Minus the era where we start only caring about what we can drink, smoke and get in the pants of, I am a life long fan of comics. Yet last year was the first time that comics were among my Christmas gifts. I love comics, and because who they came from I wouldn’t ever part with them, but it got me thinking on how much comics have changed. Let me clarify that ‘comics’ is personal to me, and I try not to associate my own experiences as those reflecting true majority industry trends (an element that I think plagues industry commentary, criticism and opinion). Our passions,
even especially if shared, should be personal. They are given magnitude because of that very fact, not because they mimic or ride the current high or whatever the opposite underground sentiment of the day is.
When I was a kid I used to go to the Star and Stripes book store every week to camp out in front of the shelves. I used to ride my bike to 7-11’s with friends motivated by the chance that the book store forgot to order a issue even though we knew they never did. I loved shopping. I couldn’t go to a grocery store without trying to prolong our stay in the line, trying to beat the checker to the last page of the comic that’s (at least) cover was shared with by everybody who bought other necessities like food. In my elementary years, my town had a weekend flee market where every third or fourth vendor was a comic dealer–I went there exclusively for the comics. This era is actually now somewhat universally condemned by most (note my above comment about trends–and some other thoughts I’ve had previously in Lost Image Fantastika and Future SF to Charish) by people who weren’t there or by those who lost money because of their own stupidity, but want to blame it on funny books. To the child of this era this was a golden age of excitement where Archer and Armstrongs, Monkeyman and O’Briens, Sandmans, X-Mens and Spawn’s alike could thrive, were talked about, were loved. 90% of all this happened in front of my parents – they were my ride – yet I never, not once, got
comics a single comic for Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve noted before, Christmas was fantastic when I was a kid. It was about Terrordomes, Cobra Hydrofoils, Laser Tag, U.S.S. Flaggs, Slip ‘n Slides, Rolling Thunders, and Six Shots. We are talking about getting Gauntlet and Commando for the Commodore 64 style events. For the cats in the know, we are even talking about the textual magic that wasZork. Comics on the other hand were everyday. They were standard. Comics were a part of growing up, not the annual bonus. I wouldn’t have been disappointed getting a longbox of comics, but it just wasn’t done. Christmas was magic, but comics were the everyday magic we were allowed.
Commentary regarding the transition of comics from a childhood fixture to the 30-somethings’ collectible or club literature is nothing new (and never was it not boring) and because I know this is where eyes start to roll, I made sure to qualify ‘comics’ at the very top. This is personal, between me and what’s under the tree. I sit here now looking at gifts I’ll open in the next hour or so, and as I ponder a rather suspicious 6 x 9, I can’t help but think of
Remember when you used to tear the Christmas gift wrapper under the label to get a sneak peek, so you can hide it later with that very label? I’m beyond doing that now (at least officially), but it’s the only gift under the tree that has me plotting–it’s the only one that has me posting. Decades removed, this comic makes me remember those aforementioned days above. Trying to beat sailors to the last issue of G.I. Joe Special Missions on the rack, pedaling Mongooses to convenience stores, walking back-and forth between vendors’ aisles or the best deals. It’s not about investment or even a good read. It’s not about 1st appearances, grade or pedigree. I don’t know what it is and I don’t need to, it will join last year’s comic as my two favorite comics in my collection, beyond those contained within longboxes I have full of 4 and 5 figure market values.
There’s love in this comic. Twenty years later and in a completely different world, it’s still how comics are best served and consumed.