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‘We need to represent’: O.C. comic shops make the trek to Comic-Con in San Diego

Christin Bautista, from BAIT Santa Ana, at the BAIT booth at Comic-Con International 2022 in San Diego on July 24.
Christin Bautista, from BAIT Santa Ana, at the BAIT booth at Comic-Con International 2022 in San Diego on July 24, the last day of the convention.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

Cal Burke, owner of McFlys Comics in Huntington Beach, is old school.

“I don’t sell new comics,” said Burke. “All I sell is back issues.”

Burke also doesn’t care much for social media.

“I am not on the internet, but I am on Google maps,” Burke said at his booth at Comic-Con International, held last weekend at the San Diego Convention Center.

Burke was one of a few Orange County-based vendors among nearly 550 exhibitors at the convention.

“Anybody worth their salt has got to be at Comic-Con,” Burke said.

Cal Burke of McFlys Comics in Huntington Beach stands at his booth at Comic-Con 2022 in San Diego on July 24.
Cal Burke of McFlys Comics in Huntington Beach stands at his booth at Comic-Con 2022 in San Diego on July 24, the last day of the convention.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

This year’s convention was its first in-person event since 2019, save for a last-minute convention thrown together last November.

Burke is a longtime Comic-Con attendee and said he has been collecting for over 50 years.

“My first Comic-Con was in 1975. I have been doing the show about 12 years as a dealer … I’ve had my store for six years.”

Today, the convention not only draws comic book collectors and vendors but cosplayers, toy collectors and all kinds of media and popular art forms from video games and cinema to television and streaming platforms.

But for Allen Pruett, owner of Godaddyo’s Comic Book Hideout in Fullerton, it’s all about the comics.

“We need to represent comics at Comic-Con,” Pruett said. “It’s like, there’s not a lot of comics here any more. We all come out to make sure everyone goes home with a comic book in their hand.”

Pruett said Star Wars and Marvel books were most popular over the weekend.

“We also carry a lot of alternative comics and undergrounds,” he said. “We try to have a lot of rare books that other people probably don’t have.”

Another O.C. retailer at the convention was streetwear and sneaker retail store BAIT. The lifestyle brand has several locations, including a store in Downtown Santa Ana, and is known for its collaborations.

BAIT joined with book publisher BOOM! Studios for a capsule collection of “BRZRKR,” a comic book series created and written by actor Keanu Reeves, and it proved to be the BAIT booth’s big draw.

The "BRZRKR" comic book series, created and written by Keanu Reeves, was featured at the BAIT booth.
The “BRZRKR” comic book series, created and written by Keanu Reeves, was featured at the BAIT booth at Comic-Con in San Diego on July 24. The black-and-white variant cover was limited to 600 copies and the color variant cover was limited to 1,000 copies.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

BAIT offered the “BRZRKR” comic in a black-and-white variant cover, limited to 600 copies, with the color variant cover limited to 1,000 copies. The booth also featured “BRZRKR” apparel and showcased other collaborations like a collection featuring DC’s Batman.

“We are here for everyone, trying to show a gist of everything, like collectibles, apparel and some anime stuff, Marvel, DC and Marvin the Martian,” said Christin Bautista of BAIT Santa Ana.

Over at Artist’s Alley at the National Cartoonists Society booth, illustrator, cartoonist, animator and former Orange County native Luke McGarry offered “lightning-fast caricatures” along with other merchandise and prints.

A sign for "Lightning-Fast" Caricatures by Luke McGarry at the cartoonist's booth at Comic-Con.
A sign for “Lightning-Fast” Caricatures by Luke McGarry at the cartoonist’s booth at Comic-Con in San Diego on July 24.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

“I am a caricature artist. A lot of my magazine work is caricatures of celebrities,” said the Manchester-born McGarry, who attended high school in Santa Ana. “So at events like this I offer lightning-fast caricatures of people that walk up because I am a very, very fast artist.”

“The only person faster than me is Sergio Aragonés from Mad Magazine,” McGarry laughs.

McGarry said attending the convention as an artist has many benefits.

“It’s a really good networking opportunity because they have publishers and art directors and such and such wandering around,” said McGarry. “But it is also a really good place to connect with fans or potential fans of your work. It is just really nice to meet people.”

Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 24, the last day of the convention.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

Meeting people who share the same excitement over superheroes, collectables or comic books is the main draw for everyone who attends.

“You can see by the crowds today how exciting it is,” Burke said.

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