What sold you into comic slavery?

This question has been asked numerous times between comic nerds all over the internet and in the crowded passages of conventions. So, what’s your answer? Something pushed you over the line setting off the endless hunger for more pretty pictures with words. And I’d like to know.

I have to think pretty far back to see what cause my incessant lust. My very first comics were a subscription to Beano. Many of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s a British comic featuring a collection of different stories involving the different school-children that make up the cast. It’s very funny. I loved Minnie The Minx, and the Bash Street Boys. A few issues of Dandy crept into my collection as well.

I remember every fortnight I’d leave the hose in the morning and walk to the Cards ‘n Candy to pick up my comic, some Smarties or a Flake, and whatever else Mum needed. I’d eat my candy and read my book on the way home. It was a nice walk too, through a small path in the tall grass along a farmer’s fields. The air always smelled nice.

My first American comics were all varying Archie digests. My father gave me subscriptions to several of them: Jughead, Betty & Veronica… I also had subscriptions a few of the singles as well: Pals ‘n Gals, the odd adventure one that put them in fantasy situations and such, and the diary themed ones. The odd Loony Toon comic also creeped in there from time to time.

I’d hardly say that sold my soul. That was more like reading a magazine. Everyone in the house had their own periodicals and the Archie comics were mine. I didn’t really know of anything else. However, that certainly developed the habit. The desire to look at art and read bubbles was pretty much hardwired into my brain at that young age.

Then one year Christmas left me a sock full of comic books. Real comic books. Yes, my father had snagged my subscription books and shoved them in there, but there were others as well and they won first dibs of my attention. There were a couple Star Trek comics, two different Uncanny X-Men comics, and some DC Annual. I remember one of the X-Men covers featuring the Professor on the cover and I remember it seemed to be nothing more than Magneto interviewing him about past experiences.

I couldn’t get into X-Men. I watched the cartoons that aired the same time Pizza Hut was offering them as part of their kid’s meal. I thought they were the coolest thing, but I never bothered with comics, even to this day. There’s just so much of it I wouldn’t know where to dive in. I did get almost halfway through the first Exiles. I also read a chunk of the first book that collected the original X-Men stories. I seem to remember the pages reminding me of a colouring book.

The Star Trek comics were neat. To this day I’ve been collecting the stories that interest me, but that didn’t set me over the edge, either. It was that unusual DC Annual that hooked me. It featured a story centered around Valor. The story was just a hair on the dark side and it was self-contained. I didn’t need any prior knowledge or to get anymore. And it was a thick comic. This gave me my first true taste of a superhero. I read it over-and-over. Sometimes just looking at the pictures. It was far more interesting and entertaining to me than the middle of some X-Men plot that didn’t make any sense.

The odd thing is, I never really went out and bought comics. My friends didn’t read them, so the concept of there being actual comic shops totally escaped me. Where I’m from, you simply had to visit a newsstand. If they didn’t carry what you wanted, they could get it for you.

It wasn’t till after my college days when I had struck out on my own that the world of comics finally revealed itself to me. I was living in Portland, then, and there were some awesome comic books shops. Things From Another World was my first experience. Right across the street from Dark Horse. That was like a paradise. So many figurines, busts, and other collectibles crammed in a sea of books with even more interesting things next door where they keep their overflow.

I spent so much money there. I can still remember some of the things I got when I was there. The first Cerberus volume, the first two Bone volumes, a Star Wars TPB all about Jabba, a Darkminds poster as well as everything they had from it (which still left me with some gaps), something Sandman, and something Warhammer.

I spent the whole weekend slowly devouring those books and the next weekend I went to a different comic shop that was much closer where my daily payday ritual of buying books followed by lunch at Tony Bento began.

It started with Valor and remained dormant until my stepping foot into TFAW released it, turning me into the voracious addict I am now.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Bent Spoon
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 07:14:44

    I’m a recovering comic book junkie. I’ve been clean for a while now, but that really just means I’m in prime position to fall back into old habits.

