Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Origin of a comic book nerd.

This blog was originally posted on my myspace blog on September 29, 2008.

I have decided to review every comic book that I read from this point on here in my blog. There are simply not enough geeks clogging up message boards and blogs, ranting about comic books and the state of the industry for my tastes. Before I begin, a little (actually, a lot) of back story. 

I started collecting comic books officially in January of 1983. Sure, I had many comic books before that (offhand: Star Wars Nos. 4-6; Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 165, 195, 196, 220, 221, 222; Fantastic Four Nos. 210 and 218; Dragonslayer No. 1; Detective Comics No. 478; Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man No. 38 (beginning my love affair with Morbius the Living Vampire); Moon Knight No. 12; probably many others, but those are the ones that I either still have from back then or replaced in the '80s (and can remember), but that cold wintry day was different. 

My Mom took me grocery shopping at Farmer Jack, and they used to sell sealed 3 packs of current Marvel Comics. It was something like 3 for $1.69, when the cover price was 60 cents. I got Amazing Spider-Man No. 239 (the second appearance of the Hobgoblin!!), Ghost Rider No. 79 and Thor No. 330. I thought that Thor totally sucked, what with how funny he talked and all. Mind you, I was 9 and a half at the time. That day, I read all 3 of these comics, and re-read them, and re-read them again. And again. I was bitten by the bug, hooked, sucked in.

A few weeks later, I got very, very sick. I caught a cold or the flu and my Mom kept me home from school for like a week. One day she ran to the store to get me some cough drops and came in with a stack of 10 comic books. These were not new ones, though, but weathered and dog-eared '70s and early '80s quarter box comics. I didn't care. Frankenstein Monster No. 10, Astonishing Tales No. 22 (featuring It! The Living Colossus, who should be re-tooled and re-launched for the 21st century), Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man No. 42 (a cliffhanger that I wouldn't find the conclusion to for like 3 or 4 years!), Werewolf By Night No. 8 (Krogg, the Lurker From Beyond! Badass as all get out, beeyotch), Marvel Double Feature No. 17 (the '70s reprint series that reprinted old Cap and Iron Man stories from the '60s), Marvel Team-Up Annual No. 4, and I can't as of this typing remember the rest. 

I devoured these issues over and over. Months later my Mom took me to this magic store that sold old comics for only a quarter (new comics were 60 cents at the time, remember): Magina's in Lincoln Park, MI. It's still there, although there are almost no comic books in there today. I wandered in there a year or two ago, and it still smelled the same, like musty, mildewy pulp paper. I love that smell, and if I could get an air freshener like it I would put it in my car. lol I made many trips there during the spring and summer of '83, spending my meager bi-weekly allowance on them, being briefly interrupted by Return of the Jedi cards. Once I acquired all of those, it was right back into comics. Around this time, I managed to finagle a weekly allowance. 

With this new found cash flow, I could now afford to buy more comics. I also became an entrepreneur of sorts. My sisters would often send me to the store for them, and being the chump that I was and still am, I would go grab them their snacks of choice. One day, my sister told me I could get a pop for myself. This then became my standard handling fee. I deduced that I could get a comic book and keep the remaining 15 cents for myself. Within 4 trips, I got another free comic book. 

This, coupled with my allowance, allowed me to follow a robust amount of titles. Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Marvel Tales (which at the time was reprinting the vintage Lee/ Ditko stories from the mid-'60s), G. I. Joe, Fantastic Four (the John Byrne era), Power Pack (a new series at the time), Iron Man (for about half a year), Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Alpha Flight, Micronauts: The New Voyages (totally badass at the time), Transformers, and the occasional issue of The Thing, Star Wars, Marvel Team-Up, The Avengers, and one day, the Uncanny X-Men. The cover said guest-starring Spider-Man and the Avengers. It was issue 190. I couldn't make heads or tales of this series! A few months later, I bought Issue 193, and was hooked.

I discovered "real" comic book stores, first the Book Bin in Lincoln Park, MI and, later in the summer of 1985, the Book Bank. I still bought the bulk of my books at 7-11, but trips to these stores became more frequent. These were direct dealers, and, as such, got their new books 3 WHOLE WEEKS ahead of 7-11. It was like taking a trip into the comic buying future! Could Spider-Man beat Firelord? Good God, I have to go to Quandt Park and find some more empty bottles to cash in so I can ride my bike to the Book Bank and get the next issue NOW!

