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Superfans create 'Welcome to Tate's,' a superhero series set at comic-book store

Comic-book supervillains have turned a Lauderhill store into a battleground for world domination in the new fan-made web series “Welcome to Tate’s.”

On his catastrophic first day as a clerk at Tate’s Comics, Larry White unwittingly frees iconic supervillains such as Green Goblin, Harley Quinn and Dr. Doom from the pages of comic books into the real world. These evildoers proceed to wreak havoc in the store. Batman adversary Bane punches Spider-Man villain Venom through a bookshelf. Not long after, bounty hunters arrive at the shop to capture and kill Larry. Captain America’s archenemy, Red Skull, even roughs up the hapless clerk and ties him to a chair.

These are the shenanigans that take place in Nathan Aaron's 10-part miniseries, with every episode set to premiere Sunday, June 25, at the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale. “Welcome to Tate’s” is the culmination of a three-year film project by independent filmmakers Nathan Aaron and White (who also plays the series’ protagonist of the same name), both superfans of Tate’s Comics.

“I see this [miniseries] as a love letter to the store and its fans,” says White, 30, of Miami, who helped to write, direct and produce the series. “My character’s first reaction upon walking into the store is the same way I reacted when I visited Tate’s for the first time in 2012: wide-eyed and amazed.”

“Welcome to Tate’s” was directed and written by White and Aaron, friends who bonded over a love of the comic-book store. The miniseries’ $10,000 budget came together through a Kickstarter campaign and Aaron’s own money — about $3,000 — which helped to finance green screens, supervillain costumes, custom-made props, lighting equipment and other technical wizardry. Real-life Tate’s employees Alex Teston and Nakia Xavier Mann and friend Aaron Claude Miller also write, direct and star in a handful of episodes, White says.

White and Aaron, by day video editors for a local production company, shaved costs by editing the film themselves. The duo filmed mostly inside Tate’s Comics with the blessing of its owner, Tate Ottati, who donated to their Kickstarter campaign and allowed them to shoot on Sunday evenings after the store closed.

“You can’t walk out of that store and not feel inspired, and Tate pretty much gave us the keys to his kingdom,” says Aaron, 32, of Fort Lauderdale, who says the idea for a Tate’s Comics-set series started when he volunteered to film events at the store. “We wanted to make it a miniseries instead of a movie because I was attracted to the idea of having a villain of the week, which is a trope in superhero comics and TV shows. But it lets you play around with clichés and pack in more jokes, which is more attractive than just having one main, epic story line.”

White describes his character as “a punching bag on the show, both for my co-workers and the supervillains,” drawing inspiration from his own experiences at Tate’s. Another inspiration: Tate’s impressive inventory of replicas, paintings and props, such as Thor’s hammer and the Infinity Gauntlet, which figure into multiple story lines.

“There were so many props and villain cameos, we can’t even remember how many we used,” White says.

After the miniseries screens at the Classic Gateway Theatre, Aaron and White plan to release one episode a week on WelcomeToTates.com, beginning Aug. 1. They’re still tinkering with the release schedule.

“The series feels like wish fulfillment,” Aaron says. “I’m at a loss for words about Tate [Ottati’s] generosity. If you’re a Tate’s fan, what’s cooler than a bunch of people wreaking havoc inside a beautiful store with epic villains running after them? That’s the charm.”

“Welcome to Tate’s” will screen 7-10 p.m. Sunday, June 25, at the Classic Gateway Theatre, 1820 E. Sunrise Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $5, and includes a post-screening Q and A. Call 954-763-7994 or go to WelcomeToTates.com.

pvalys@southflorida.com or 954-356-4364

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