These events weren’t only so fans could get the first look at what’s new. It was also a way for them to join other fans and make connections. They shared their love for all things fandom with likeminded people.
Yet, the biggest fandom event in San Diego was canceled in 2020, which was San Diego Comic-Con. Down to the smallest of events in small shops around the Country, these meetups and events are integral not only to comic book fans, but the entirety of fan culture. This includes games, television, movies and more.
Without these events, fans don’t have much of a chance to meet each other in person. Despite all of this, SoCal Games and Comics has managed to keep the fandom community alive and well in Temecula, Calif. Fans can still enjoy the company of like-minded hobbyists and even play a game or two.
Daniel Wagner, along with some friends, opened SoCal Games and Comics in October 2014 after splitting off from Sky High Comics in San Marcos, Calif. To his team, Wagner is the primary owner as the other two co-owners have full-time jobs elsewhere.
“We had owned another smaller comic shop in San Marcos for about a year before that,” Wagner said. “So we had three owners or we had four owners, one of them split off and took over that one. The other three of us come to this one.”
Wagner said that a lot of people didn’t have a place to play before they opened.
“I was going to say that their friends and stuff here, like we have these [game] tables, which they’re actually for 4DK, but we use them for D&D as well,” he said.
SoCal Games and Comics has also created a place for friendships to grow. They had 60 people play Dungeons & Dragons every Tuesday and about 100 on Thursdays.
“A lot of those people just became friends,” said Wagner. “They still keep in contact, even if they don’t necessarily make it to games. I believe that’s their family balance, essentially.”
The friendships that people make in this store are not exclusive to adults coming in to play games together. Even local kids come in and create bonds that extend outside the store and playing games.
“We’ve seen a lot of, especially with Pokémon kids come in, they meet like they’re lifelong friends here or whatever. They start playing baseball together. Like we’ve seen some kids grow up from when they were six and seven until they’re probably 12, 13, 14 now. And they’ll come back,” Wagner said. “My son’s like, yeah, we were all like, when we weren’t playing Pokémon or whatever, we all played baseball together and stuff like that. They all met here.”
During the beginning and the height of the pandemic they unfortunately had to cancel events where people could come together. The business has not held one event since March 2020. This was a major hit to the people who have made SoCal Games and Comics their second home and to the business itself. The events at SoCal Games and Comics were one of the biggest draws and money makers it had.
One team member, Travis, who did not share his last name, explained that the events brought people in not just to participate in games, but to also get the chance to see what products were new. Many people tended to grab items while at the events because they sometimes forget what they needed at home.
Not only did the business have to stop hosting its own events, but it also had no events that it could attend to advertise its business. Wagner explained that outside of online advertising, getting out and showing up at community events was a big way of showing off his business.
“We also [attended] events at the Storm Stadium, they [host] a comic book weekend. We usually had a booth there,” he said. “We pass up free comics there. It’s cool. We’ve done the balloon and wine festival, like any small events around there.”
Wagner shared a slight bit of worry about the volume of businesses like his that have closed their doors this past year. Based on data from ComicHub POS, the sales from comic shops plunged 29 percent over the summer, with sales of comic books down 37 percent. That was enough to drive at least 93 out of 100 retailers who use the system into closure.
Overall, Wagner and his staff still felt that they were well-anchored in their community in Temecula and are confident they would make it through the pandemic.
Wagner and his team are still doing everything they can to keep people coming through their doors. The team at SoCal Games and Comics has tried to keep up with its social media and website in order to keep people who can’t come in informed on what’s new.
Recently, SoCal Games and Comics announced on its Facebook page that it will be having events once again starting in early April. Wagner shared that he was excited to hold these events and start getting people coming through the doors again.
“[The events] won’t be able to be as big as they were before,” Wagner said. “But it’ll start getting people used to going back in and being able to come and see the people that [they] maybe haven’t seen in a year.”