A Holiday Plea

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

If you love comics, and especially local comic stores, please read this (even if you don’t know me.)


Everybody has a happy place.

For some people, it’s Disneyland (“The Happiest Place on EarthTM.”) For others, it’s the Great Outdoors. Some people have a quiet place in their mind, someplace to meditate themselves to when the world gets too hard. Even a messy bedroom full of memories and your favorite things can be your happy place.

My happy place is a comic book store in Tustin, CA called Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys.

For over ten years I’ve worked there as an employee. For eight of those, I’ve driven over three hours a day round trip for the privilege of working there. Part-time. When I was in the hospital for six months in 2005, the owner called me every week to walk down the wall and title by title read me what came out so he could box it up for friends to deliver to me. During this time, he didn’t even charge me, knowing that there were more important stresses in my life and that there would be time for that when I was better.

When I lived nearby–and even some times when I didn’t–and life became too stressful, too hard, too loud, too much… I would go to the store. Even late at night, store closed, I could use my key to get inside and find my peace, a privilege never taken away even though I was no longer close enough to be useful opening or closing the store. I wake up every week at five in the morning because that gets me to the store in time to have a half an hour or so to myself, centering my week browsing comics all alone.

The owner of Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys is a man named Matt Powers. He runs the store with one goal in mind: to make his customers happy. He’s not an obsessive comic geek like some (his passion is music, with a touch of Jack Kirby and ’60s spy television thrown in.) He’s not a speculator (variant covers go to customers at absurdly low prices no matter how much we employees beg him to gouge.) He’s not a skeevy Comic Book Guy full of disdain and impatience with stupid people (that’s, uh, the rest of us who work there; Matt is incorrigibly kind and pleasant to even the irredeemably annoying.) He’s not a bottom line only businessman (he’d rather buy twenty too many copies of a book so that someday he won’t disappoint a customer if they come in looking for it six months later.) No matter what stereotype you can think of to fit the phrase ‘comic store owner,’ Matt is not that. He’s a generous, kind man who wants to make people happy, and the store is how he does it.

As my wife would say, the comic store is Matt’s ministry.

Which brings us to today, and the reason for this piece.

Today I got a message from Matt that the store is in trouble. Now, one thing I didn’t mention about Matt above is that he doesn’t complain. Ever. If he were on fire, and you were standing there with a hose in one hand and a phone in the other, he’d wait until you were done with your call before asking politely if you had a spare bit of water. We all know the economy has been sucking, and while there is some hope that things will recover, it isn’t happening quickly and it isn’t happening hard. It’s also happening at Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys.

It’s not my place to go into the details, but there’s serious possibility that in a year or two, the double-storefront on Newport Blvd. won’t be there when you go by. And that would be such a shame; not just because I love it or because Matt deserves to do what he loves until the day after the earth falls into the sun, but because Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys is THE BEST DAMN COMIC STORE EVER. You know me (or maybe you don’t but pretend for a minute.) I’ve been to every comic store I’ve ever seen, heard of, or smelt. I have particular demands that run to the eclectic, the indie, the mainstream, the obscure and the verbose. In all my forty years of going to great comic stores (Alternate Worlds of Cockeysville, MD in the late 1980’s, I’m lookin’ at you!) there has never been a store with as much breadth, depth and selection as Comics Toons ‘N’ Toys.

DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW… all the biggies? There. In quantities large enough to get what you need two months after Rich Johnston hypes it on bleedingcool.com. Trades? Hardcovers? Kept in stock until they go out of print (except the ones I forget to write down on Matt’s reorder list.) Obscure indies? Dude, just this week Matt got in 2000AD, Big Questions, Northern Guard, Proof, The Tick… and more that even I don’t recognize on the invoice. Manga? We call the second storefront the “manga room.” I have pictures. And all of this is accented with toys, statues, figures, games, and anything that he thinks “someone might want that.” I am proud to live in a time when “someone might want that” is the shopping motto of my Local Comic Store.

“So,” I hear you ask, “what can I, <your name here> do?”

I’m glad you asked.

