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Abracadabra, Alakazam! Comics and Cards in the Palm of Your Hand

If you’re in your 20s and living in Orange County, I’m probably not the first person to tell you that options are limited if you’re trying to go out on weekends. For all I know, you might not want to go out anyway, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to connect with new people.

As you’ve spent more and more time in the house, you’ve probably been thinking of that old Magic: The Gathering deck that’s tucked away in your closet. That is, unless your mom sold your stash in a yard sale like mine did with my Pokémon cards. No, I don’t want to talk about it.

Be honest with me for a second. You and I both know you’ve been wanting to restock your arsenal for years. What, you mean to tell me you’ve been working away at that job just to save money for retirement? Please. Stop lying to yourself. It’s time to fulfill your dreams, and you’ve earned it.

Wait a minute…you’re not searching for new cards on Amazon, are you? Have you not read the news lately? Why not support a local business? Quick and easy shipping is certainly nice, but it comes with a human cost.

As convenient as Amazon is, they haven’t earned your patronage with their actions, and they’re not your community. When you put your money toward a smaller establishment in your area instead, you end up doing your county’s economy a favor in turn.

Sure, it might cost a bit more for certain things, but it happens more often that items you find in the shop will be going for the same price online.

“OK Ryan, I want to support the local economy as much as you, but where do I start?”

Glad you asked, hypothetical curious person. We’ve got just the place for you, and it’s located in the heart of Irvine. Welcome to Alakazam Comics!

Ryan Najjar and Bret Kavanaugh

This place has everything. Whether you want to play Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dungeons & Dragons, or anything of that nature, Alakazam is ready to provide you with whatever you need for your next adventure.

Oh, and we almost forgot to mention the comics. They’ve got a lot of those; more than most could read in a lifetime. Tales of superheroes in the Marvel and DC Universe, vintage issues about characters like Casper and Richie Rich, and many more vintage and modern selections.

My friend Bridget and I got the chance to sit down with the owner, Marco, to talk about the history of the shop, his connection to Irvine and a range of other topics.

“So this year is our 20th anniversary, and for the past 18 years we were near UCI, by the University Center,” he said. “We had a very small location, about 500 square feet, and two years ago we decided to move here because it’s four times larger for the same amount of rent.”

“We can do a lot of stuff in the back, Marco said, as he described some of what the store has on tap. “We have people playing Magic: The Gathering and other games, we do signings and all sorts of other things like that. Tonight we’re hosting Friday Night Magic. By about 7:00 p.m. there’ll be about 30 people playing in the store.”

We also discussed a recent conference he attended in North Carolina. You see, he doesn’t just run the store; he’s also the executive director of a nonprofit called ComicsPro, which he tells us is a trade organization for comic book retailers.

He assists the organization with setting up meetings, lobbying publishers with whatever concerns they have, and other related duties. We don’t know about you, but we’re happy that the owner of our local comic and game store is invested in the success of the industry.

We also asked him about what inspired him to get started on this path in the first place.

“20 years ago I was a stockbroker. My father had recently passed, and I realized he didn’t get to do the things he wanted to do in his life; he’d gotten a career to make money and support his family. I started thinking, ‘Do I want to continue being a stockbroker?’ And I said, ‘No.’ ”

“Coincidentally, a friend of mine owned the store that I bought. It was in that University Center location, and he was going to shut it down, so I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll buy it.’”

The rest is history.

Marco’s fascination with comic books sparked when he was younger, back when it was more niche. During the ’70s, he noted that fandoms were not as intense as they are today.

When he hit high school and college he ended up forgetting about his passion, but returned in adulthood. Part of this was due to the store he ended up buying, which was called Planet X Comics.

He saw the store as he was walking one day, and memories of his youthful obsession came flooding back. He stepped inside, and the owner, who he later befriended, re-introduced him to the world he’d forgotten. Five years later, Alakazam was born.

Nowadays, they’re a full-service shop. They deal in comics, but they’ve also got their hand in cards and adventure gaming.

Dungeons & Dragons players gather on Wednesdays for their Adventurer’s League, they host a board gaming night on Thursdays, and Fridays, as previously mentioned, are dedicated to Magic: The Gathering. They also host signings and talks from creators and other prominent figures.

Along with the offering you’d expect to find at a well-stocked shop, they’re able to stand out in their own way. How so? Vintage comics!

They’ve got one of the widest selections from the ’80s, ’70s and earlier you’ll find in a physical store, and whether you want some funny stories or an epic adventure, there’s something for everyone.

He wanted to leave our readers with this: “Everybody’s welcome. We’d love everybody to come to one of our game nights or just stop by and talk to us. Fandom is a great thing to be involved in. It’s a way to communicate and interact with people while learning & enjoying something.”

You can meet Marco and the rest of the Alakazam Comics family Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. at 17777 Main St., Suite E, Irvine. You can also learn more on their website.