Arts & Culture, Broward

Not at Comic-Con: Episode IX – A Welcoming Center for Fandom

One young man’s Superman costume was drenched in sweat that was soaking through the thin fabric of his red cape. A woman wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt has chapped lips, frosted with ashy, pale, dry skin, she takes a guzzle of blue Gatorade that drips down her lips. A dimpled cheek young-man feels a whoosh of heat when he removes his Batman logo cap that’s swaddled in sweat, and sweat feels like warm soup being poured down his back. It looks like heat rained down on these comic book and pop culture fans at Tate’s Comics in Lauderhill, FL, like a breath from hell. Speaking of hell, one cosplayer’s costume towers and shadows above everyone, with tentacles that could shoot out and pull you into its mouth of rows of razor-sharp teeth. The demon walks slowly on the pavement and each step sounds like bones being crushed. fans line up for the cosplay parade and smile while taking countless pictures and videos. The eyes on a child crinkle as he smiles and says, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Summertime in the comics industry means two things, big-budget superhero blockbusters and comic conventions. Comic conventions that offer an explosion of pop culture, comic books, artist, video games, movies, cosplay and events that bring joy to the hearts of comic book-loving fans and communities nationwide. ‘Tate’s Comics’ is bringing the heat this summer for their ninth annual ‘Not at Comic-Con’ event.

‘Tate’s Comics’ is a local Lauderhill, FL, favorite, even outside of the comic book crowds. For over 25 years, ‘Tate’s Comics’ has been running the game in the South Florida comic book scene. The Lauderhill location is 6,000-square-feet of all your favorite comics, graphic novels, anime, toys, statues, collectibles, Japanese snacks, art, and more groovy items.

The once a year event, ‘Not at Comic -Con’, is in July and on a Saturday. ‘Tate’s Not at Comic-Con’ offers everything and more than your usual comic convention. It’s the only place you’ll see green hair as big as Styrofoam ray guns, glistening steel claws made from foil paper, and cardboard made robots. ‘Tate’s Not at Comic-Con’ offers informative mini-panels, local artist, prizes, trivia, it’s an opportunity to make new friends, cosplay (the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game) and unlike the other “real” comic conventions, the fandom experience is free for all.

Fans gather by the hundreds every year for ‘Tate’s Not at Comic-Con’. One of those fans, Jamie Foster, who’s cosplaying as the purple-haired mermaid Cala Maria from ‘Carpet’ says, “My skirt [a neon-colored fishtail mermaid design] took a month to make.” Foster, who has been creating costumes since she was eight-years-old says, “If you’re just starting out, work with what you have. Get a sewing machine or hemstitch.”

Foster, who’s been at ‘Tate’s’ so many times that she got married at the comic book store, was also there with cosplayer Jared Vanorden. Vanorden, who attended the event dressed as the orange jacket-wearing ninja Naruto, says, “I’ve been working on the outfit for years since I was ten-years-old.” Vanorden ended by adding that every year he tweaks his costume to make it better every year.

Local artist and first time vendor at ‘Tate’s Not at Comic-Con’, Samantha Adams, cools off from the summer heat by munching on her creamy crimson frozen strawberry shortcake scope from ‘Cosmos Ice Cream Truck’; Tate’s’ is making sure you stay cool this summer by offering Coral Springs famous ‘Cosmos Ice Cream’. Adams says, “It’s a delicious treat and this event stands out from other conventions because it’s a welcoming center for fandom and good family like environment.”

The Calhoun family brought us more than just their son Matthew Gordon Calhoun’s cosplay, but they also brought their family creativity to the event. Matthew has the speed, stealth, and skills when he is dressed as the black and yellow chest armored ninja known as Samurai Buzzsaw. This was Matthew’s first time at the event along with his family. Matthew says, “Me and my dad created this character together. He is very special to us because of the way he swings his sword around.” The young Matthew also added that his character’s motive runs on spiritual faith and that doing this cosplay character brought him and his family closer together.

Stephanie Greenberg and Terrance Wohlers are also here for the cosplay parade. Greenberg, who is engaged to Wohlers, says, “I’ve fallen out of cosplaying because of the money and the adult life is difficult. But I still love seeing all the cosplayers.” Wohlers rocks out in his Led Zepplin shirt while on the lookout for some cool figures for their collection. Wohlers says, “We have about a dozen figures,” until his finance, Stephanie Greenberg, cuts him off mid-sentence and says, “It’s at least over 50 in our collection.” Greenberg, added, “I love the atmosphere of being here with all the nerds and the nerd community.”

One thing that many people may not be aware of when it comes to the nerd community and cosplaying is body shaming. Drummer and Spike Spiegel from ’90s TVs ‘Cowboy Bebop’ cosplayer Caleb Mason Wright says, “One big thing I’d change in our community is when we have our friends being judged and told you can’t wear that or be that character based on your physical or overall appearance. It happens at conventions more than one may think and I have friends who have definitely been through that. More people are speaking up about it so that one can and has hit home for me for sure.”

Additionally, wearing black horned-rimmed glasses, two scruffy peach fuzz-faced teenagers cheeks turn rose-pink when Wonder Woman brushes back her rich shade of mahogany hair and winks at them. The teens almost trip over themselves in her presence and blush. Their blushing is a blooming color and it’s cute against their freckled skin.

When Hector Jaramillo isn’t debating with his friends about ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, Jaramillo spends a ton of time at ‘Tate’s’. Jaramillo, who hangs out in the ‘Star Wars’ section of ‘Tate’s while wearing his Spider-Man t-shirt says, “I do come to a lot of the events here, but I also spend a lot of time in general here.” Jaramillo mostly looks forward to buying comic books and does a good job of convincing his friends that ‘Star Wars’ character Rey played by actress Daisy Ridley is, “like (dramatic pause) amazing.”

Tate Ottati, who opened ‘Tate’s Comics’ back in March of 1993, says, “Not at Comic-Con differs from other conventions because it’s free to have a good time and I mostly look forward to the trailer we put out every year, ‘Quest for the Golden Tate’ series.” It is a series where the ‘Tate’s’ staff assemble to create videos where the staff play as the heroes to keep the Golden Tate possession safe from the Evil Luchador. “I don’t get to see it until it’s done, so it’s a fun surprise,” says Ottati.

Three men, wearing janitor like jumpsuits with the ‘Ghostbusters’ logo on their upper right arm, impatiently keep checking their watches. One of them holds a hand-held wand connected to a backpack with red and blue flickering lights while tapping his foot. The bearded Ghostbuster says, “The cosplay parade has started.”

Cosplayers of all ages, sizes, and characters join in and walk together for a group picture and take pictures with fans and staff. A man dressed in baggy clothes and mascara as dark as rum or the pits of the ocean jives to the flow of Daft Punks song “Get Lucky” that’s playing from the ‘Cosmos Ice Cream Truck’. A couple in matching Spider-Man shirts say, “Nice moves, Jack Sparrow.”

Laughter and small talk fill the air. The roar of the crowd is enthusiastic, smiles don’t leave faces and much like the summertime weather, the smiles of everyone are a ray of sunshine. When asked what Ottati would do if he had the Infinity Stones like in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, Ottati says, “If the stones gave me the power to do whatever I want to do or go wherever I wanted to go, I’d end a good day like today followed by a good vacation.”

Address: 4566 N University Dr, Lauderhill, FL 33351

Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 am – 9 pm and Sundays 11 am – 6 pm

Phone Number: (954) 748-0181

Social Media: @tatescomics

Images: Tate’s Comics Not at Comic-Con 2018

Pictures Taken By Gabriel Clarke and Nile Fortner

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