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Not even Superman could rescue Third Planet Comics & Games from this recession.

The popular Torrance comic book and gaming store at 3631 Pacific Coast Highway will shut its doors Monday after about 13 years in business.

"The deciding factor in this decision is that sales have fallen to a level where we can no longer meet our obligations," owner Robert North wrote to customers in an e-mail the day after Christmas.

In the message, North said his employees "fought valiantly over this past year" to keep the shop in business.

In June of 2008, he'd put the store on the market with an asking price of $130,000, but he couldn't sell it.

So as the business nears closure, everything inside is for sale, including the fixtures and wall art.

"It's horrible," said longtime customer Javier Magdaleno, 35, a Best Buy salesman who was browsing the comic books section. "It's only this place I like coming to. The only other places are out in the boonies."

John Fuentes, 46, was purchasing a DC Super Friends comic book and a Marvel Zombies action figure for his 5-year-old son, Nigel.

"They carry some things that they don't have at the big toy stores," said the elder Fuentes, a Torrance resident who runs a local musical drum school. "There's a lot of knowledge about the games and toys I don't know. We're just going to miss this place an awful lot."

Third Planet is not the only local comic book store affected by the economic downturn. Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach has seen a "slight downturn" in his sales, according to owner Jun Goekucq.

"With the downturn in the economy, we've cut down on our expenses and tried to be a little bit more efficient," Goeku said.

Scott Grunewald, manager of Third Planet, said his shop is more of a community gathering place than just a business.

"There's a lot of people who come here, who in their regular lives, people don't understand them," Grunewald said of comic book and gaming fans. "But here we understand them. - We carry a lot of nerdy stuff."

Kristi Cunningham, a store saleswoman and a novelty in the male-dominated comic book industry, said her "brain went through a lot" after learning about the planned closing.

"I was kind of angry and I settled on sad," Cunningham said. "You meet a lot of great people. They're happy. They're in a place where they're free to be as nerdy or geeky as they want."

In fact, about two months ago, a talent scout came to Third Planet searching for "geeks" to appear on the reality TV show "Beauty and the Geek."

"We had a tournament, and she came in here and some of the guys recommended me as a huge geek," Third Planet salesman Rick Alvarez said. "I did an interview and they never got back to me."

Computer engineer Truong Ngocq has shopped at Third Planet for about a decade. He recently stopped by the store to purchase an expansion pack for the medieval-themed board game Carcassonnecq.

Ngo, 28, praised the workers' passion for the games and honesty with customers.

"When they say this game is good, they're speaking from experience," he said. "Everything they've said so far has been on the ball for me. It's hard to find these kinds of stores."

During his interview with a reporter, Ngo - who seemed to bristle at the notion that comic book and gaming fans were geeks - said without prompting, "And yes, I have a girlfriend. And yes, she's attractive."

muhammed.el-hasan@dailybreeze.

com