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The Intersection The Intersection of Pop Culture and Fandoms: Pensacola Comic Book and Game Shops

By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd

If you’ve turned on a TV in the past decade, you’ve probably seen references to comic books, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), video games, collectors, conventions and the influx of fandoms gone mainstream. There are communities and fandoms for just about anything and everything people are passionate about—from niche and nostalgic collectibles, cinema and retro games to tabletop gaming, video games, comic books, manga, anime and superheroes. At the intersection of pop culture and fandoms are comic bookstores, game shops and toy collectors that provide a space for people of all ages to gather, talk, game and geek out over their shared interests. Just in time for the annual Pensacon convention, held February 18–20, we gathered up some of the best spots in Pensacola to buy a new comic book, roll some dice, trade a game or simply get a dose of childhood nostalgia.

Hyperspace Toys

6224 N 9th Avenue Unit #1

Instagram and Facebook @hyperspacetoys

Husband and wife duo, Jim and Michelle Vail, opened their shop specializing in nostalgic toys and collectibles in 2018 after the owner of Marty’s Collectibles retired and they took over the location. As a longtime film aficionado, Jim wanted a shop that encapsulated all things nerdy and pop culture and allowed his patrons to revisit their nostalgic childhood toys. With toys and collectibles ranging from the 1950s to present day and the constantly changing and trading stock, there is always something new (but technically used) on the shelves. Hyperspace Toys carries vintage video games, consoles, comic books, Pokémon and other trading cards, board games, movies, and of course, action figures and toys. “Collecting toys is a form of time travel—a window to the past, a happier time when we played all the time, long before we had adult responsibilities and distractions,” Jim Vail explained. “I hear it all the time, ‘I haven’t thought about this since I was a kid!’ Seeing toys or other relics of your childhood can often bring back a forgotten memory along with a rush of serotonin that just makes a person smile. It’s a feeling that overcomes everything else and instantly catapults you back to your childhood. It’s very powerful, and there’s nothing like it. Whether you were a kid six years ago or 60 years ago, we’ve got something from your childhood here in the shop.”

TBS Comics Pensacola

6895 N 9th Avenue

Facebook @TBSComicsPensacola

As a veteran shop in the community, this family-owned business has withstood the test of time and witnessed generations of collectors and the highs and lows of the comic book industry. TBS Comics first opened in Fort Walton Beach in 1985 and its second location opened in Pensacola in 1990. Owner Edward Nehring took over the family business in 1999 that his mother, Rose Nehring, spearheaded and operated for more than 15 years. Both locations sell comic books, board games, card games, roleplaying games and anime, and they host weekly gaming events with a long-standing community of gamers. “TBS is the local crossroads of pop culture,” Edward Nehring said. “We have something cool to see for everyone. I see so many adults dropping in to buy Pokémon cards these days. Some I remember when they came in as a kid. Some stop in with children of their own now, which is pretty awesome. We’ve outlasted some of the giants like Blockbusters and Toys ‘R’ Us. I’m thankful for the ‘shop local’ community support we have and our wonderful staff past and present.”

Pensacola Pop Comics

909 N 12th Avenue

Instagram and Facebook @PensacolaPopComics

Harley Orr has been a lifelong lover of comic books and wanted a shop with a diverse selection that filled his needs as a reader. He was a teacher before opening the shop in 2014 and always loved connecting students with books to read. Now, he still gets to recommend books—without the papers to grade. Pensacola Pop Comics specializes in new and old comic books and graphic novels for adults and children. In addition to the bestsellers and traditional comics, patrons can find zines and small press comics by creators with print runs of only a few hundred copies. New comics hit the shelves every other Wednesday and their graphic novel book club is resuming in February at the West Florida Public Library on 239 N Spring Street. “For many people, it's a habit to read comics,” Orr said. “My son is 9, and every day he eats his breakfast and reads comics like an old man reading the morning paper. Like many of my customers, he’s been bitten by the radioactive comic bug. I stock new and old comics from the bestsellers down to little comics hand assembled by the creators. There is such a diverse offering of voices in comics that it would be a shame to only have access to the ones owned by big corporations. I like a good superhero story, but I also like to read a comic about a woman washing her dishes to SZA or a cat and witch getting stoned on the couch.”

Level Up Gaming

1132 Creighton Road

Facebook @PensacolaLevelUpGaming

With 7,300 square feet and 32 gaming tables inside the shop, complete with play mats and different terrains, Level Up Gaming takes tabletop gaming seriously. Owners William Brandenburg and Ronald Brandenburg Jr. decided to open their store in 2019 when they realized they didn’t have the adequate space at home to play tabletop games and there were no stores locally that specialized in tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40,000. Patrons can find books, miniatures, paint, dice, mats and all the tabletop gaming necessities. Level Up Gaming also hosts a D&D Adventure League, a variety of homebrew campaigns, historical recreations and even charitable tournaments. During Pensacon weekend, Level Up Gaming will be open from Friday to Sunday night without closing so convention goers and patrons can come together and play games anytime day or night. “For a long time is was seen as uncool and weird to be interested in gaming. But now, every piece of cinema that you watch it’s built in. Stranger Things literally starts out with casting fireball from D&D,” Will Brandenburg said. “We are a store where you can bring in a game that you love but have no room to play in your house. We have a community of people who also enjoy that game and a space that allows you to come together and roll dice to play. It’s such a vibrant community of people to engage with and talk about anything you have seen, want to play or want to do.”

Video Game Trading Post

5559 N Davis Highway, Suite D

Instagram and Facebook @VGTPFlorida

Partners, Kevin Brancati and Katie McGuigan, have always had a mutual love of video games and decided to leave their retail jobs and open their own store in 2017. Video Game Trading Post started in a small storefront dedicated to retro and pre-owned games and consoles, but they have since expanded to a new storefront on Davis Highway, and the shop carries a little bit of everything gaming related from NES all the way up to PS5. The store also stocks games, consoles, books, memorabilia and collectibles with a large section of anime merchandise imported from Japan. If you’re looking to move onto to the next best game or console, Video Game Trading Post also buys and trades merchandise. “The past few years we've expanded into collectibles like figures, Pokémon cards, plush, posters and specialty Japanese imports like Gashapon (random prize vending machines). We even took the plunge into brand new release games straight from distributors,” McGuigan said. “We really want to be a shop for anyone. Whether you're a retro collector, someone who wants to replay games from your childhood, looking for games to play with your family, just into the ‘merch,’ or looking for the newest thing—we want to have you covered.”


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