Free Comic Book Day (South Florida Edition)

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Free Comic Book Day is upon us again (Saturday, May 3rd). For those unfamiliar with the yearly event, it was started by Joe Field (owner of Flying Colors Comics) in 2002 after realizing that movies based on comic book characters could be key in bringing in new readership. Under the advice of then-Image Comics editor, Jim Valentino, the first FCBD (as it’s called in the industry and by comic book lovers everywhere) was held as the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man was released in 2002. The rest as they say is history. FCBD has now become an international phenomenon.

I* decided to to talk to some stores in south Florida about the event and to see what their respected stores will be doing for FCBD**. I suggest readers go to all the stores covered in this article. This will ensure that you get your greasy hands on as many different titles as humanly possible.

Here are this year’s titles:

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*Thanks to Tuff Gnarl editor, Jesse Scheckner, who interviewed and wrote the intro for A&M Comics.

**Past, Present & Future Comics and Mac’s Comics did not respond to our request for an interview.

Tate’s Comics

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Tate’s Comics is much more than a comic shop – it’s an outright institution. Started by Tate Ottati in 1993 (while still in high school) the store’s story is that of determination, hard work and doing what inspires you for a living. It’s not uncommon to run into comic creators during the countless events held there every year. The Tate’s Comics brand is ever expanding; Ottati just opened up a second shop in Boynton Beach.

Tuff Gnarl: How many FCBD events has Tate’s Comics been involved in over the years?

Ottati/Tate’s Comics: We been involved with FCBD since the beginning, and it has grown ever year.

Logistically, how crazy is this year’s FCBD for you guys seeing as you’re now running 2 stores (Lauderhill/ Boynton Beach)?

Last year we had over 2,500 people pick up comic books so this year it’s going to be pretty crazy at the Main Headquarters store in Lauderhill. This year we are making it more of an event. We will have a giant air-conditioned tent outside with artists and cosplayers set up selling and displaying wares. Since Boynton is such a new store I don’t know how crazy it will be there, but they will have all the comics that the main store has.

Tate’s Comics seems to be a very community and family-oriented shop, do you see a direct correlation between comic book readers and family structure? If so, how?

Yes, Tate’s is very family friendly. Hey, children are our future. We like to do events that the whole family can participate in. For example, the next day, on May 4th, we are having a Star Wars day where you can come by and make a lightsaber for free.

What’s your pick for hottest FCBD book this year?

I’m looking forward to the 2000 AD special.

Tate’s Comics HQ 4566 N University Dr Lauderhill, FL 33351

954-748-0181

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A&M Comics

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A&M Comics, the oldest business of its type still around in South Florida (and among the oldest in the country, period), is less a relic of an older, more earnest time and more a way station – an intersecting point, of sorts – between the old and the new, the niche and the mainstream, and the exceedingly rare and the amusingly kitschy.

Owner Jorge Martin Perez and resident stalwart comic expert and original art collector Xavier Chavez operate A&M Comics six days out of the week (they’re closed on Tuesdays to handle the arrival of the week’s batch of new comics and to update their inventory). Their boutique approach, combined with an unrivaled eclectic inventory boasting collectibles spanning decades, has garnered them a staunchly loyal patronage and recognition as one of the most original and interesting destinations in the region.

Tuff Gnarl: What plans do you have for free comic book day this year?
Perez/A&M Comics & Books: We actually just give out the free comic books. We don’t do the big show of having people dress up and stuff like that. We want the kids to be able to get a comic to read and enjoy that. Before, it was a selection of everything, and now, from what my understanding of it is, comic books that want to be offered as free comic books have to enter a partnership with Diamond [Comic Distributors, Inc.].

Basically, people can come in and, within reason, choose a comic they want.
Of what’s being offered from the list of Free Comic Book Day.

So it’s going to be something new…
Yes. People think that they can come and get X-Men #13 or something, and no, that’s not it. There’s a selection of new comics. Sometimes, though, they’re reprinting an old comic and they’re offering it again, but, on the average, it’s just a new comic from a new company.

