Irvine is a great city for anyone involved in the comic book industry to live, as both San Diego Comic Con and Los Angeles Comic Con are only an hour away. Also, WonderCon, the annual comic book, sci fi and film confab, and D23, the official Disney Fan Club, takes place in Anaheim at the Convention Center each year as well.

From nerd lifestyle brands to innovative collectibles, the comics business continues to thrive throughout Orange County as well. Irvine Weekly talked to industry experts in the area to hear how business is going and how they deal with the myriad of challenges.

Todd Nauck, comic book artist 

“Business is going great!” enthused Todd Nauck, a successful comics artist. “I’ve been working consistently with Marvel Comics since 2006 on various titles like Spider-Man, Deadpool and Thor. I also just recently drew the comic book adaptation of the Netflix series, Mystery Science Theater 3000 for Dark Horse Publishing.

Nauck has a busy schedule, with a myriad of design projects. 

“I am currently working on a new Spider-Man spin-off series called Gwen Stacy, she was one of Peter Parker’s first loves he meets at college. It’s kind of like Veronica Mars set in the early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era of Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel just announced the series and issue number one debuts in February 2020.”

In addition, the veteran artist is drawing three comic covers for deserving real-life young heroes in the new Disney Plus streaming television show, Marvel’s Hero Project. 

Nauck has also been making appearances at numerous Cons and other events. “I was a guest speaker on Disney Cruise Lines’ Marvel Day at Sea, for a ‘Meet the Marvel Masters’ panel. That was an honor and a fun gig!” he quipped. 

“The biggest challenge for me is comic book deadlines and comic convention travel. I’m either spending my days at the drafting table or traveling across the U.S. to appear at Comic Cons. It takes a lot of time management and discipline to make sure I hit deadlines and make it out to see the comic reading public.”

Locally, you can often find Nauck at his favorite comic book shop, Alakazam Comics.

“I do comic book signings at their store from time to time. They have been big supporters of my career over the years.”

(Courtesy of Hero Within)

Tony Kim, founder/owner of geek fashion/comics store, Hero Within

While business has gone well for Irvine’s Hero Within, there are still many highs and lows, owner Tony Kim admits:

“It’s been very challenging as a young company. Fortunately, interest in subtle geek fashion has never been higher as well as passion for pop culture. It was an amazing year with all of the success of Marvel and we are now turning our attention to DC and Star Trek.”

Kim, who also is a blogger, designer and pop culture expert, continued: “Inventory and cash flow are always the biggest challenges with young companies. I have to stay focused on trying to stay ahead of the demand as well as help shape trends. It’s a balancing act.”

Kim loves being based in Irvine, finding the area a “very inspirational” place to be. “Besides all the local resources, the diversity and creativity here fuels me. Plus, I do much of my business in Los Angeles and San Diego, which makes Irvine perfectly located for those commutes.”

Now that he and his company finished a busy season of traveling to Comic Cons all over the United States, they are focusing on online sales. “As we prepare for the holidays, we have some new Batman and Star Trek items on the horizon, which is exciting.”

Patrick Wang, Icon Heroes 

As a community, Irvine is an incredible place to be safe, lots of good places to eat, well maintained, etc. noted Patrick Wang, vice president of Icon Heroes. 

“We have been in business since 2009, manufacturing licensed collectibles, toys, action figures, trading pins, bobblehead dolls, gifts and novelties,” he said. “Most of our products are sold online such as [on] Amazon.com and through major brick-and-mortar retailers like GameStop.”

Since they do not have a store, the conventions provide a great opportunity for Wang to interact with their customers. “To gain more exposure, we also sell exclusive merchandise and showcase new products at conventions such as San Diego Comic Con.”

Icon Heroes’ licensed properties include Archie Comics, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, DC Comics, The Golden Girls, Harry Potter, The Karate Kid, ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Robotech, Street Fighter, Terminator: Dark Fate, Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick and Star Trek.  

We also have several new and exciting properties which we are announcing soon,” Wang added. “There are some upcoming movies and video game properties.”

With the holiday rush, Wang’s big challenge is making sure their products are developed and shipped on time, especially for retailers. “There are many stages to development and production so we have to meet certain checkpoints along the way. We typically try to plan products about a year out.”