Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Comic Books & Me

My Journey with comics goes way back.  I remember as a little kid seeing them at the hospital Playroom or My Uncle Bob’s stash.  My Uncle Bob is eight years my senior and he loved horror comics.  My Aunt and her first husband had a decent collection of Legion of Superheroes.  These two influences got me interested in comics. In the Seventies Mr. Rogers agreed with a study that said Kids watching or reading Superheroes exploits reinforce violent solutions to conflict.  My Mom agreed so at the age of 8, I was forbidden from Superhero comics.  I was allowed Hanna-Barbera, Harvey, Archie and the like.  I was 8 and these were for babies to me.  I wanted the Superheroes I saw on TV, Batman, Superman, Hulk, Flash, Shazam, Hawkman, Spider-man and etc.  I would browse them every chance I could when I would find a spinner rack.

 I was still stuck with the funny books, until I was 10.  We had moved to Adak, Alaska.  My Dad was part of the base’s Public Works department and was assigned to refuse control.  In the military when you move you are only allowed a certain weight allowance.  So when folks would move they would leave large amounts of good stuff.  One day my dad came back with a Large Green Plastic Trash bag full of Comics.   Not just Funny books, there were horror, SciFi, and Superheroes books in there.  They were mostly DC, Marvel and Gold Key.  It was then that I discovered I preferred the DC characters to their Marvel Counterparts.  Thanks to copies of Adventure comics and the Death of Earth-2 Batman story starring the Justice Society of America, I loved the alternate worlds DC did.  They had their multiple earths.  As a 10 year old, I was able to keep up with everything and knew the differences between the various earths.  Those comics plus the Mirror, Mirror episode of Star Trek started me on my love of Alternate World/ History Literature.  When we moved they stayed.

It was not until 1982, when I was 14 that I came back to comics.  This time it went big.  It started with two books, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and Who’s Who in the DC Universe.  They were Encyclopedias of Superheroes.  Much of my geeky comic book knowledge can be blamed on those two books.  I had various jobs I did, so I had spending money.  If I had money I wanted comics.  After those I got into Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans.  A friend of a friend lent a friend mine a run of X-men starting with Giant-Size Uncanny X-Men #1. I then found Ralph’s Comics Corner in Ventura, California and bought my run of New Teen Titans.  These two series were great and I loved them.  Ralph’s was my first comic shop.  Originally he was located in a corner of a Thrift Shop.  In 1984, Ralph had his own location.  Then the first two Big Event series came out Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars.  All bets were off.  I discovered Artists and writers: John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway, Paul Smith, Bernie Wrightson, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Mark Bright, Roger Stern, the Romitas and more.

At Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, my closest comic shop was Pegasus Fantasy in Beaverton.  That is the Predecessor to Things from Another World.  I watched the Richardson Brothers launch Dark Horse Comics.  I still was stuck in Superhero comics during this time.  However this is when things got interesting with Marvelman/ Miracleman, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns.  This also was the DC post-Crisis relaunch.  During this time the Mutants books started to multiply from just one title to many.  I started noticing other comics companies although I was still not buying them.

That all Changed in 1988.  I moved to Eugene, Oregon to study at University of Oregon.  There is one of the best comic shops, at least back then, in back stock I had ever found, Emerald City Comics.  There I started helping out and was allowed to read some of the back stock I would never have read before.  I broadened my horizons, with stuff that was not the big two: First Comics, Heavy Metal, Eclipse Comics, Fantigraphic Books, Kitchen Sink Press, Comico, WaRP Graphics, Caliber Comics, Slave Labor Graphics/ Amaze Ink and more I cannot think of.  During this time new creators that blew my mind were Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Mike Mignola, Mike Grell, Howard Chaykin and Chuck Dixon. With titles like Sandman, Mage, and Baker Street, I began to see beyond the Superhero genre and the possibilities.  In 1991, I left Eugene and moved back to Dundee, Oregon.  I started buying more from non Big two publishers at this time with Valiant Comics, Image Comics and Malibu Comics.  Marvel and DC tried to expand their readership with imprints like Vertigo and Epic.  Both of those imprints were trying to step away from superheroes.  Marvel started reprinting work from Moebius and the Magna Series Akira.  After the Age of Apocalypse and Zero Hour Events I had enough of comics.  I got out in 1995.  I then got rid all but a few treasured titles.  I made a colossal mistake in 1997; I sent those few titles to an online friend in Florida.  Yes, folks I know, I was very stupid. 

In 1999 I started to get back into comics, mostly thanks to one creator: Warren Ellis.  His Run on StormWatch and Planetary made me think I could get back into comics.  I dabbled before 1999, but I started regularly reading again that year. I also found DC Comics Elseworlds Imprint.  It is an imprint of DC Comics that does Alternate Reality tales of its classic superhero characters.  It started back in the mid Nineties; I came back after Elseworlds Finest.  I became a member of the WEF (Warren Ellis Forum).  Everything changed, I still read some Superhero book, but I wanted the more interesting stuff.  Image Comics, CrossGen, Avatar Press, IDW, Oni Press, Top Shelf Productions, and Humanoids Publishing were among publishers recommended on WEF.  I discovered great creators during this period: Garth Ennis, Larry Young, Greg Rucka, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Ian Edginton, Matt Fraction, Alejandro Jodorowsky and so many more. I was sad when WEF went offline in 2002.  The experience gave me a whole new way at looking at comics.  Superheroes were no longer the end all be all.  Even though I was getting there on my own, The WEF gave me ideas where else to look.

I had been in a long term relationship during this period.  In 2009, I was having trouble with keeping up with my reading versus my buying.  Barbara, my partner at the time, allowed my to buy my comics, but never gave me the chance to read them.   In December of 2011 I left that relationship.  I still had over 10 Diamond Distributing (the comics distributing company) boxes full I had not read.  I was overwhelmed.  I had already at this point begun buying comics digitally on Comixology.  I decided to get rid of all my Floppies (individual single comic issues) and kept my Graphic Novels, Trade Paperbacks, Book Shelf Comics, Hardcover and Collections.  I have streamlined my life and the way I buy my comics.  I am still trying to get caught up with books I own that I have yet to read.  The number is not as overwhelming as it once was.  That is My Not So Humble Opinion.

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