We’ve all gone through it. The heartache. The loss. The pain that sometimes feels so bad it feels like physical pain. Love can do that to you. In my case, that physical pain has been more than figurative. Despite the pain, though, I have kept up my love affair for over 40 years. Sure, there were others that tried to draw me away into their clutches, but none could get me to forsake my lifelong relationship.
Of course, I’m talking about my love of comic books. You guessed that, right?
I’ve been reading comics for probably longer than I could actually read. That’s the great thing about an art form that merges pictures and words; you can enjoy them before you can understand them. Even after that. Trust me, some stories were so badly written, not being able to understand them would have been a blessing.
When I was young, comics were simple. The hero went out and beat a bad guy/monster/alien or faced some challenge that ranged from weird to ridiculous. That formula held whether it was a guy in tights, a friendly ghost or a beloved red-headed school kid. And that was just fine, because comics (especially superhero comics) are best taken a little less seriously.
Today’s digression will be a bit geeky, so those of you who aren’t interested in a 45-second interjection on comics, please move on ahead of the next paragraph.
I don’t need “realism in my superhero comics. I live realism. I read comics for simple escapist fantasy. Do I care to wonder why the Flash (“fastest man alive”) doesn’t catch all of the criminals in the entire city in about a page and a half? Nah, I don’t need an explanation, it’s just fun to read. If I want serious, there are comics for that purpose. Still, today’s themes are to “darken” heroes so that the word is tough to apply. Maybe “my” Superman had to suffer through ant heads and super-aging, but at least he didn’t have to carve up people with claws or swords. Yeah, that’s heroic.
There were a few “big” comics companies during my childhood and though most of them focused on superheroes, you still had Archie and Harvey and a batch of friendly comics that just made you laugh. Of course, at that time, most of the superhero comics did, too, since they were pretty dumb (but fun).
My favorite character was always Superman. I could never get how people said Batman was easier to identify with because he was just a normal guy who went out and did what he could with cool weapons, a cool car and a really good physical trainer. Oh wait; he was also a fabulously handsome billionaire. Hmmm, bumbling bespectacled reporter who can’t get a date vs. ruggedly handsome, physically astonishing billionaire. Yep, Batman is way easier to identify with.
Just because Supes was my favorite didn’t mean I wasn’t thrilled when the Batman TV show was on. Are you kidding? I leapt to the living room to watch that. Literally. One time, upon hearing my sister call out a reminder that it was starting, I leapt out of my room, flew through the doorway, blazed through the hallway, turned on a dime into the living room opening…and ran square into the wall. Missed it by that much!
Apparently, my invulnerability was not working that day (must have been some kryptonite nearby), and I bounced down with a cry. Mom came rushing over (now there’s a real superhero for you) and did a good job not laughing as she ministered me (the same could not be said for my sister). The worst part was not that I had a black eye for the next week; it was that I missed most of the episode! Thus began a long history of my painful love affair with comics.
An earlier post in this blog told you of my horrible, heart-stopping loss after procrastinating once too often on my Mom’s demand to clean my room. (I may need to start creating an index if I keep referring back to previous posts…if I can figure out how to make it interactive) How easily those superheroes in your life can turn to supervillains. The heartache. The sorrow! To have loved and lost.
As my collection of comics continued to grow, I began to dabble in this newfangled thing of selling comics for more money than they cost. Wotta concept! This was aided greatly by my job behind the counter at a used book store (there were a lot of these type stores in “those days”). People would often come in and dump dust-covered boxes of comics on the counter and say “are you interested in this garbage?” I must have been able to keep the saliva inside my mouth (or been obscured by the cloud of dust when the box thudded on the counter), but managed to usually “grudgingly” agree to take them off their hands. I must admit, it took a few times at this before my conscience kicked in and I finally started offering people money (hey, I was a kid, cut me some slack!). The funny thing was, they often didn’t even want the money, they were just happy to “get rid of them”.
Soon I had too many comics to display in the store without eating into the book sales area. This required me to start buying long white boxes that held around 300 comics in each. While this facilitated the display and storage of the books, these boxes were mighty heavy. And my collection kept growing.
When the next newfangled thing came up, conventions that housed people buying and selling comics, I began the process of toting these long heavy boxes back and forth to the hotels and schools where the shows were held. As you will remember, I’m not exactly built for heavy lifting. Throw in more collection growth, a few dozen more conventions and a few more times in a new home and you have another lifelong painful relationship between comics and my shoulders and lower back. It’s really tough to “lift with your legs” when the box is almost longer than your wingspan!
Funny thing about accumulating stuff. Over time, you don’t really notice just how much you have until an “event” forces you to face reality. A couple years ago, I had just such an event occur. After many years delay, I finally decided on fixing up the inside of my house from various aging and hurricane related issues. This was a “total makeover”, which required moving around everything from area to area until the contractors were done. It was at that time I was faced with the daunting task of the now gargantuan stockpile of comic-filled boxes in my home. These boxes now numbered in the dozens (you can do the math if you want; I told you how much they hold). And I didn’t just have to move them twice (once out, once back). Nope, due to space limitations, I moved all of those boxes several times. Ah, the suffering that can arise from the strongest of loves.
Many years ago, I began devising ideas for “decreasing the surplus population” of my collection. I’ll share those with you in another post; this one has gone on far too long. And though I read far less comics today, it pains me to say my collection still manages to grow.
Boy, does it still pain me. I’m about out of closet space and I may need to reorganize once more. Love hurts, y’know?