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Saturday, January 14, 2006

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Comics

Over on the Brill Building, Ian posted a small bit on the history of his comics buying habits; how he used to read them as a kid, then stopped in his teens and later got back into it. He asked people to share the reasons they got back in, and the whole thing got me to thinking about my history with comics.

So, in case you were wondering what brought me to this lowly state, where I spend a good portion of my workday reading fifteen issues of Sleepwalker instead of doing anything remotely productive with my time.

Featuring Superman's yellow boots!It all started, in a manner that I'm sure is familiar to a lot of you, at the AmeriStop convenience store across from my Grandparents' house. I was three, and the first comic I ever bought was DC Comics Presents #83, which featured some great Jim Aparo art and a coloring mistake that ensures I'll always remember this issue as the one where Superman inexplicably had yellow boots for like two seconds.

Incidentally, it also contains this panel:

Alfred Pennyworth: Naked Man of ActionSo there's that.

Anyway, I bought a lot of comics at that store, including issues that featured a certain battery-throwing incident that hooked me into a lifetime of comics reading. But it was more than that.

I remember being a kid and having my dad tell me stories as I went to sleep. While other kids got Robin Hood and Aladdin, I was hearing Dad's story about this artist--I could never quite remember his name--who used to draw Thor, his favorite book, but got mad at Marvel and left for DC. "So he started a new book, Christopher," he'd say, sitting in the dark. "But because he wasn't doing Thor, he had to come up with something new. So he did a story about how after the Old Gods had died..." He took a drag from his cigarette, pausing for effect, "...there came the New Gods."

Needless to say, I never had a problem with my parents throwing away my collection.

Not that it would've been a great loss if they had. I was never really a "serious collector" as a kid, but I was constantly buying comics, even as my other obsessions came and went. When I was nine and I was really into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had a copy of the Eastman/Laird graphic novel. When I was ten, and just getting into pro wrestling for the first time, I remember picking up issues of Marvel's WCW series at a crappy gas station. Plus, the Batman TV show came on right as I got home from school, and I couldn't get enough of it.

Senses-shattering!By the time I was twelve, I'd moved away from the DC Super-heroes, and was more into Marvel, where the characters are scientifically designed to appeal to teenagers. I'd gotten a small, novel-sized paperback that reprinted the Claremont/Byrne story where the X-Men team up with Spider-Man and first encounter Arcade. It rocked my world, and I became a hardcore X-Men fan despite my father's assertions that Wolverine's super-power just meant that he could get beat up a lot. I lost interest when Age of Apocalypse hit, moving over to the Spider-Man titles and thrilling to the Mark of Kaine saga, which I carried with me everywhere.

There's a scene in one of those where Peter Parker breaks out of prison and goes to fight Kaine--the often-overlooked third clone--by using a giant webbing slingshot to shoot steel girders at him, while wearing a wifebeater, a leather jacket, and his black mask and gloves. I'm pretty sure that if I ever read it again it'll be terrible, but at the time, I couldn't stop reading that issue.

Of course, I eventually got bored with that and stumbled straight into the waiting arms of Image Comics. I even met one of my best friends when I was reading a copy of WildCATs in my seventh grade math class which means, as loath as I am to admit it, I owe one of my most lasting friendships directly to Jim Lee. But what really kept me around was J. Scott Campbell's Gen13, which as a teenager, I loved, probably due to the high breast-to-spandex ratio that kept my rapidly shrinking attention span riveted in my younger days.

When I was fifteen, my dad died, and my sister and her husband moved down to South Carolina. I'd mostly fallen out of comics by then, except for the Karl Kessel/Cary Nord run on Daredevil, which had gotten me back into Marvel, but my brother-in-law David was a big fan, and he got me back into them, giving me sound advice like: "Hey, check out this issue of Starman." The shop here in the SMT is all but worthless, so I started tagging along on the drive up to Columbia to shop at Wizards and Villains, first with David and then with my mom, spending the hour-long trip back reading by the light in the car, developing my habit of knocking everything out by Wednesday. I ended up blowing a fair chunk of my inheritance on comics, and eventually got a job at the store, which pretty much brings you to now.

And while I'm not proud of it, I do have to admit: I once wrote a paper for my Freshman English class that defended the Rob Liefeld Captain America. Shut up, I was young. The assignment had been to write a persuasive essay, and when I went to clear my topic with the teacher, he agreed, but then looked at me and said: "Chris, you're in high school now. Don't you think it's time you stop writing about comics and grow up a little?"

Apparently, I didn't.


Blogger e said...

I had that same paperback X-men comic. I can't believe that book played an instrumental role in someone's comicreading experience.

1/15/2006 7:11 AM

Blogger Aaron said...

Hey! Liefeld's Captain America was fanfuckingtastic at the time... Who wrote that? Wasn't it Loeb? You've got to admit the writing was pretty damn solid, even if Cap had put on some serious boob.

1/16/2006 1:03 PM


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