Tuesday, April 30, 2013

League Of Extraordinary Bloggers - COMIC BOOKS

Brian over at Cool and Collected always gives us a challenge with these weekly writing assignments and this is a tough one. I for one need something more specific to focus my memories on but I think I got a winner with this post.

I have talked about comic books at length on my blog but this time I will focus on a time during the 1980s when I got back into collecting comics hardcore after losing my entire childhood collection.

I was a lucky kid. My Dad always picked up comics for me and my sister whenever he went to fill up the car because the spinner rack was right there and we had come to expect him to come home with something cool for us to read.

My Dad was the kind of guy who noticed things about his kids. He asked me one day what the ratty piece of rolled up paper was that I was carrying around all month. I unrolled this issue of Batman given to me by my cousin. I must have read that comic a hundred times a day, everyday, like it was the only comic book in the world.

He proved me wrong by bringing home a few Spider-Man or Superman comics daily. I learned later that he chose those ones because they were they ones he wanted to read -just so he could keep up with the stories in case he and I needed something to talk about.

My mother worked at a hotel that servicemen and their families used when they first arrived in Germany or were just leaving. She would have the cleaning staff collect any magazines or comics that were left behind and every week (after she separated out all the porn) I would get a box of new comics. Many were copies and I would take those to trade door to door in my apartment building after sifting out the issues I wanted to keep for myself. By the time we left Germany when I was 12 I had over a thousand issues from the early 70s. Titles like Weird War and The Unknown Soldier were my favorites along with those large treasury issues that reprinted great Golden Age stories.

Now of course like everything else that I owned, my comics were lost in the GREAT DISASTER when the crates from my room went down with the ship they were on in the choppy seas of the North Atlantic. I was crushed. For years I never even stopped at the comic rack or toy aisle but I never truly lost my love for both toys or comics.

When I was 15 I got a summer job working at Penhold's Air Cadet Camp as an instructor. I taught photography and looked after a group of about 30 kids a few years younger than me. Think of it as summer camp only with marching and military drills.

One day my group was having their turn at the shooting range and I started to get to know the female instructor who ran that part of the camp. She was complaining that there was never anything interesting to read and she talked a lot about how she should have brought some of her brothers comics from home. I lived in nearby Red Deer and told her that if she wanted we could take a drive to the comic store in town on our day off, something she was totally into.

As slick as I thought I was being (because she was totally cute) I kinda lost my mind when we entered the store. The array of comic titles was just amazing. This was just around the time when comics were being sold in their own stores and not just as a small part of a gas station's magazine rack.

Suddenly, I was back to being a kid again. I wanted to go back to the time when I would sit in my huge leather chair and read these adventures for hours. Either way I knew I was hooked again when I saw the following cover. I just had to know what the hell was going on and who where THESE X-men??? Was the one in the back a robot? And Dracula too? My head exploded and my hands trembled to hold such a book in my hands.

This X-Men Annual was the first book that restarted my comic collection (which currently stands at 12,000 +) I only stopped collecting the floppies in the 90s after the speculator market ruined the hobby and the prices for a single issue went far beyond what a kid like me could afford.

The combination of high prices and the ability to find comics for free on the Internet nearly destroyed the entire comic collecting hobby for me. I still read a lot of comics today but never do I buy something new because the value just isn't there anymore. (I will go to the library for trade paperbacks - another topic for another day - trade paperbacks collecting stories full of way too much fluff.)

But for a time in the 80s - things were golden. I would take 20 dollars a week from my allowance or paycheck and buy 20 or more comics. And these comics were reserved FOR ME by my comic book store guy.

Because comics were still under a dollar each, I could take a chance on something new while maintaining my complete runs of Iron Man, The X-Men, Spider-Man or the Avengers. How else could Dazzler last more than 32 issues if someone out there wasn't buying them. I was. I have everything that Dazzler has done.