Did I mention that I was a little scavenger? I would spend my summer mornings riding my sister's basket bike to the park, picking up around $1 or so worth of empties per day. I would buy a pop and save the rest for comic books. As 1985 gave way to 1986, my finances could no longer support this accursed hobby, so I had to turn to work. I got a Detroit News paper route. This influx of cash afforded me the luxury of buying all of comics from the direct market. I had arrived! 

I was gobbling up back issues at a rapid rate. In 1986, a VF copy of Amazing Spider-Man No. 129 (the first appearance of The Punisher) set me back a whopping $1.50. 122 (the death of the Green Goblin): $6.00! Uncanny X-Men No. 137 (the death of Phoenix): $7.00! I was a high roller. lol I managed to snag many lower condition copies, including Giant Size X-Men No. 1 for $15. Lower condition copies of Uncanny X-Men Nos. 94-142. It took me about 2 and half years to get all of those. Spider-Man was very unpopular in 1986, and, as such, back issues were cheap. I bought a ton of Silver Age Spider-Mans for like $2-3; Nos. 39, 40, 42, 46, 49, 59, 64, 66, 67, 78, 92, 96-98, 101, 102, 103, countless ones beyond that; there was a time that I had every single Issue of ASM from 1975-1989, annuals and all. I ended up getting Issues 8, 18-20, 25-27, 29-36, 41, many others before Issue 100. I had a dozen or so long boxes of comics. My brother and I shared a room, and I got rid of my dresser in my half of the room so that I could fit more long boxes in there. I stacked my clothes in piles, not caring where they went, so long as my comic books were ok. Oddly enough, I did not have a girlfriend in my teens. 

I bought comics until late '89/early '90. I can't remember when anymore. I was dropping titles in rapid succession, and eventually started going to buy comics once a month. The lure of music and girls shut out comic books for a long time for me. That, and the stories and artwork no longer resonated with me. Todd McFarlane was a breath of fresh air when he got on Amazing Spider-Man, but the rapid succession of this new breed of "artist" soured me on the hobby. Sadly, I parted with 95% of my treasures when my Mom died in the mid-'90s. Food and shelter took precedence.

One day around '97 or '98 I stopped in a comic store to look around. I picked up a hardcover collecting the first ten issues of Amazing Spider-Man called a Marvel Masterwork. The dust jacket was one of the "ComiCraft" era ones. I read it and put it away, forgetting all about it for years. When I moved in with my wife, I was going through all of my books, and stumbled across this nice book. I re-read it, and it was like a junkie getting a taste, waking up the sleeping dragon. I proceeded to get the remaining few Masterworks that were out there. The program was on mothballs, and I had to resort to eBay for some. Then they relaunched it. I bought them. Then I discovered collections of modern material, called trade paperbacks (or graphic novels if you go to Borders or other fine mass market bookstores). I could now follow the newer adventures of Spider-Man in book form. No more long boxes, bags and boards, I told myself. It's not like collecting comic books, see, they are just BOOKS

Fast forward 5 years later; I have over 700! All bought with my allowance and other entrepreneurial pursuits (like selling my old concert shirts on eBay, cat sitting, mowing lawns, etc. lol). When I was 13, I had a paper route and an allowance, which I used to buy comic books and Slurpees. For the last 5 years, I have had an allowance which I have used to buy comic books and Slurpees (actually, I kicked Slurpee habit 2 years ago). The circle is complete, life is good, the yin has yanged, and all is in balance in the universe. Either that, or I am just a major league dork. Oh, and I still buy from the Book Bank, although it was morphed names and moved many times. It's current incarnation is Big Ben's Comix Oasis in Allen Park, MI. On to the reviews!

1 comment:

  1. So it started with Book Bin. Same for me, but it didn't last. Although BB had a decent selection, they didn't stock much beyond Marvel, DC, and Comico. And independent press was where it was at when I was in the tail end phase of my collecting. I wanted to get my hands on those black and white comics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but BB just wouldn't stock the stuff.

    I still will read an occasional graphic novel--that's what they were called back then anyways, but the days of following Spiderman or Justice League are deifinitely long gone.