Magic, games come to life at Geekadrome

A group of people play “Magic: The Gathering” inside Geekadrome. Photo by Grant Stoner.

A group of people play “Magic: The Gathering” inside Geekadrome. Photo by Grant Stoner.

By: Grant Stoner

For many, magic means nothing more than sleight-of-hand. However, to the customers of Geekadrome, a shop located at 534 Brookline Blvd., magic is something that is tangible and believable.

Passersby of the small, ashgray building may notice something out of the ordinary. Behind the front windows of the store, various cardboard cutouts of heroic figures advertise fantasy games. Their expressions entice newcomers and veterans alike to explore new and magical realms. Those who are curious enough to enter are greeted by the chime of a bell, signaling that they have crossed an otherworldly dimension into a strange and wonderful world.

Beyond the glass door, past two rows of long tables, stands the ruler of the Geekadrome kingdom, Paul Drabick. Originally from Sharon, Pa., Paul decided to move 75 miles down to Brookline for the love of a girl. That relationship did not last, but a new one was forged with his adopted hometown.

Soon thereafter, he decided to open a small comic book and game shop for those who shared his passion for all things “geeky.”

“When I opened the store roughly 10 years ago, I realized that the Brookline area had been unexplored as far as comic books and gaming are concerned,” he said. “After Geekadrome opened, more and more people began showing up.”

The shop specializes in the sale of comics, games and various pop culture merchandise. One of the biggest draws for customers is the gaming, and Paul sponsors plenty of opportunities for gatherings by providing events six days a week.

Sitting at one of the long tables, an intense duel is taking place. No one is wearing armor forged by mystical deities, nor is anyone rifling through a big book, casting ancient and powerful spells. Yet, people can be seen and heard playing with magic and speaking their own strange language.

“I’d have to find another creature with impact,” a young man mutters as he examines his hand of playing cards, nervously eyeing his opponent from across the table.

“Magic: The Gathering,” a card game created in 1995 by Wizards of the Coast, tasks players with placing exotic lands, summoning bizarre beasts and slinging mesmerizing incantations. The object of the game is simple. Participants for each round start with a total of 20 life points, as well as draw a hand of seven cards. The ultimate goal is to utilize your deck of 60 cards in order to deplete your opponent’s life points.

The match between the two competitors intensifies. Cards are being placed on the battlefield in rapid succession. “Smoldering Marsh” is followed by a “Sunken Hollow.” A “Felidar Cub,” a blue and grey cat-like creature enters the fray, has the capability to deal two life points worth of damage to the enemy. Thinking fast, the opposing player places a “Fortified Rampart,” a creature which protects its master from any attack that deals less than six points of damage. Then, at the beginning of the next turn, a single card determines the victor.

“Master of Cruelties,” the champion grins as he slowly places the card onto the table.

“Such a good card,” the loser gasps, as he stares at the imposing red-armored demonic knight.

After the battle ends, both players direct their attention toward the far side of the compact store. Paul rests behind a glass counter full of “Magic” cards as well as vintage gaming systems and game titles, including “Super Mario Bros. 3” and “Final Fantasy V.” With a few clicks on his laptop, Paul enters the results of the match, signaling for a new round to begin.

As Paul leaves the confines of the glass case to return some items back to their designated areas, he has to squeeze past a labyrinth of boxes and books.

Not one bit of space is wasted — stacks of comics, figurines, cards and posters seemingly reach to the height of the tin paneled ceiling. Long, narrow tables are littered with playing cards and pizza boxes, remnants of the bountiful feast that energized the players. The aisles are so narrow, that a person has to step aside to let another pass by.

Throughout the entirety of the building, comic books from Marvel, DC and independent publishers are displayed on shelved racks, or placed in long cardboard boxes which are stacked in various places. Issues featuring heroes such as Batman, Spiderman and even Superman, sit alongside books boasting iconic villains including The Joker, Green Goblin and Lex Luthor.

Surrounded by racks and heaps of comics, it would only be natural for Paul to have his favorites.

“I tend to follow specific artists and writers, rather than publishers,” he says,  describing his comic book reading habits.

As the enchanting bell rings yet again, Paul makes eye contact with a middle-aged man trying to maneuver the narrow aisle with his cane.

“I’ve never been in a comic book store before,” he says to Paul with a curious tone, as he approaches the glass counter.

After a brief conversation, the man wanders over to a wall filled with action figures of various members of “The Justice League.” He picks up a box containing The Flash, DC’s famed super speedster. His white circular emblem with a bolt of lightning in the middle is prominently shown, a symbol of hope for the inhabitants of Central City.

As he places the Scarlet Speedster back onto the wall, the cash register rings up a transaction.

A young girl hands Paul some money before receiving a large box, filled to the brim with a vast amount of “Magic” playing cards. She maneuvers the awkward box back to a table and just as she begins sorting through her newly acquired treasures, a phone call disrupts her concentration.

“I wish I never had to go home,” she says with a deep sigh as she lifts the box.

After a quick goodbye, she exits through the door. The bell rings yet again, alerting the inhabitants of the store that one of their own has departed the wondrous realm.

As the door closes behind her, the establishment at 534 Brookline Blvd. is a constant reminder that magic exists within the confines of the store. Thanks to Paul Drabick and Geekadrome, the residents of Brookline no longer have to dream about fantasies.

All they have to do is listen for the ringing of a bell.

Video by: John Sheldon