By Andrew Wroblewski
Not every superhero needs to have a cape. In the case of Michael Bradley – longtime owner of Huntington Station comic shop Collectors Kingdom – to be remembered as a superhero by those around him, all he needed to do was be himself.
“Michael touched a lot of people’s lives; he had a huge heart and he loved what he did,” longtime friend Jade Torres said. “He ate and breathed comics, and he loved sharing them with every single person that walked through the door. With the shop, he created a safe haven. If anybody epitomizes what a superhero is, it was Michael Bradley.”
Bradley, of Huntington Station, died April 6 of natural causes, his family said, nearly four months after Collectors Kingdom was destroyed in a fire on Jan. 7. He was 48.
Bradley was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to his parents, Kathleen Dwyer and Peter F. After spending the first years of his life in Marine Park, Bradley, his two younger brothers, Steven and Kevin, and parents made the move to Port Jefferson Station. During the summer of his junior year at Newfield High School, Bradley traveled to Paraguay to do missionary work with a church group – an early manifestation of his desire to give back.
After high school, Bradley continued his education in Oklahoma, and then Minneapolis, as he studied theology. However, in his early 20s, Bradley decided to return to Long Island and began working as an assistant manager for a Huntington-based Pergament hardware store while enrolling at Farmingdale University, where he earned an associate’s degree in business.
During this time, Bradley said in an interview with Long Islander News last summer, he became infatuated with comics. At Pergament, Bradley was introduced to the then-managers of Collectors Kingdom and soon the idea of taking over a comic shop of his own was ingrained in his mind. Eventually, Bradley began to manage Collectors Kingdom, which first opened its doors at 202 West Jericho Turnpike in 1982.
Then, in 1994, Bradley assumed ownership of the shop, beginning what would become his legacy.
“Comics attract certain types of people and the shop became their own personal ‘Batcaves’ where they could feel comfortable – where they could be a part of a community,” Torres, who eventually came to work with Bradley at the shop, said. “We watched generations of people grow up there; it’s his legacy, something to be proud of.”
While building a consumer base that kept coming back thanks to his generosity - and enormous stock - Bradley also traveled across the United States to comic conventions and shows to further the Collectors Kingdom namesake. In his 21-year-long stint as owner, Bradley established a Long Island staple for comic collectors everywhere.
On Jan. 7, however, Collectors Kingdom was destroyed in a fire that also gutted five other stores.
Bradley was devastated, but Torres said it was during that time that he came to realize just how many people had come to appreciate him and his shop. Along with some help, Bradley opened a satellite store at 135 West Jericho Turnpike less than a week after the fire and continued selling comics to his loyal fan base.
Now, nearly three months later, that same fan base mourns the loss of its superhero.
More than 100 comments were posted in response to the post announcing Bradley’s death on the official Collectors Kingdom Facebook account. Many paid their respects; others thanked Bradley for giving them a place to embrace their hobby. Others commended the man he was.
In light of Bradley’s passing, Collectors Kingdom is now permanently closed. Loyal customers of the store are asked to visit Next Generation Comics in Islip Terrace, where store owner Michael Hall, a friend of Bradley’s, will try to honor pre-orders for existing Collectors Kingdom customers.
“He was a beloved brother and uncle to my two children,” Steven, Bradley’s brother, said. “One thing I’ll remember about my brother is that he accepted all people and he would often help other people, unfortunately, before he’d help himself.”
That sentiment is something Bradley embraced.
“To have friends, you have to be a friend,” Bradley said in the 2014 interview.
Along with his parents and brothers, Bradley is survived by his sisters-in-law, Robin and Jenn, his six nieces and nephews and his stepmother, Jessica.
Arrangements will be made by M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station, with services on Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. The family asks that memorial contributions in Bradley’s name be made to the charity of your choice.