.Talk Nerdy to Me: Surf City Comic Con Debuts April 20

Inaugural Comic Con takes over the Sears building at Capitola Mall

Growing up, I was often ostracized by my peers for being a nerd. Comic books, action figures and collectibles fueled the flames of isolation but provided escape. The asthma, glasses and failure at any sport involving running, a ball or the sun didn’t help.

Fast forward to today, and society has finally caught up with the nerds.

Entertainment studios create entire cinematic universes around extraordinary humans in capes and spandex. Long-running franchises like Star Wars and Doctor Who have millions of fans around the world, with new content constantly pumping out of the studios. In the United States alone there are more than 1,000 different comic conventions a year.

And this weekend the Central Coast will host one of its own.

On April 20, the inaugural Surf City Comic Con takes over the old 38,000-square-foot Sears building at the Capitola Mall from 10am to 6pm. Admission is $10, but children under 10 get in for free. And collectors who want first dibs can pay $15 for an early entrance of 9am.

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“Art is a central theme, be it comics, toys or video games,” George Tegenkamp says.

In addition to owning and operating Hadbro Toys—the collectibles store in the Capitola Mall—Tegenkamp is known to attendees of the 2022 Capitola Collectacon. But organizers want to make one thing clear: This is a whole new convention and not affiliated with the past.

For starters, Tegenkamp—a Soquel native—has teamed up with Aaron Alden, Aptos born and raised. Owner of a catering company by day, Alden is an avid comic collector and seller with a staggering personal collection of around 85,000 books.

“I’ve been going to Joe Ferrara at Atlantis Fantasy World since 1978, and I’ve had a pull box [a box comic shops keep for customers with weekly or monthly subscriptions] since I was 12,” Alden exclaims.

Friends for over a decade, Tegenkamp and Alden first met—where else—at a flea market scouring to find hidden gems. After five years of talking about starting their own convention, the two decided now was the time.

“San Diego, L.A., San Jose, Bay Area—they all have their own,” Tegenkamp says. “We wanted to bring something to the Central Coast.”

Of like mind is Thomas Brookins, a photographer, Hadbro Toys customer and avid Star Wars collector who converted his garage into what he calls a “Star Wars Museum.”

“There’s nothing from Santa Cruz all the way down to Santa Barbara,” Brookins says. “Collectors can’t find squat.”

This weekend, however, fans of all ages will find plenty to buy, salivate over and do.

The Surf City Comic Con features 120 different vendors from across the state selling everything from comics, toys and video games to tabletop games, art and more. Hadbro Toys will have a special G.I. Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles display for sale.

Local horror collectible company Trick or Treat Studios, which is also one of this year’s sponsors, will be present with plenty of goodies. Other sponsors with booths include retro video game sellers Game Vault and tabletop board game shop Sword and Board Games, both located in the Capitola Mall.

Alden hints he’lll be selling a cache of Golden Age and pre-code horror comics at the Surf City Comics booth. Pre-codes—comics printed before the creation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954—might look tame by today’s standards, but they shocked and startled early-20th-century fans with images of ghouls and killers in titles like Haunted Tales, Shock SuspenStories and Chamber of Chills.

Attendees who purchase from the Surf City Comics booth will automatically be entered into a raffle to win a mystery comic, graded and slabbed (in a protective plastic casing), with a $250 value.

“We’re also really pushing local artists,” Alden says.

Tegenkamp agrees.

“Abraham Roman—who is just a fabulous artist—will be there with his work along with Milo Halperin, who did our banner. We’ll also have Leah [Smith] from Altered Panels, who does a lot of collage work, and Randomize, a store here [in the mall] that makes things like their own stuffies.”

Guests will include Glenn Cotter, creator of the hit board game Fickle, as well as a digital and visual effects artist whose résumé includes Super 8, Pacific Rim, and the original X-Men from the 2000s.

Attendees are welcome to cosplay. Golden Gate stormtrooper garrison—the 501st Legion—will be scouring the halls, but rebel scum can hide out with local Steve Mead. Also known as “R2-Steve,” Mead builds life-size, exact and working models of famous droids from a galaxy far far away, which he has named Artoosc (R2-SC) and ChopperBC (for Boulder Creek) to avoid copyright infringement.

Despite all the treasures that will be for sale, the push to represent the Surf City community extends beyond commercialism.

“We wanted to make it more interactive and not just about buying things but about community,” Tegenkamp explains. “And why is it a community? Because we all love this shit.”

With that mantra in mind, Sword & Board will host a Warhammer 40k tournament with Game Vault hosting a Super Smash Brothers tournament. There will also be card game tournaments during the day and a lounge area for attendees to kick back, relax and play various games with friends as well.

As an added bonus, the first 50 general-admission customers through the door will receive a free, “good” comic from Alden’s personal collection.

“Also, all kids will be able to come to my table, Surf City Comics, and get to pick a free, kid-appropriate comic,” he states.

No convention or festival is complete without something tasty to nosh on, so Surf City Comic Con has invited a smorgasbord of different food trucks. Gooey cheese melts will be provided by Epoch-Eats along with tacos by Taquezas Gabriel and mouth-watering meat from House of Smoke BBQ. And there will be sweet pick-me-ups from Kona Ice and Sugar Bakery.

And on top of all this, Surf City Comic Con will have one of the rarest goods in town: free parking.

“We’lll have something for everybody and you don’t have to spend any money except to come in,” Alden says. “So if you just want to check something out, you’ll have a lot of fun.”

’Nuff said!

Surf City Comic Con takes place April 20, 10am-6pm, at 1855 41st Ave, Capitola. $10 general/$15 early bird admission/kids under 10 free. Tickets through Eventbrite.


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