I can still remember the day that I bought my first comic book. It was a summer day in 1989. My mother had made me go to the mall with her and I wandered out of Dillard’s (department store) to the B. Dalton Bookstore next door. For some reason, my eyes were immediately fixated to issue #318 of The Amazing Spider-Man.
I don’t know if it was the art or the action, but either way, I was not leaving that store without that issue. Unfortunately, I did not have a dollar and I ended up “eternally borrowing” (a.k.a. shoplifting) my first comic book. I am not in the least bit proud of my early burglary years, but we all have things from our childhood that we regret. Chili bowl haircuts and tight-rolling Bugle Boy pants immediately come to mind.
As a child of 11, the pages just seemed to come alive. The characters were obviously established and there were references to previous meetings, but the dialogue was fresh and engaging. I easily read and re-read that issue some 30-40 times.
I must have carried that comic book around in my backpack and back pocket for 3 months. It took me a little while to realize that comic books were released every month.
This ultimately led me to find a local comic book shop. The plethora of fanboy fodder coupled with my mother’s adamant dislike of the place (she was convinced they sold drugs there) led me to spend many afternoons there reading new and back issues. For a child of divorce and other childhood damage, comic books became a refuge and a source of creative inspiration.
This pattern continued throughout my high school years. I led a seemingly normal life. I have never dressed up in costume and attended comic book conventions. Comics weren’t my gateway to Nerdsville (9-12th grade Latin was). I don’t even know how to play Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft.
One thing that has changed since I was 11 (I’m 30, now) is that I now appreciate the work that goes into a comic. The days of slapping some Swiss cheese plot together and amazingly our hero saves himself and the day are over, for the most part. The comic world is filled with some of the best writers and artists. (Feel free to give one of my favorite comic book artists some love – www.myspace.com/michaellark) I’ll honestly say, I’d rather pick up any comic book published today over any issue of Maxim. I’m convinced that most mainstream magazines published today have been forced to lay off their copy editors. Nothing takes away from an article about how to light a fart properly than a nice juicy typo (there/their/they’re anyone??).
Most of us tend to still view comic books in the same vein as the slinky and the etch-a-sketch. They are fun to play with when no one is looking, but are still discarded as being childish things. Are comics still for kids? Yes…..and No. I would never dream of letting my daughter read some of the comics that I do. And for that very reason, comic book companies publish a wide array of titles that span all age groups.
If you are unsure which ones might be for you, you can always just look for the labeling on the covers. The “good” ones usually say MA or 18+. And unlike the back of the top shelf of the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble, they aren’t wrapped in black plastic. So you can actually thumb through them and see if you might enjoy the subject matter. That or you can just start looking for my comic book reviews and helpful suggestions every couple of weeks.
Just in case you were wondering…..YES! I still own that issue of ASM #318, in all it’s damaged glory, and the story is just as good today as it was 19+ years ago.