Glaister Silverback Ormsby autographs his work for a fan.
By KEITH C. WADE
Special to South Florida Times
Opa-locka, FL – As a geeky kid growing up in Miami Gardens during the 80s, comic books were the equivalent of nirvana on the page. Few things produced the level of euphoric elation in me like bursting into the comic book store on a late Wednesday afternoon when all the new issues would hit the shelves.
I have personally begged, borrowed and risked bodily harm to get to North Miami Beach to hit the now long gone Tropic Comics, or the still hanging in there Villains comic book store. Till this day, I find a sense of peace and tranquility walking through the aisles of Tate’s Comics or Past, Present, Future in Broward county. I’ve even taken a few dates there. (Which probably explains why I’m single. Don’t judge me God knows my heart).
Anyway, that trek is a bit much, especially for kids south of county line road. For one day, however, thanks To Jeff Carroll and Troy Bernier, that galaxy far, far away, got a lot closer.
Enter the first annual South Florida Comic and Sci-Fi Expo on Dec. 29. An event held right in the heart of Opa-locka, and sponsored by the Opa-locka Community Development corporation and the City of Opa-locka. Founders Jeff Carroll and Troy Bernier searched all over South Florida for fertile ground to sow the seed of comic book festivity, until Opa-locka came calling.
“We’d been working on the idea for a while and never really could find the right fit, until the city of Opa-locka kind of found us. They opened their doors and made the whole process a joy,” according to Carroll, an educator in Broward County Public Schools. Carroll is one of the leading and most active personalities in the South Florida science fiction community. A seven-time author and film maker, Carroll’s passionate belief in the power of science fiction fuels his “community activist” type stance on the need for an expo like this, particularly the city of Opa-locka.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of sci-fi for our youth, particularly youth of color. We need a vision of ourselves in the future, and artistically science fiction provides that,” Carroll explained.
Troy Bernier, a huge name in the science fiction community as founder of the Miami International Sci Fi Film Festival, shares Carroll’s ambition and passion for the genre and its vital importance to the community.
“We want the whole picture. We want the whole perspective in terms of the diversity of science fiction and science fiction stories that come from diverse communities like this one,” said Bernier, a real-life Mr. Fantastic/Dr. Strange and actual scientist working on his doctorate in Geology. His groundbreaking film ‘Planet X: Frozen Moon,’ was the first science fiction film produced in the South Florida area.
Carroll and Bernier welcomed a modest but eager crowd of comic book sci-fi lovers to the Opa-locka Arts and Recreation Center, appropriately called the ARC. The event, complete with several local comic book artists and science fiction fantasy creators delighted the crowd with the hidden gems they didn’t even know existed right in their own back yard.
Author A. Stanford and her book ‘Princess So’la, In my World,’ was a favorite with several young ladies who don’t often find characters that reflect or represent them. Artist/author George Moss brought his mother and father to experience and submerge in the world of all things geek.
“I’m so blessed that they not only support me, but love the path I’m on and the work I do,” Moss shared.
It was an afternoon patterned after my own dreams. As a science fiction novelist, (‘A Warrior’s Path: Alpha,’) the marrow of my bones is made of this stuff. It was a delight to see kids from the neighborhood wander in and get immediately assimilated into a world so different but welcoming. It was a type of escapism we all desperately need. For the day, Carroll, Bernier and all the other artists became our heroes, and for me, a recall of that Wednesday afternoon, Saturday morning magic I thought was lost forever.