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SALT LAKE CITY -- Mimi Cruz has the coolest job in the world. She is the manager of Night Flight Comics and has been since the first store opened in 1986 at the Cottonwood Mall.
Mimi started reading comics growing up in Seattle. She loved to read and in her family it was a high priority. She remembers learning to read at age 4 with the Sunday funnies. She said her first favorites from the Sunday paper were Dick Tracy, Beetle Bailey and Prince Valiant. When her family moved to a new neighborhood and she hadn’t made new friends yet or found the library, a neighbor gave her a box of old toys that her children had outgrown, and in the box Mimi discovered a pile of comic books. She started reading and fell in love with Jonah Hex and other comic book series, and never looked back.
He (Frank Miller) mentioned Night Flight in one of his issues of "Sin City," as Mimi's Night Flight Motel and Café. The name of the store is also in the movie version and he gives a shout out to Mimi in the DVD extras.
Part of the coolness of a comic book store is getting to meet some of the writers and artists. Chris Claremont, who had 17-year run on Uncanny X-Men, visited Night Flight not long ago. He had just finished writing a 16-issue run of X-Men Forever 2 after being away from the X-Men for a few years. His writing is dense and detailed, and many people think he defined the X-Men more than any other author.
Another friend of Night Flight is Frank Miller (“300”). He mentioned Night Flight in one of his issues of “Sin City,” as Mimi’s Night Flight Motel and Café. The name of the store is also in the movie version and he gives a shout out to Mimi in the DVD extras.
Night Flight and the Salt Lake City library appeared in an Archie comic, issue #570, scripted by George Gladir and drawn by Stan Goldberg.
You can check the Night Flight website, www.night-flight.com, for upcoming events. May 5 is Free Comic Book Day. It falls each year on the first Saturday in May, and comic book stores across the country offer free comic books to give readers a taste of what is available and new. Publishers like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW and others offer special issues of their titles. A lot of the titles are kid-friendly, including an issue of Yo Gabba Gabba! this year.
Mimi doesn’t just work at a comic book store, she is an avid fan. When asked, she had a hard time coming up with just three favorite series because there are so many titles she follows and enjoys. She said, “My all-time favorite right now is 'Fables,' by Bill Willingham.”
“Fables” is an award-winning series about fairy tale characters who have been exiled to our world. If that plot sounds familiar, keep in mind that the first issue of “Fables” came out in 2002. Mimi said her other favorite titles are “Legion of Superheroes,” “Huntress,” “30 Days of Night” and “Locke and Key.” She loves to talk about comics and is really passionate about them. She is always ready to recommend something new to a long-time reader or give suggestions for someone who is just getting started.
Comics are a wonderful blend of art and story that draw a reader in like no other form can. And because they so readily engage readers, Mimi uses comics to promote literacy through her Secret Origins of Good Readers program. She works with teachers and educators giving them comic book-related lesson plans to use in class. One of the lesson plans she is working on presents Batman as Hamlet and another uses well-known fables for a literature class.
Teachers tell me that kids who haven't turned in a paper all year will finish and turn in this assignment. It gives them a voice.
–- Mimi Cruz
She also does school presentations directly to the students where she tries to ignite sparks of reading in kids who may otherwise not pick up any other kind of reading material. She tells kids that anyone can write and draw their own story. And she gives them an opportunity to do that.
She said, “Teachers tell me that kids who haven’t turned in a paper all year will finish and turn in this assignment. It gives them a voice.” She remembers Frank Miller saying once that every individual with a pencil and a piece of paper can create a comic book.
She’s done presentations with the Utah Jazz bear and the Bear Hugs for Kids Program at the Guadalupe School. The program provides back-to-school clothes, backpacks and school supplies for low-income and at-risk kids. For Mimi’s part, she donated comic books to go along with the school supplies.
“At first the kids didn’t understand that the comic books were for them to keep,” she said. Then she got to see confusion turn to understanding and excitement as the kids realized they were getting books they could keep and read.
Besides local presentations, she holds workshops for teachers at Comic-Con and Wonder-Con conventions.
“Reading is the foundation for a fulfilling and happy life and gives someone the tools to make their life better. You can’t do anything if you can’t read.”
When she first started working at Night Flight, she saw customers come in to buy t-shirts and other comic-related merchandise, but she was shocked when some of them couldn't write a check. That is what initially inspired her to start her reading program.
If you are not doing what you love you are wasting your time.
–- Mimi Cruz
Kids and adults who are intimidated by a 350-page book might find it easier to start with a 28-page comic with cool artwork. Reading generally leads to more reading, and comics, with their mythological and hero saga stories, can easily lead kids to novels with similar themes and ideas.
“If someone can read they can find happiness and fulfillment. Reading is key to a happy life,” she said. She has been gratified to see a lot of success stories with her literacy program.
Mimi loves comics and really enjoys being around people that have so much enthusiasm and passion. She recently visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where she saw a quotation from Billy Joel that said, “If you are not doing what you love you are wasting your time.” Mimi is definitely not wasting her time.
After attending BYU and the University of Utah for five years and not being able to settle on just one major I decided to be a writer so I could keep studying all things wonderful and new.