Monday, September 19, 2005

Hey, kids! Comics!

I haven't written much about comic books, which is a little odd, as I've been collecting them since I was really little.

Of course, in the early days, the comics were an occasional treat -- people knew I liked superheroes and would pick up a comic if they happened to pass a rack and wanted to get me something.

My dad brought us home a few comics from a trip he went on, and that was pretty cool. They were all Marvels (I was a staunch DC kid), so it took me a little bit longer to figure out what was happening because I didn't know Thor or the Avengers as well as I did Superman or the Justice League of America.

But once I turned about 8, I really started getting interested. It helped that the local comic shop at the time, Quake Comics, also has a sizable selection of paperbacks. My dad is a voracious reader, and we were both able to find cool stuff by going there.

Eventually, they phased out the paperbacks, and my brother and I started digging through all the back issues, marveling (so to speak) at the old comics from previous decades.

"12 cents for a comic!" we'd say. Because comics by then were a lot more expensive. I believe they were making the transition from 65 to 75 cents. To this day, I can multiply by 75 without having to do much thinking. For a measly six bucks, you could get eight comic books.

Now you're lucky to get two or three for that much.

Aside from the insanely goofy covers and interiors, my brother and I liked old comics because they smelled good. I don't know if you've ever smelled an old comic book (I'm referring to anything up through the mid- to late '70s), but it's one of those things that you never forget. It's similar to the smell used bookstores often have -- the almost sweet smell that gets stronger the closer the pages come to your nose.

By the time I hit junior high school, we tried to hit the comic store every week. Even now I think of Wednesday as New Comics Day. We'd moved by then, and while there wasn't a comic shop in our new hometown, if we were willing to drive 25 minutes to Modesto, we could pick up everything we wanted.

In fact, almost 20 years later, I go to the same store. Except now I bring my son with me. He's only 2, but he knows who Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are.

Even if he calls all of them "Am-pan" (Batman).

He's hooked already. My job is done.

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