Miami and comics have come a long way.
I am Miami to the bone: I’ve been through Andrew, Katrina and Wilma; was around for 2 Live Crew; saw the emergence of this city, how we’ve become a city since. I have been the Miamian who has thrown his hands up at this city and said “No more!” plenty of times.
But nowadays, when I throw my arms up, it’s more about celebrating Miami (unless I’m on the Palmetto in traffic). It’s events like the Miami Book Fair that have made me proud of this city and persuaded me that this place has a huge creative voice. Listen to it!
Fandom for comics has grown over the past few years here in Miami-Dade. Thanks to all the superhero movies, TV shows like “Big Bang Theory,” and just a general awareness that nerd culture is on the rise, something that used to be an obscure hobby left to kids has become an explosion of art and stories that people of all ages appreciate.
Where you once had small shows for fans and no comic-book shops, you now have place like Korka Comics in Miami, Gauntlet Games in North Miami and my own store — Tattoos and Comics in Hialeah Gardens — popping up. Shows like Florida Supercon, Animate and Paradise City in South Florida keep getting bigger every year; Florida has the most comic-book conventions of any state.
This growth is exciting for us fans, and it also reflects what’s going on in the entire industry. At Diamond Comic Distributors, for instance — reportedly the last remaining comic-book distributor serving retailers in North America and worldwide — sales for comics, trade paperbacks and magazines in 2016 through September were around $434.68 million in North America, up
3 percent year-over-year, according to ICv2: The Business of Geek Culture, a website that reports on the industry.
Why comics, you might ask? Because some of us like to look at stories as well as read them — at the same time. Because the vivid drawings and words together quickly transport readers in a way printed text alone just can’t. Because they show us all the possibilities of life, real and imagined. They not only depict superhero battles, fantasy worlds and outer space, but can also speed to the heart of romance, crime, comedy, war, biographies , workplaces — even letting us glimpse truths about our own private struggles. And when we pick up comics from Japan, France, Holland and Israel, say, we learn a little more about the world.
As a creator of comics with Creature Entertainment based in Little Havana, I feel it’s the artist’s job to show something that readers don’t recognize right away. You’re creating your own stories, your own universe. At first people are wary of it, but then you connect them to something new, and you have a fan. We created books such as “Tommy,” about a boy with an imaginary friend who’s a serial killer. A dark comedy, it has been one of Creature Entertainment’s most celebrated titles.
At my own store, I see parents as well as kids come in. We talk about the comic books they see lining the store’s walls. We talk about current story arcs and series developments, and how characters have evolved. And we talk, a lot, about the childhood comic-book heroes that we like and even admire. Classics like Batman and Spiderman are still popular, but new heroes like Ms. Marvel and Valiant’s Faith and indie books like “Saga” are bringing new readers to the fold.
The world of comic books isn’t a boys’ club, either, because women are among the biggest fans. Female characters of all types, with their tales and exploits, are widely read — Marvel Comics’ “Storm,” Image Comics’ “Paper Girls” and DC Comics’ “Wonder Woman” are among them.
Because of my work, I get to talk to many people who have a hand in deciding what comics will get made; they look for never-before-told tales as well as for creative talent. It’s great to hear from other writers, illustrators, storytellers and others impressed by what they see coming out of Miami. Artists like Jeff Dekal, Vanessa Del Rey and Jose Varese from the “305”, for example, work with major publishers such as Image Comics as well as DC Comics and Marvel.
I’m often asked, “What’s going on down there?”
A good place to find an answer to that is at the Miami Book Fair, which starts Sunday at Miami Dade College in downtown Miami (www.miamibookfair.com). Here, comic-book creators will share and talk about their work.
This year at the Street Fair, there’s a section where all the graphic novelists/comics vendors will be. That stretch is Section A on Kyriakides Plaza — the pedestrian plaza between Northeast First and Northeast Second avenues (the street that separates Buildings 1 and 2).
At the fair, you can talk to creators of some of the most exciting stories you’ll ever see on a page. Everyone can find something here that will nourish their soul.
Juan Navarro is editor in chief and CCO of Creature Entertainment, and owner of Tattoos and Comics at 9160 NW 122nd St., Suite 8, in Hialeah Gardens. Connect with him at @fwacata and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Miami Book Fair starts Sunday at Miami Dade College in downtown Miami (www.miamibookfair.com).
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