Into the Comic-Verse: Comic Book Collecting Spreads in OC

Wednesday is the new Comics Day at Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin. The shop, also known as TNT, has been around for 36 years. On Wednesdays when the new releases come out, regulars flock when the store opens at 11 am, most being greeted by name.

“They all know each other,” said Mike Kadin, owner of TNT. “The people who come here on Wednesdays and Saturdays, they all know each other and interact. “

Most stores have subscribers who have a raffle list, which means that when new comics arrive for a series they collect, the store will put them aside for the subscriber.

Kadin, who worked in the store in his youth and took over the store from the previous owner, said TNT has around 350 subscribers.

Comic book collectors have a choice between new versions and old comics at Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

(James Carbone)

The new comics also fall on Tuesday, as there are three distributors while there was a monopoly of a single distributor for the comics.

“We receive three shipments per week. In those three expeditions, two of them are the main two, Marvel and DC, and the rest are everyone else, ”Kadin said.

Comics have long been associated with nerdom as a decidedly uncool hobby. But in recent years, the Orange County comic book collecting community has seen increased interest.

“There is a huge community here in Orange County that collects comics,” said James Gurrola, store manager at Torpedo Comics in Irvine. “And it continues to grow every year too.”

Torpedo, owned by System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan, has a location in Old Town Orange. Gurrola said they are taking the second OC location he manages, which opened this year at the Irvine Spectrum, in a new direction.

“We’re more of a collectibles store,” Gurrola said. “We’re not a traditional comic book store with new books and old issues. We mainly sell rated books, so more of a curated selection.

Books are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, by a reputable company that rates the comic to make sure it is legitimate, gives an assessment of its condition, and then wraps it for keeping.

“It’s kind of like you have a piece of history there,” Gurrola said.

However, the comic book collection hasn’t always been viewed with so much respect.

“When I was a kid, if you loved comics you were a jerk,” said Felipe Zelay, a comic book collector who buys and sells comic book collections on Instagram under the handle @flipmode_comics. “But now it’s like everyone loves these characters.”

Besides TNT and Torpedo, Orange County is home to several comic book stores, including Comic Book Hideout in Fullerton and Nuclear Comics in Laguna Hills.

TNT’s longevity has given the store a rich history.

“Being here in my youth, I saw kids riding bikes in the store, and then being here again later, saw these kids come into the store with their kids,” Kadin said. “We definitely have roots. “

And like any iconic establishment, it is not without tradition.

“The guy who created Deadpool originally worked here, Rob Liefeld,” collector Peter Swanson said, while picking up his sweater at TNT on Wednesday.

Peter Swanson, from Aliso Viejo, sells comics at Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

Peter Swanson, from Aliso Viejo, buys comics the day the new comic is released from Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

(James Carbone)

Part of the increase in the popularity of comics can be attributed to movies and TV shows that help bring culture to the general public.

“Marvel movies and TV shows and streaming services are now a huge part of the industry,” Kadin said.

The Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe released their 26th film, “Eternals,” this year and their fifth TV series, “Hawkeye,” in November. More than 20 projects are planned over the next two years, including “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Black Panther 2”.

“Literally, almost every week or every month there is a new commercial broadcast for this industry,” Kadin said. “I don’t necessarily feel like it’s attracting a new audience, but it keeps the audiences that are involved in it, invested.”

Although Kadin admits that “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” came out and “Wonder Woman” hit it, new fans have entered TNT in search of the books.

Zelay said that sometimes movies can drive up prices.

“A lot of people who’ve never been in the comics before are coming in, because those movies incorporated these comics and now everyone wants to have a piece of Iron Man’s first appearance, or Thor’s first apprentice.” , Zelay said. “It increases the value of the comic a lot, making it a lot more expensive to buy. “

Some collectors, like Jimmy Farias, a comic book collector since 1979, are not afraid of the big screen.

Jimmy Farias, of Orange, is ready to discover Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

Jimmy Farias of Orange, a comic book collector since 1979, is ready to go with two boxes of books the day the new comics are released at Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

(James Carbone)

“It’s great that they’re in the movies, because these days with the special effects and everything, they can actually portray the characters like the books do,” Farias said. “You don’t see that herky-jerky flight and so on. Cinema brings them to life, then it leads readers to discover how good books really are. “

Gurrola said the films inspired a younger generation of comic book fans and creators.

“It’s brought in a lot of young people,” Gurrola said, “and there are a lot of new books coming out that are being written by young people as well.”

“Something is killing kids,” written by James Tynion, is in the process of being developed into an original series for Netflix, for example, Gurrola said.

People certainly have different reasons for collecting.

“There are people who love it and appreciate it and just do it off of that,” Kadin said, “and then there are people who want to monetize that as well.”

“For me, it’s both the art and the stories,” said Farias. “Sometimes the art doesn’t match the stories, sometimes the story is better and sometimes it’s the other way around. But they are fun to read.

Swanson said he loved the stories but also the thrill of maybe finding treasure.

“There is a factor of speculation that books can increase in value the day after they are purchased. It’s not very common, but it gives a bit of excitement, kind of like buying stocks, ”Swanson said.

Comic book collectors buy comics from Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

Comic book collectors buy comics from Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

(James Carbone)

The reach of the comic book community has also expanded through e-commerce, with sales on sites like Ebay and Instagram Live.

“I’ve been selling on Instagram Live for quite some time and I’m quite proud to be one of the pioneers who started online sales,” Zelay said.

Typically, sellers use the live feature on Instagram and sell comics in an auction style, with consumers commenting or sending direct messages to claim the book.

“We saw something that we thought was going to be the future of bringing more comics to more outlets than just a comic book store,” Zelay said. “People just want to order things through their phones. “

Torpedo also uses live sales through Instagram.

“It was born out of the pandemic actually because we’ve all had to shut down and get creative on new ways to stay open,” Gurrola said.

Now that they are open again, live sales have continued.

“It’s just a way for people who can’t get to the local comic book store to buy things, and it’s a lot of fun, they talk about it and make buying exciting,” Gurrola said.

Swanson said there are risks to buying online.

“If you buy a book online and it arrives damaged, it could affect the value of the book,” Swanson said. “And when you buy on Ebay, you’re kind of rolling the dice.”

But overall, collectors agree that e-commerce cannot replace buying books in person.

“There’s nothing quite like going to your local comic book store, especially on New Comic Day. You want to be there to see all the new books, ”Gurrola said.

“The thing for me is, I like to come in and open the book and look at the artwork,” Swanson said.

Gurrola also points out that comic book stores hold events and conventions.

“Local comic book stores will also have autographs and events which also add to the excitement of going there,” Gurrola said. “You can do it online, but it’s more fun to be there.”

Kadin said the community inside the store is part of why TNT has lasted so many years.

A comic book collector leaves with books at Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin.

A comic book collector leaves with books on the day the new comic is released at Comics, Toons & Toys in Tustin on December 8, 2021.

(James Carbone)

“If I had to get up and move to Washington tomorrow and move the store to Washington, it wouldn’t be a success. It is not necessarily the four walls and the product and the brick and the mortar, it is the goodwill and the sustainability of the store. You can’t duplicate that, ”Kadin said. “You can buy goods anywhere, but you can’t duplicate people. “

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Daniel K. Denny