Collectibles and community in stock at Comics VS Toys

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Comics vs Toys
The storefront of Comics Vs Toys in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, CA. Monday, March 14, 2022. Hudson Johnson/The Occidental.

Approximately 17 years ago, a small comic book store called Mini Melt Too opened on Colorado Boulevard as an expansion of the nearby Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard. In 2010, the store left the Meltdown company and was named Comics VS Toys, according to Ace Aguilera, the owner, founder and sole employee of the shop.

Naturally, the store is divided into two sections: comics and toys. With its walls covered in these collectibles, the store has one narrow room leading back to a counter with a box of the week’s new comics and a two-foot-tall gremlin statue.

“Inventory-wise, we’ve got more comic books, but I’ve also heard a lot of people saying that we carry a lot of toys that other shops don’t,” Aguilera said.

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T-shirts and action figures hang on the wall at Comics Vs Toys in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, CA. Monday, March 14, 2022. Hudson Johnson/The Occidental.

Historically, Aguilera said he has been a bigger fan of comics than toys — but it was not the action-packed narratives that initially drew him in.

“Appreciating the artwork is actually what got me into it first, not so much the stories — that was later on in life,” Aguilera said.

His love for comics progressed into a love of collecting them, and Aguilera said owning the shop has given him a unique opportunity as a comic book collector. Growing his collection is his favorite part of owning the store.

“Back in the day, I’d have to show up at Toys”R”Us at 7 o’clock in the morning trying to compete with all these other collectors, trying to run through the shop to find the toy I needed,” Aguilera said. “Same thing with the books — trying to find that hard-to-find book that no other store has.

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Comic books line the shelves at Comics Vs Toys in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, CA. Monday, March 14, 2022. Hudson Johnson/The Occidental.

Luis Lemus, a volunteer at the store since 2014, said he believes comics can spark children’s interest in books.

“I think having a comic store in a community is important just because it really does help kids’ reading comprehension. I can’t tell you the amount of parents who have come in and just been like, ‘My kids literally don’t read anything else,‘” Lemus said. “These kids are reading for the first time. It’s fine for them to pick whatever they want, let them pick the most random thing off the wall, it doesn’t matter.”

Lemus said the store has become a staple in the community, with many returning customers, himself among them.

“I was a regular at the store when I was a teenager, me and my friends. It was our routine pretty much every Friday,” Lemus said. “That was always such a fun thing to look forward to.”

Rose Frey (first year), a regular at the store, said she read her father’s old comics as a child, and her interest was renewed this past winter when she was gifted a book about comics. She said she visits the store almost every Wednesday when new books come out. She said she appreciates the opportunity that shops like Comics VS Toys provide for building community.

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A hydra action figure for sale at Comics Vs Toys in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, CA. Monday, March 14, 2022. Hudson Johnson/The Occidental.

“It’s a place for people that want to engage in nerd life to meet up, outside of events like comic cons that happen once a year,” Frey said.

Frey said that in addition to the atmosphere of the store, she enjoys taking advantage of its pull list, which enables customers to request items before they visit in person.

“It’s how you’re able to let them know in advance what you want to buy, so once you get there, it’s just all there and ready for you,” Frey said.

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Comic books on a shelf at Comics Vs Toys in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, CA. Monday, March 14, 2022. Hudson Johnson/The Occidental.

Aguilera said this is a popular program at the store. He said customers can even get a discount for taking advantage of this program — 20 percent off the order if the previous purchase was paid in cash or 10 percent if it was paid with a card.

According to Aguilera, the store is only open for three hours on Monday, Thursday and Friday because he has another job and works Comics VS Toys’ hours around it. He said he keeps the store open not for the money, but because he loves it.

Lemus said he wants the store to uplift the community.

“I always think that’s a big selling point: when you come in here we’re gonna try and help you as much as we possibly can. Because there’s nowhere for you to hide in here. You know? We’re gonna try and help out everyone that walks in,” Lemus said.