Rom - Spaceknight was originally created as a toy by Parker Brothers but soon left the shelves. However, the comic book created to promote the toy lasted 75 issues and is one of the my fondest comic memories. Rom was free to interact with any character in the Marvel Universe and that made this comic more of a team-up book. Again, at less than a dollar an issue, a kid could keep up with multiple series like these and get maximum entertainment value out of the book.
The Micronauts were also based on a toy line and was a fun comic line that tied into the love people had for rebels fighting against a powerful warlord just like in Star Wars.
I even tried out goofy comics like US1 - possible the stupidest premise for a comic of all time. If you doubt me? Go read the great posts I-Mockery did on the series awhile back. It will make your head spin when you discover what this 'trucker' comic was about - but I read every damned one of those 12 issue and loved every second of it.
Strikeforce Morituri was a brilliant concept that should have found it's way into a live action movie or TV series. After an alien invasion a process is developed to give humans super powers. Each has a different power. Only certain humans (5%) can accept the process but ALL will die within a year as the power inside them burns them out. You never knew which of your favorites were going to die and that kept me interested throughout the series. If you cast a movie with all the big stars of today, it could be the greatest superhero movie ever. Lots of places for good acting about sacrifice and loyalty and friendship and love.
This was also the time when comic book mini-series were more common. For the first time we could see Wolverine operate outside of the X-Men or witness huge hero/villain battles like Contest of Champions or Secret Wars. Huge battles that didn't mess around with established continuity. These limited series could tell one story and use whatever characters they wanted how they wanted. The age of the limited series was strong in the 80s. I got most limited series that I could but soon those went away.

In their place came multiple covers done by different artists but selling the same story inside. Comics became collectibles but with millions of comics being published, the rarity of any one comic was to be found in the past. The fifties and sixties saw many comics thrown out or given away and there are less of them around. An artificial market grew up around comics that were being made in the 90s so they had no real value. Bagged issues with limited edition trading cards were used to spice up the deal which was rotten to begin with. I am happy to say that I went to the older comics and filled holes in my collection during the 90s and have very little of the crap put out by Rob Leifeld and his gang. That group may have left Marvel comics to strike out on their own but they didn't seem to learn anything from their mentors. The art was average to crap for the most part and the storytelling was always weak. The only good thing about Image comics is that it eventually produced such great works as INVINCBLE and THE WALKING DEAD. You think the show is intense...try reading 12 comics from this series in a row without wetting your pants.

Other members of the League have written their own comic book memories. Check them out.
(Memories of the great Plastic Man - 'nuff said)
(Memories of when Superman was at his best - and it only took his death to produce such great stories.)
(A fantastic top ten list of series you need to check out because they are all top quality books)
(I share a love for the Hobgoblin and his battles with Spider-Man. Using the old tricks and devices of the Green Goblin, The Hobgoblin became a real foil in Spidey's side and was superior to the Green Goblin in many ways.)
(For someone who isn't immersed in comic culture like so many of the League members are, this is a pretty good understanding of the medium)


david_b said...

Wonderful memories shared, sir. Would love to hear more.

Kal said...

I can talk comic books all day.

david_b said...

Heaven's, you and me both...

Still remember my first books, when my Dad brought home Hulk 114 and Captain America 113 when I was sick in bed back in '69..

That started it all...

Kal said...

I think bringing comics home to a sick child is number one on a Dad's 'to do' list.

Michael Lynn P. said...

OMG Dazzler! I love her. This was so much fun to read. Thank you for sharing this. I love comics too, but my love has typically stuck with just the X-Men. It is nice to learn about all these different kinds of stories though. They are truly a wonderful medium. I'm glad you are still reading and enjoying them, even though you experienced such sadness with losing your collection. Hope you are doing well!

Rich said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of comic collecting. I totally remember that wolverine cover!

david_b said...

Seriously, I DROPPED A BRICK when I saw that 1st Treasury Edition Spiderman sitting in the book store in '74. I ran, yes RAN for literally 3 miles to get home to ask my Mom for a measily $1.50.

The store ONLY had one.

Yes, ONE copy.

'Oh yesssss', as Wayne Campbell said in 'Waynes World', 'It WILL be mine'..

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Working on my own post now! Thanks for the inspiration!

Kal said...

I know what you mean about 'lousy buck fifty'. This was something you would love like a puppy. I begged for the Dark Phoenix Saga trade paperback while at a gas station stop near BANFFFF. GAH1. But I got it. And I love it. The Dark Phoenix saga is a great story.

david_b said...

Banff..? I did some outback camping there with a old roomie there about 20yrs ago.. 'Round the Lake Louise area. Parked the car, humped about 2-3 miles into the woods (no roads), beautiful waters.

Had to purify the water we drank (naturally), but it was a great week. Scaled upwards of 9-10,000ft, basic rock climbing.

"God's Country", sir.

Grey Endres DSW MSW said...

I met Tony Moore this past weekend in Chicago at C2E2, super nice guy.

Las Vegas Yankee said...

Strikeforce is still one of my top 10 comics series of all time. We liked/like a lot of the same books.