There’s this holiday thing this month I heard about, and it sounds like a keen reason to bring your December shopping money to Comics Toons ‘N’ Toys. I know you might not think that you can find something for anyone on your list at a mere “comic store,” but let me tell you from experience, I have successfully shopped for every single person I know there. Including my mom. My *mom*, I tell you, beloved without a comic-y bone in her body! How strongly do I believe this? So strongly that I–broke that I am–will PAY YOUR GAS MONEY if you go there and can’t find something. (Don’t tell Kay.)

I also offer my services, free of charge, as your personal shopper liaison to Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys. If you email me with a list of people you need presents for and a sentence or two about their interests, I will find something they will like. Kids? Inlaws? There’s something for each of them. They don’t need to care anything for superheroes or action or anything. I offer forty years of thinking about nothing but comics to you. You will be surprised at what the medium, and in connection, the store has for even the most pretentious literati or the least readin’ dude in your poker group.

Don’t live anywhere near Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys? No problem. Myself or one of the employees will MAIL YOUR PURCHASE TO YOU if you’ll pay the shipping. Free of handling. We all care that much. In fact, I know we do, because I haven’t even asked them about doing it, but I know they will. Matt accepts all credit cards, debit cards, we can even work something out if you want to use Paypal.

Obviously, if you’re shopping for me, well, just ask Matt what I’ve got in the back tying up his well-needed liquid assets, and he’ll find something for any price range. But honestly, it’d be enough of a present for me if you just spent your money there period.

Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys can be found at:

13542 Newport Blvd

Tustin, CA 92780

(714) 730-2117

There are some great reviews and other information I might’ve forgotten on the Yelp page: http://www.yelp.com/biz/comics-toons-and-toys-tustin. I mean, 49 reviews and still 5 stars?

Finally, of course, if you have any questions, suggestions, or orders you’d like me to place/listen to/pick up for you, I can be reached at blackflak@aol.com. I like to think I don’t ask for much, but for Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys–and especially Matt Powers–I’ll ask anything and anyone. I’ll even type out the whole name, “Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys,” with all those apostrophes every time I mention it in this message. It means that much, and it’s just that damn good.

Douglass Barré

Writer of Defiance and Mythstalkers (Image) and creator of http://www.chimericalcomics.com.

  1. Kay says:

    A wonderfully beautiful and heartfelt posting, Doug.

    Now, can you explain in 50 words or less why your posts about your *ahem* wife and children are always couched in post-modern ironic mode? You are so CUTE when you are sincere.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for writing this, Doug – I’ve been shopping at CT&T for over a year now and I agree with you – its the BEST DAMN COMIC BOOK STORE EVER. I’m from the UK and over the past 20 years of collecting (on and off), I (like you) have been to many comic stores over there, and over here. I moved to the OC almost 5 years ago, and just visiting CT&T got me excited about comics again as its JUST my kinda store – friendly, knowledgeable staff who are more than willing to geek out with me and give me suggestions of new stuff to read; great discounts that match Barnes&Noble and the other book store loyalty cards; great current and back-issue selection.

      I’ve shared this on my facebook page and will be mentioning it to some of my comic book geek co-workers!

  2. Steve says:

    I whole heartedly agree with everything Doug has said. When I moved back to Southern California in the fall of 2004, I was shocked at the demise of so many comics shops that I used to make the rounds of from the 80s through the mid-90s. Thankfully, one of the best, Comics, Toons and Toys was still around. I drive in from Corona (about 30-35 miles away) to do my Wed. ritual of comics then Souplantation right across the street (and, yes, this was before Sheldon made it famous on “The Big Bang Theory”. Weird coincidence, that.). I cannot recommend this store enough. If you are in any way dissatisfied with your comics shop, come in and give ’em a shot. You’ll be glad you did.

  3. Seth says:

    Man…this hurts. I’ve been shopping there for the last 5 years after finding comics again (I stopped collecting when the last comic shop in my town closed in 1995). I’ve even been bringing my niece there since she was 3 (now 6), and comics is how she learned to read. I have comic shops closer to where I live (Lake Forest), but they don’t feel like my shop. I know it’s not much, but I think all my Christmas shopping will be done there this year, I hope it helps.

  4. Jill Heller says:

    Should I put my order in with them or you?

  5. Lindsay says:

    I think your mailbox is full. Hopefully with lots of requests for purchases!

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