Heroes Welcome

When asked what it is about comic books and graphic novels that attract people of all ages and from all walks of life into the store that he and his wife, Cristina, opened in June 2016, Stacey Giulianti points to the real-life plotlines that play out around the world.

“It feels like there’s this need for escape,” says the co-owner of Lauderdale Comics (1929 S. Federal Highway). “There’s so much [divisive] narrative today that you just want to see Wonder Woman lasso someone up and save the day. You want to see Spider-Man put a criminal in a web. You want a good story.”

The back story of why the chief legal officer and co-founder of Florida Peninsula Insurance opened such a side business may not rival Superman’s journey from Krypton, but it does speak to his love of the genre—and of his family. It was Giulianti’s oldest son, Nico (now 19), who had the vision for a comic book store that encouraged customers to stay awhile.

To that end, Lauderdale Comics offers coffee, Taiwanese bubble tea and other menu items; the industrial space has seating areas and large-screen TVs; customers can play classic arcade games for free; plus, there is a Pokemon league on Friday nights and other special events, including art classes.

In addition, the store trains its employees how to interact with customers on the autism spectrum.

“We wanted to create a space where those children and adults could be comfortable,” says Giulianti, whose store features comic/graphic novel titles, novelty items, museum-quality collectibles and more. “Everything is organized, we keep the music low, and it’s very clean. Plus, we typically have an employee who is on the spectrum. When they learn something, they become an expert. Our last employee knew everything to know about the Flash.”

Giulianti describes himself as “very geeky” in his youth. “My brother played on the high school football team; I was on the debate team.” The worlds of Marvel and DC Comics sparked his imagination then, and they still do today.

“In some ways, comics are our national mythology,” Giulianti says. “The only thing I don’t understand is how half a mask prevents someone from knowing who Batman is. If I walked around with half a mask, people in the office would be like, ‘Hi, Stacey, how are you?’”

Secret Identity

When his co-workers at Peninsula found out he was opening a comic store, Giulianti says they wanted to know whether he considered himself a hero or a villain.

“I’m a lawyer, so they immediately assumed that I was a villain,” he quips. “But I point out that Daredevil is a lawyer, a blind lawyer, and a hero. Justice is blind, right?”

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