    I used to get a $2.00/week allowance, which meant that every Sunday when Dad and I drove into town to get a newspaper, I could afford a new matchbox car, reinforcments for my plastic army men, some candy or whatever else 5 year olds covet. At some point, the bright colors on the cover of an Archie comic must have caught my attention. Over the next few months, a Superman comic, a Batman comic, and maybe something with the Avengers found their way into my rotation. The actual issues are just a stylized blur in my memory. I recall despairing when I found their much-worn and abused husks years later.

    At some point I was snared by the X-men. This may have been due to the influence of an older cousin or uncle who left an issue or two lying around where I could find them. I was progressing past the gateway drug.. experimenting with story arcs and character development. I didn’t know it yet, but I was hooked.

    The collection grew at a linear pace for several years, meaning that it could still be stored in a box in the closet. By and large, my source was limited to whatever I could find on the single, spinning rack at the local gas station. My selection wasn’t updated but once every few months. I remember finding a grab bag of comics in one of the Christmas Wishlist catalogs from JC Penny one year and emphatically circling it in red ink. It wasn’t subtle, but it netted me the first appearance of Gambit. Another year, my uncle bought a lot of comics at an Auction for $10.00 and passed them on to me for my birthday. These were relics from another era; yellowed war comics filled with stereotypical buck-toothed Japanesse, Martians with ray guns, werewolves, The Black Widow’s introduction of Hawkeye to an Iron Man I hardly recognized. A world existed beyond the rack of comics at the gas station. I raided another uncle’s collection when he went away to college; my coup de grace. I was finding exotic books that had previously been beyond my horizons.

    I unwittingly met a fellow addict in Junior High. He had a footlocker full of books that he had plundered from a relative as well. We traded comics like they were baseball cards. We shared sources – we pooled resources. We went door-to-door in the summer cutting grass so that we could increase our mail-away order size and swell the mystery grab bag that we would divide up like theives. We scavenged scrap metal. We horded aluminum cans. I had a monkey on my back just like he did. And we were finding unusual titles in the dregs of our grab bag that we were both reluctant to claim. I was slowly developing a taste for these oddities. My pump was primed when we found “Mutants and More” in the yellow pages, 30 miles away.. my first comic store.

    I can still taste the place.. faintly musty, carpet peeling, a failing air conditioner coughing its death rattle. And wall-to-wall comics. I was unprepared for the unfiltered beauty. Through high school I indulged my growing exotic tastes. My collection swelled until it could barely fit in my closet. I dropped my favorite titles in clear bags and pinned them to my walls until there wasn’t a spare square inch showing in my room.

    I became a veteran. I became a pusher. In college, as soon as tuition and rent were paid, the remainder of my meager paycheck went to “Star Comics” (I defected and “Mutants and More” eventually went out of business). I was a connoisseur, yet ravenously consumed back issues of Poison Elves or Hellboy or Bone or Cerberus.

    Then I got married.

    My disposable income dried up. The comics couldn’t stay up on the walls. I shifted the boxes full of comics from closet, to garage, to attic; grumbling each time about humidity or direct sunlight, but knowing in my heart of hearts that I was beaten. I was reformed against my will.

    I take my nephews to the comic store every once in a while now.. they can amass their own collections, but they won’t be raiding mine. I get pangs of regret.. withdrawls that stop just short of the shakes. I can pick up a book and thumb through it, and with an effort of will, place it back on the rack. I’ll occassionally earn a pink slice of pie in Trivial Pursuit due to my former life, but I’m not on the bleeding edge any more.

  2. guuthulhu
    May 16, 2009 @ 11:49:13

    There should be medals for fans like you.

    I find myself getting sad that I can’t simply buy everything that interests me anymore. There are bills to pay and I can’t live off noodle cups, rice, and eggs anymore just so I can pick up everything I want. I’ve gotten older and my body has started getting fussy and talking back. I’m just grateful that my end hasn’t come yet and I will fight it for as long as I can.

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