When John Stansfield decided to open a comic book store in Auburn, his goal was to sell the comics that he'd grown up reading and still loved. But on the first day the store opened, a Placer High School student walked through the doors and changed everything.
"'You need to carry Magic cards,'" Stansfield recalled him saying. "'You carry the cards and host the game night, and I will bring the people, and we'll give you money.'"
Three days later, there were 17 people playing Magic at Cosmic Comix.
Magic is a card game where each player collects a deck of creatures with varying powers, and those creatures battle each other -- in an imaginary way.
Game night quickly became a regular feature of Cosmic Comix, and not only for Magic, but for board games and video games as well.
In fact, game night is so popular that Stansfield ran out of room for his comic books and had to move to a new, larger location in the Palm Avenue shopping center.
Now Stansfield has room for about 40 gamers at a time, grouped into their own game spaces, set up like diner booths. There's also a big screen TV and a large table for war games. At the back of the room is a white board announcing the Super Mario Smash Brothers Challenge, Wednesdays at 6 p.m. It reads: "All invited, but only 1 will be left @ the end!"
He also has room for the products he sells: comic books, board games, action figures and quirky things like KISS soda. (Yes, that's KISS, the 1970s band.)
When asked why he decided to open Cosmic Comix four years ago, Stansfield said he's been collecting comic books his whole life, and it was time to share them.
"My wife said they had to go," he said, laughing. "I had too much stuff."
Stanfield estimates that he carries about 60,000 comic books in the store. He loves comics because they span so many categories.
"Is it art? Is it collectible? Is it for kids? Is it for adults?" he asks, and shrugs in answer.
When people read comic books, Stansfield said, they step out of their own lives for a little while.
"You're not even thinking about life," he said.
He pauses to watch a bit of the movie playing in the background -- "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" -- and point out to the young people in the room that one of the actors also played Dumbledore in "Harry Potter."
At the same time, he said, turning back, readers identify with the characters.
"Look at Spiderman," Stansfield said. "He's just a regular kid. He's got girl problems. He's got problems with his aunt. People relate to that."
People relate to each other, too, and that's another part of the business that Stansfield loves.
"They're nice kids. They help each other out," he said. "The players make the community, not the store."
For more information about Cosmic Comix, call 530-887-1147, find the store on Facebook, or visit the store at 230 Palm Ave.