Last Saturday was International Read Comics in Public Day. Did you miss it? Do you even know where your local comic books store is? Such stores have gone the way of Blockbusters and dodo birds; they're practically extinct. Tate's Comics in Broward gets a lot of love, but what about Miami's own A&M Comics? It's one of the oldest comic book stores in the country.
When you walk into A&M Comics on Bird Road, you might think that you've walked into a taping of A&E's Hoarders. It's stocked from ceiling to floor with comic books, collectible figures, T-shirts, and posters. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the array of comic book paraphernalia, and even the owner admits that there is no kind of inventory taken, per se.
such as an original Cuban cavalry uniform from 1943, a Superman #10
signed by its creators Siegel and Schuster, and original Peanuts
animation cells. Good grief. The shop even carries antique dolls, although Jorge's biggest clients are still comic
It's up for debate whether A&M Comics, named for its original owners, Arnold and Maxine, is the second or third oldest running comic book store in country. But it's definitely in the top three. There was one in Chicago that closed down, there's one near the Empire State Building that carries comics but is actually a newsstand, and then there is A&M.
The store was born in the mid-70s and there were two previous owners who held the store for a about three years each before current owner Jorge Perez. Back then Jorge was just a customer and would come in to the shop every week to pick up his comic book subscription. He had been collecting comics since he was a kid when he started reading Archie and Richie Rich comics while bored during family vacations. He once lent a friend a dollar, and when the friend couldn't cough up the 100 pennies, he paid Jorge back in comic books.
You can talk to Jorge about any kind of comic from any time period and from any publisher. He knows the biggies like Marvel and DC, but he's also familiar with indie publishers like Dark Horse and Image. With so many years in the biz, he's seen it all. Like the parents in their twenties and thirties who grew up playing video games instead of reading, bringing their kids into the shop in the hope that their kids will fall in love with comic books and reading, instead of experiencing difficulties in school and work like their not-so-literate parents have.
Jorge says that most Miami customers are very open to trying out new comics. Of course, there are those who just come in every time a new superhero movie comes out so they can research a character whom they've never read a single comic about, to have some background on the character. (Ahem, Scott Pilgrim.)
He's witness changes in the comic book industry, from the days when comic books served as an escape from life's problems, to the present when comic books purposefully delve into life, politics, and social issues. "People today are more creative. They say and do things in comic books that weren't done 20 years ago," Jorge says, "and they put their stuff on the internet, which is good and bad. They get published, but they lose control of their work. People can take their ideas."
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