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Four Corners: One Common Thread – Comic Books
Tom Brevoort has played an integral role in the success of such Marvel Comics classics as The Avengers, Captain America and Fantastic Four for the past 14 years. The 46-year-old senior vice president of publishing—who’s also Marvel’s executive editor—traces his love affair back to growing up in Farmingville and a chance encounter with a stack of comic books that caught his eye while on a trip to the local 7-Eleven with his father. “I fell into it,” he says. Speaking from his office inside the company’s Manhattan headquarters, the current Ronkonkoma resident recalls how he was offered an internship in the summer of 1989 and was hired that December as an assistant editor. Though his positions have changed throughout the years, Brevoort’s passion for the industry knows no bounds. “It’s pretty phenomenal,” he says of his career. “I have an aptitude for it, I like it, I enjoy the people, I enjoy the characters and all the crazy stuff we come up with.” His favorite Marvel character, if he had to name one? “The Thing,” of course.
Joe Ciano is living the dream. The 22-year-old Syosset resident and recent graduate of SUNY New Paltz jumped at an opportunity to intern for self-owned comic book company A.P.N.G. Enterprises and is now contributing to its futuristic series, New-Gen. Ciano is working on the character Carmen, a girl battling self-doubt who fights to discover her inner confidence and strength. “Writing was always a passion, especially comic book writing,” he says from his Manhattan workspace—a bare desk surrounded by towering characters peering over his shoulder. “You read comics so much, eventually you get ideas for what you want to do.” Ciano began developing his own comic book script while still at Syosset High School—but his love for comics blossomed in middle school, around the time of the new X-Men movies, which also happens to be his favorite series. “They’re respected but they’re not the popular kids,” he says of the superhero mutants. Ciano, like other comic book lovers, has grown attached to a specific character. “Juggernaut,” he says, a mutant possessing otherworldly strength. “You see something of yourself in them.”
THE STORE OWNER
It all started in a “hideous place,” Frank Verzyl, the current owner of Long Island Comics in West Babylon, says. The 60-year-old opened a closet-sized comic book shop in the basement of a Greenwich Village movie poster store, affectionately dubbed “The Batcave,” when he was just 24. Eventually outgrowing the building’s cellar, he moved its operations to Bay Shore, then West Babylon, in 1977. There it stands, packed to the brim with vintage issues and modern titles ranging from The Plastic Man and Wonder Woman to The Dark Knight and The Avengers. They cover the walls, bursting from bookcases and boxes from one end of the store to the other. “This is actually the longest-running comic book store on Long Island,” he says emphatically. Verzyl credits comics with teaching him how to read. That became apparent to his kindergarten instructor too, who after three months realized she was just wasting her time. “The next thing I knew I was in first grade,” he laughs. Verzyl resides in his childhood home in Lindenhurst and has amassed nearly 100,000 comics. Good thing he stayed put. “I would shudder to think how I would move everything,” he says. Verzyl is a survivor, just like his favorite character, Batman.
Ryan Lynch was bitten by the comic book bug during his freshman year at SUNY New Paltz. “I didn’t really get into it until late,” he admits, “but when I got into it I got into it.” Now a graduate, the medium-build 22-year-old from West Islip has returned to Long Island with a degree in physics—and an obsession that he won’t be able to kick any time soon. In four years he’s amassed a collection that numbers in the thousands, spanning decades and filling his bedroom to the max. It’s almost claustrophobic. Comic compilations crowd multiple bookcases and shelves. Posters plaster the walls. Comics cram long white boxes in a neatly organized, meticulously controlled chaos. Many were purchased at nearby Long Island Comics in West Babylon. “Obviously there’s no shortage of material,” he says. Just as voluminous is Lynch’s knowledge of the industry. He rattles off related facts at a head-spinning pace and is comfortable, even, speculating about the industry’s future despite his late introduction. “It’s a really good time to be a comic book fan,” he says. Perhaps there is a good reason Lynch talks about comics at such a feverish pace: “I’m a Flash guy,” he says.