are instantly at home as a geek. The merchandise is the sort that makes you salivate and whimper and crave.

In London, walking into FORBIDDEN PLANET has a similar reaction. It is so stuffed to the gills with coolness, that… well ya just begin to shake with joy. My problem is usually when I go, at least once a year, the stuff I want to get I’m convinced will break on flight back… they’ll ship to ya, but I want it now daddy!

I’m sure there are places scattered across the globe that are like these two, but here in Austin, Texas there is my favorite.

You see, it’s a store that is like walking into yourself.


Nestled within a neighborhood here in Austin (1700 San Antonio St) it isn’t known by many. It is ‘hidden away from the eyes of man’. Buried mere blocks from the University of Texas campus, but not on the typical foot traffic journey…

When you first see it, it seems to be from another time. It doesn’t look like a store, it looks like a home, a house, a place where something cool resides.

There’s an old washed out painted sign of Pulp Cover worlds with the faded words ATOMIC CITY on the house… the only sign that it is more than a house from the outside.

You walk up the steps and on the front porch… yes… a front porch, you’ll usually see shipping boxes open and laying on their side… shipped from Japan, England, Germany… the world…

You push through the door and hear that ‘shop around the corner’ bell ding-a-ling… Not an electronic sound, but that of an honest to goodness bell.

You’ll hear the creak of the floor… that old hard wood floor beneath your feet and as your eyes track up… drool…

You’ll find hundreds of Tin Toys… Robots and Spacemen… Spaceships and oddities… Betty Boop beaded curtains, inflatable pink flamingos, clocks with scary cat eyes and tails that swing, not just the typical ones either… but Otto Mesmer designed ones… There are shoes, shoes imported from special insane shoe makers from far off distant lands… T-shirts with the coolest of cult film creations upon them… Hawaiian shirts made seemingly for this store alone… where else can you get Sid Vicious Hawaiian shirts… Button up shirts with Sailor Jerry Tattoos with Zoot Suit Suspenders… all lit by Pulp Art Adorned Lanterns, which also happen to be for sale!

There are wallets and purses made from Japan, created of lenticular material that create cross dressing images of HAMMER HORROR monsters, watches with Roy Rogers and King Kong and G.I. Joe upon them… Universal monsters cufflinks and bracelets and button covers…

Petty and Vargas girl ties, science fiction jeweled Christmas ornaments… Oversized bugs and frogs and lizards and Platypus puppets… Posters from Japan of Kurosawa flicks and Barbarella…

This is a shop that Tim Burton would love, that Tarantino does love and where John Waters would feel strangely at ease.

There is not an empty square foot of space, even the ceiling has merchandise for sale… and not posters, I’m talking toys and t-shirts… Airspace is filled, and if you are like me, sometimes you have to turn sideways to get to where ya want to go.

Now like all great places, there has to be a soul that occupies or haunts the place. Technically he was given the name James Hughes when he was born, but life chose a different moniker for him.

Years ago when the world wore suits, he set up on street corners selling rare Hawaiian shirts, the hippies called him THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN PRINCE and the rest of us called him Prince, for there was no lilac reign in the pop-music world as of yet, there was and is only one Prince in my book…

Prince is a work of art… No usually that term isn’t used to describe a living being, but in this case I feel assured in my language use. You see Prince is Living Art himself.

In 1956, a boy set in a theater and saw an atomic spawned creation set about destroying most of a country called Japan and only Raymond Burr could save them. He didn’t want to Raymond Burr, he wanted to be Japanese and running scared looking over his shoulder screaming… "GOJIRA!!!"

This boy became the Austin Legend so many know as Prince. Godzilla has never been far from his heart, in fact I dare say Godzilla is a bit closer to him than any other soul on the planet… and his dedication to the realm that is the TOHO universe is amazing.

About 15-20 years ago, Prince having become fascinated with Japanese culture set about to permanently embody his passion. He wanted in the traditional legendary Japanese Dragon style… In the form of the traditional Japanese Yakuza Pant Suit layout… to become an epic Godzilla battle… the battle we wish we had seen on screen… The result is startling and some of ROLLO (Mike Malone) and was Sailor Jerry's apprentice… and has become known as one of the finest works of tattoo art in the world. Prince has appeared in Magazines around the world… and in his own way spread the legend of "GOJIRA!"

Oh yeah… this brings me to Prince’s astounding selection of TOHO merchandise… not the American crap that you see in most stores, but the real TOHO stuff, the items you’d need to fly to Japan to get. The stuff you battle for on Ebay, only to lose to some bastard in the last minute. Here you can fondle and buy.

So why now… Why am I writing about ATOMIC CITY? Well, I got a call a few moments ago about a sale going on at the store… A huge sale that will be going on this weekend, and since I can’t go… laid up in this bed… pissed as hell that I can’t go… I thought I’d send you.

You may never have discovered this jewel in Austin. Perhaps you are in San Antonio or Houston or Dallas… and you never found the store perchance… You never heard of the place.

This weekend, The Alamo Drafthouse is playing THE BIG LEBOWSKI as their Midnight film… Tim borrowed my rare Busby Berkeley short film to play before it, and Quint’s bizarre 1950’s scope bowling short as well… Come to town, take advantage of the insane sale that will be going on at ATOMIC CITY, grab some damn fine grub at CHUY’s or HULA HUT in case ya need a place to wear that new Hawaiian shirt you acquired, then head down to OCEAN’S 11 for a few rum caked drinks and then wind up the evening in style go see THE BIG LEBOWSKI… It’ll be a blast!

For Details about the sale at Atomic City call 512 477 0293

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