Saturday, September 5, 2009

Comic Books

Last week Disney bought Marvel Comics for 4 billion dollars. I haven’t been able to relate to comic book fans for years but comic books were a big part of my childhood.

I still have a hard time with the new X-Men and that happened in the 70s. And what’s up with all these graphic novels they’re turning into movies?

I think the comic book reading demographic must be getting older.

I had a large comic collection before I could read. I remember my friend Joe’s mom begging me to let her son borrow some because he didn’t have any. She made it sound like he was deprived.

I started reading them right when they went up from a dime to twelve cents. My local drug store had a machine you put a dime in one side of its slot and 2 pennies in the other side.

I remember being bribed by my mom’s friend and our roommate “Sandy from Maplewood,” to run to the drug store. She would buy a comic book for me. She gave me a dime and I had to explain that it wasn’t enough.

We moved in with Sandy right at the city limits in Richmond heights. It was the first place we lived after Laclede Town. I had to take the Bi-State bus to continue going to Waring school.

I broke my wrist falling from a town house in Laclede Town. The concrete hadn’t completely dried between cinder blocks and I was climbing up it from the outside. I was in second grade.

We had moved by the time the cast was to come off. My mother was broke and she couldn’t afford to take me back to the hospital to get it removed. Two weeks past time the unbearable itch and my desire for freedom of movement convinced her it was time for it to go. She cut it off with a hack saw in the bath tub.

My son is an avid comic collector. I used to worry a little because he only likes lighter stuff like The Simpsons, etc. He never got into super heroes. I have to admit I grew up liking things like Sad Sack and the DC super heroes. Sheesh, I even collected Archie comics. I never got into the Marvel characters with their personal problems. Why would I want to be reminded of things I was already going through when there was Bizarro World?

It seemed like every Superman had a panel with Lois saying, “How ironic!” That’s how I learned the word. That’s why it drives me crazy when Alanis gives examples of bad luck as incidents of irony. I love her more recent albums though!

When we moved to the county my mother and I met with my new 6th grade school principal.

“Does he read?” he asked. “His nose is always buried in his comic books, does that count?” she asked. Damn straight it counts!” I thought to myself.

This was the house where the tragedy occurred. Our basement flooded. My comics were stored in beer cases down there. When the flood receded there was a beautiful mound of multi-colored psychedelic pulp.

I think I had pretty much the same reaction my friend Mark Holland had when his huge Frank Zappa collection was stolen. He turned away from Frank and toward Jesus. I turned to Mad Magazine and wouldn’t read comics for years.

When Wuxtry, a used record store, opened up in the West End it wasn’t the music that attracted me. It was the fact that they carried comic books. I got a job there immediately and started building my collection again.

I started with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, trying to recapture my childhood. I began to appreciate newer artists and writers. This was when I decided Jazz and comic books were the great American art forms.

I would get angry when customers came in and called them “funny books.” “You never read a real comic in your life,” I fumed to myself.

Artists like Neal Adams, Will Eisner, Wally Wood, Carl Barks, Steve Ditko, and Barry Smith still haunt my dreams. There were great writer too. Steve Gerber, Eisner, Denny O’neil, Frank Miller, and Roy Thomas come to mind.

Recently I needed money and sold the first 6 issues of Silver Surfer. (I do have back-ups). There’s a new scam out there. I had to send them off to a rating agency. They gave them numeric grades and sealed them in air tight plastic cases. This is the only way you can sell them sight unseen over the internet. This cost thirty bucks apiece. It almost wasn’t worth it.

I probably won’t be selling any more. I had always intended my comics and my audio equipment to be my legacy to my kids. Unfortunately this kind of thinking has led to my son saying things like, “Dad, when you’re dead can I have ...?”

In 1954 a psychiatrist named Frederic Wertham wrote a book call Seduction of the Innocent. It preached the evils of this morally depraved art form. It scared the hell out of parents. The comic industry started policing itself. They came up with the Comics Authority Code. I am the proud owner of Spiderman and Green Arrow books published in the 70s that didn’t get that stamp. Both were drug issues.

The best comic company in the 50s when all this happened was EC. They were responsible for Tales from the Crypt, Creepy, Weird Science, Mad, and the true crime comics that were so graphic it was only a matter of time before they were shut down. They got rid of all their titles except Mad. They changed that to a full sized magazine. That made it legal for some reason.

Mickey Spillane had a story he had to convert to a novel. It became his first, “I the Jury”.

Mad Magazine had a profound effect on me too. I’ll get to that soon.


Anonymous said...

i loved reading comics as a kid too.mostly i liked the marvel and dc ones but i remember Plastic Sam and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers; it was so cool that you worked at Wuxtry, not only for all the albums that we could chintz out of you but to read all the classic editions of comics you had there. i have to admit i like seeing the old comics get the movie treatment, although some movies are not as good as others and i hate it when they dont really follow the story lines i remember... Geo

Anonymous said...

When I was a teen-ager (I think we were being called teen-agers by then), I was in Paragould, Arkansas, staying with my paternal grandmother, looking for a job. While I was at a drugstore one afternoon I spied MAD magazine, loved it, and of course, purchased it. It was the very first issue. I have no idea what happened to it. Who knew!?!

Your Mom

...Sharon said...

Hey, did ya know I also colored the EC comics? They were reprints of the originals.

We also worked on many independent titles. Some were just horrible. The worst one was a demo I was assigned to. It was the first issue of a series about real life serial murderers. They were producing collectible cards to go with the comics. I informed my boss that I would not be working on anymore.

Fortunately we didn't get the job.

...Sharon said...

I also worked on many Silver Surfer issues. He was difficult with so many highlights.

I wonder if he ever found a place to call home.

Doggie said...

Geo, you're the Joe I referenced. That was in Laclede Town. The first panel of Silver Surfer always seemed to be Him hovering above the earth as he lamented the loss of his wife. Trapped, forever doomed to protectect his newly adopted planet he loved so much.

Doggie said...

Hovering on his surfboard that is. The closest I could relate to a surfboard was when Tony surfed the cobblestones of the riverfront on an ironing board in the film for his song "Surf's Up"

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about the prevalence of technology in our day to day lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that discussion we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory decreases, the possibility of copying our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could encounter in my lifetime.

(Submitted on SKu2 for R4i Nintendo DS.)