One thing you need to know about me is how much I love my comic books. It is a deep seated love that harkens back to my childhood days. Throughout my life so far I have had numerous connections with the comic world. It's a part of my being. I never really thought about how much comics were a part of my life and then the slightest thing occurs and it flips a switch in my head and I come up with this concept. An oral history of my Comic Book life. Things that happened to me and that I have not thought about in a while started popping into my head. So I felt I should write something down, maybe more for my memory, but I hope you enjoy it. The first part is about what I can recall about the beginning of my love affair with comic books.
PART ONE: IN THE BEGINNING:
I don't quite remember the exact time I became a Comic Book Geek. The past is a blur with some memories stronger then others as the want is. I remember my dad collected nothing but Spider Man Comics and had quite a good amount of them. A lot were Marvel Tales which were reprints of earlier Spider man comics. The one thing I do know is the oldest one my dad has that is in good shape is 137. To put that in perspective Spider Man is still running and is getting close to issue 700. I think he also has issue 75 but he has three holes in it where he used to put his comics in Binders. I don't remember how but I just started reading comics. It very well could be I read his Spider man comics first then started getting my own with whatever allowance money I had. Back then there were no Comic Book Speciality Stores like there is now. Nowadays there are close to a Thousand probably in the world if not more. Back in the olden times when I started collecting, which believe it or not could be as early as 79 or 80, you could only purchase them in newstands. There used to be a ton of those that sold magazines, books, cards, candy, you name it. The one near me was called News Center. I would go there and pick up Spiderman and anything with Spiderman on it. I think because of that I was introduced to other characters and my obsession grew.
Since Spiderman was my first hero, I never really looked at any DC comics. To me Marvel was the best one since hey they print Spiderman. But then Man of Steel showed up. Back in 1986 DC was losing ground to Marvel because DC has been around longer and their continuity was more complex then Marvel's, so new fans probably did not want to pick up any DC books since they were a little behind in the characters histories. 1985 came and DC decided they wanted to start fresh, so they created Crisis on Infinite Earths which was a 12 issue maxi-series that changed the DC universe forever and made it more accessible. They also made some changes to their big three. Wonder Woman was rebooted by the multi talented and good writer Artist George Perez, Batman not only had the classic Dark Knight Returns comic written by Frank Miller, but he also wrote the classic Batman Year One story which rebooted Batman into a more serious character after years of being the butt of jokes with the campy tv series starring Adam West. Then there was Superman. John Byrne one of my favorite writer artists was tasked to reboot Superman, and in 1986 he did with his classic Man of Steel miniseries. Being a huge fan I bought them as well as Wonder Woman, Batman, and some other DC comics. Now I was both a Marvel and DC zombie.
My parents did not miss my comic book obsession so they fed me more. On a family trip to New York in 1985 I believe they took my sister and I to a guided tour of the Marvel Comics HQ and my God I was in heaven. My tour guide was Eliot Brown who acted goofy since I was 12 years old. Eliot was a fantastic artist whose speciality was machinery and buildings. He would show how the interior of say Avengers Mansion looked in detail, how some of the scientific weapons worked as well. Fully detailed realistic drawings. He never did draw a comic, he was an editor I believe who drew these pictures in the Official Marvel Universe Handbook, an encyclopedia comic that detailed the history of Marvel through its characters.
For my birthday one year my dad promised to take me to Chicago Comic-con which at the time was one of the biggest comic conventions out there. He was able to get us a room in the same hotel that the con was in and we drove out there and spent about a week out there I guess. My dad would go to the pool or sleep or read while I wandered around the convention and bought stuff and had many of the comic artists and writers sign my books. So somewhere in my massive collection I have a number of signed books by the creative teams, but for the life of me I could not tell you which ones they were. After I was done at the con we went into Chicago proper and went sightseeing, ate at some restaurants in town, and even went to a White Sox game. (The Cubs were on the road at that time.) It was a nice trip that I took with my dad.
I used to live near Towson, Maryland. There used to be a Holiday Inn in Towson that had what they called a Serendipity. Basically a monthly comics convention where for one day a group of dealers would get together in one of the ball rooms at the hotel and just sell comics. Now this was before the direct market comic store skyrocketed and there were only a few comic book stores around. So this was a way for stores in PA, MD, VA, DE, etc could reach out to some comic fans who may not have a comic store near them. I had 3, Alternate Worlds in Cockeysville (where I worked for a while but that is a different blog), Geppi's Comic World at Harborplace, and the best of bunch, the biggest, most amazing store Geppi's Comics World near Security Square Mall. ( I will get into the stores at another time). But I still enjoyed going to Serendipity every month and just hanging out with other comics geeks and getting interested in other comic books. At these events they also sometimes had comic artists there so I got to meet Tom Lyle who was a local guy who eventually worked on a few comic books, and Chris Sprouse who also still works in the biz.
My obsession continued through High School and College. In College there was a Comic store in the nearby mall that I was able to walk to, and also there was an old fashioned news stand that sold them as well. So I was set. But College was an awakening. I was working at the College Cafeteria, only getting paid once a month, had lots of bills to pay while at school so I had to cut somewhere. And comics is where it was at. So I stopped buying so many of them not only due to cost but time, I was busy in college and couldn't really read them too much as well. And maybe I also started thinking that I was turning into a grownup and I should stop reading them anyway. At the same time the industry was starting to struggle with the advent of the speculators and the sheer numbers of comics that came out a month, so thinks looked bleak for the comic industry as well. What better time to quit then during that time. So that was what I did. I quit my hobby that I had been doing for years. And didnt look back...for a few years...
TO BE CONTINUED