When Matt Live was young, he would visit comic book and collectible stores with his dad. He wasn’t an avid comic book collector, but he enjoyed finding action figures and the occasional "Magic: The Gathering" trading card.
It wasn’t until he was in his 20s that comic books started to enter his life. And even then, it wasn’t until a few years ago, in his early 30s, when he discovered the impact comic books could have — especially with children.
Live now owns a comic book and education nonprofit, Bat City Comic Professionals. Live and his wife, Shannon Live, founded the organization in Austin, Texas, opening a brick-and-motar location in the Texas capital in October 2019. They moved the operation to a downtown Bradenton storefront in 2022.
Back in Texas, one day a little girl who frequented the store came in with her allowance money. She had $20 and bought comic books for her brother, sister and mom. When Matt Live asked what she was going to get for herself, he remembers her saying, ‘I don’t need anything for myself. If I can help my family then it helps me.’
“There was this moment of ‘oh my god, that’s the exact same thing that I’m doing,’” Live says of his mission with comic books. Part of the nonprofit sells comic books to support the other part, which is focused on children’s education. Bat City Comic Professionals hosts classes and events geared toward improving the writing and reading skills of children through comic books.
On this little girl’s birthday, she came into the store looking to purchase a new book and these story cubes Live says have pictures on them. The objective of the cubes is to roll them and come up with a story based on those pictures, which can be anything from a ship wheel to a castle.
She was short by $1, but Live came to her rescue saying he wasn’t even going to charge her that day because it was her birthday.
When Bat City Comic Professionals had packed up to move to Bradenton, she walked in with a comic book she made out of stories she came up with using the story cubes. Live says the book is 18-20 pages “with an intro in it about how the comic book store being there changed her life.”
In the back she wrote that when she’s old enough, she’s going to use her money to fly to Florida and visit the store.
“I keep it in my desk drawer next to where I work,” Live says. “Whenever I’m sad or I don’t feel like the business is going in the right direction, I take out Julia’s book and I read it.
“This is exactly why we do this.”