Free Comic Book Day started back in 2002. How big of an event is this for your store?
More and more people have been coming to the event. When we first started years ago, it was a smaller event. People weren’t used to it. Now, since it’s been around for so many years, people actually look forward to it, so last year we must have had something like six or seven hundred people coming in for free comic books.

For people who are thinking of coming by your store for the first time, what do you think makes A&M Comics unique? What differentiates it from other stores?
My store is your old-style comic book store. We sell comics. We sell toys. We sell things that aren’t comic book-related. We’ll sell old cocktail shakers. Anything that we think is interesting, we sell. We do have a lot of stuff that some people think is just piled on top of one another, but it’s not, it’s just that we’re constantly out there trying to find interesting things and we find more things than we have space for sometimes. But when you come into the store, most people “ooh” and “ahh” at the store. We’re your typical mom and pop business. It’s family run, it always has been and it probably always will be. It’s not owned by some big corporation.

A&M Comics 6650 Bird Rd Miami, FL 33155
305-661-3406

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Docking Bay Comics

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Photo by Travis Scotka

Nestled between Coconut Creek and Boca Raton, Docking Bay Comics is truly a collector’s paradise. First opening their doors in 1998, they hold comic book meetings every Tuesday night, art classes, RPG gaming, card game tournaments and more. Docking Bay proprietor John Miller brings a wealth of knowledge to the uninitiated.

Tuff Gnarl: How long has Docking Bay Comics been doing FCBD?

Miller/Docking Bay Comics: We’ve been doing FCBD since it started in 2002 when the first Spider-Man movie by Sam Raimi came out.

What’s the most inspiring thing about FCBD?

Free comics (laughs). It’s the best and easiest way to get new generations of kids to try out comics – some for the first time.

What’s your pick for the hottest FCBD book this year?

Hottest? Probably DC’s Future’s End. Love that they are doing so much with the Batman Beyond character in a more modern setting via time travel. He comes from the future to save us from something horrible that will devastate the DC 52 Earth five years from now.

In a battle between The Tick, Archie and Jubilee who’d win?

That’s tough. I’m going with the Tick because he’s bat shit crazy.

Docking Bay Comics 7710 NW 56th Way Coconut Creek, FL 33073
954-427-1694

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Excelsior Comics & Collectibles

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Excelsior Comics & Collectibles are the new kids on the block, and their official opening is actually on Free Comic Book Day. Located in Lake Worth and owned by Sophia Haretopoulos, Excelsior will be having Dungeons & Dragons Wednesdays, Pathfinder Thursdays and a yet-unspecified day for Magic The Gathering.

Tuff Gnarl: This is Excelsior Comics first Free Comic Book Day. What kind of pressure are you guys feeling?

Haretopoulos/Excelsior Comics & Collectibles: No pressure at all. Unfortunately we did not get enough comics in time to be officially sanctioned by FCBD, but we have a lot of free comics coming.

What’s the best thing about FCD?

We have decided that we are going to make FCBD also our grand opening. We will be serving wine, beer and snacks in our Rivendell backyard patio for the adults.

How has Lake Worth taken to you guys so far?

Lake Worth loves us. We have a bunch of five-star reviews from our customers and we have organically grown over 150 Facebook likes [222 as of publishing time], but the reaction we get when we hand out our flyers is priceless. Some people have hugged us and kissed to thank us for bringing this here. There has not been a comic store here for years and the former owner of that shop is a regular already. We are owner-operated, quaint, and we love comics! I thought we would do well but never expected this. Although the excitement has not translated into sales yet, things look very positive!

What’s your pick for the hottest FCBD book this year?

I’m looking forward to the zero issue of Future’s End. The former history teacher in me is also looking forward to checking out History of Japan. This is also a great opportunity to expand my horizons. I’m intrigued by Entropy and Uber.

Excelsior Comics and Collectibles
16 S. J Street Lake Worth, Fl 33460
718-974-8277

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Chuck Livid

Chuck Livid hails from Miami, Florida. He did a zine in the '90s called Muddy Chaos and is best known for his work with independent music label Livid Records. Chuck lives in Boca Raton, Fl with his wife illustrator Helena Garcia and their son Nico. He founded TuffGnarl.com and hosts TuffGnarl.com's official music podcast - Another Music Podcast which is available on iTunes & Google Play

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